Who you gonna call? A better ghost writer.
Nah. I'm not buying it. Ghost Rider can't possibly have been made. It had been on the 'coming soon' cards for aeons back when I did an upcoming movie round up about this time of the year back in 2003. It cannot possibly have actually been made. And with Nic Cage starring! He of the perpetually linked to every comic book adaptation ever rumoured and appearing in none! Lawks! Lummee! Etc!
As it turns out, they might as well not have bothered. Johnny Blaze (Cage), ace motorised bicycle stuntman makes a deal with Mephistopheles Devil-McSatan (Peter Fonda) to save his father from a horrible death by cancer only to see him die the day after in an unfortunate 'accident'. Oh, that zany Mr. Mephistopheles! I can see why he was so popular in Cats. Anyhoo, Johnny's end of the bargain is that when called on to collect on the contracts of those who have flogged their immortal souls he becomes Ghost Rider, the flaming skeletal Netherworlde bailiff and general problem solver.
His first problem to solve concerns Mephistopheles' errant son Blackheart (Wes Bentley), who's gotten wind of a particularly meaty contract that's kicking around somewhere worth two thousand souls. Finding this would give him enough power to take over the world and somehow threaten Mephistopheles' position, so Johnny is sent out to hunt him down, which really puts a crimp in his attempts to get back in with long lost childhood sweetheart Roxanne (Eva Mendes). While Blackheart's out sucking up souls at every available opportunity he raises fellow fallen angels Abigor, Wallow and Gressil to act as his wingmen and based on quite the most ludicrously flimsy evidence yet seen for such a setup the local fuzz become convinced Blaze is responsible for all of this ruckus.
Hence it's up to Johnny to save the world in general and Roxanne in particular from Blackheart's evil schemes, aided only by a MYSTERIOUS CARETAKER (Sam Elliott) with the MYSTERIOUS PAST that is in no way whatsoever UTTERLY PREDICTABLE AND ENTIRELY NON-MYSTERIOUS. In what's about the movie's gravest error, achieving such a feat proves to be of little to no trouble whatsoever. This has to be the least strugglesome superhero movie yet created, with Jack Skellington breezing past his demonic obstacles barely batting a non-present eyelid. There's never the slightest sense of tension created by even hinting that he might be in the vague vicinity of failing, which says great things about Johnny's self-confidence but makes for a pretty pedestrian viewing experience.
For a film that by every account has been on the top of Cage's 'Really want to do' list since the seventeenth century, it's surprising he phones in quite the most lackluster performance I've seen from him in recent years. Seemingly he was so bored with the lack of perceived danger he's decided to do the whole film in an accent that borders on Elvis impersonation. Fits in with the general theme of the piece, what with the exceedingly uninspired Wes Bentley looking like a young, goth Elvis, and the film itself being of much the same quality as an Elvis film, which is to say 'rather iffy'.
There's a few things that define most superhero films. An engaging hero is a necessity, and Ghost Rider's pony CG skeleton is never fleshed out (heehee) into anything other than a chain-wielding, flaming pony CG skeleton. The opposing forces play a large part in a films' success, and here they're an insubstantial, toothless travesty. Director Mark Steven Johnson, writer/director of Daredevil and writer of Elektra produces results exactly on a par with those previous efforts - heavy enough on the gloss to get you through the door and slow enough on the action to make you wish you hadn't.
I'm being somewhat harsh out of a lack of anything of particular interest to say about Ghost Rider, but in all honesty the film really struggles to reach the crappy side of mediocre. You know there's trouble brewing when Johnny's "greatest weapon", the Penance Stare, is quite literally looking at someone funny. Now, if his greatest weapon was, say, an orbiting optical platform or some sort of crocodile launcher that launched hungry crocodiles at his enemies, then we'd be in business. As it stands, we've filed for chapter eleven.
Were I in the business of passing quantifiable judgements, I'd award this 2/5 TippyMarks.
Peter Fonda (Mephistopheles)
Eva Mendes (Roxanne Simpson)
Sam Elliott (Caretaker)
Donal Logue (Mack)
Wes Bentley (Blackheart)
Laurence Breuls (Gressil)
Daniel Frederiksen (Wallow)
Mathew Wilkinson (Abigor)