Ghost Rider

One thing many people may not know about Nicholas Cage is that he loves comics books, and is an avid collector.  Cage's real last name is Coppola (yes, those Coppolas).  His acting name comes from the Marvel character Luke Cage.  For a few years, Cage tried to bring a version of Superman to the screen.  He named his son Kal-el, which is Superman's Kryptonian name.  And he has a Ghost Rider tattoo, which brings us to Ghost Rider.  Cage (The Wicker Man, World Trade Center) is obviously a fanboy, and that is the largest drawback of this adaptation.  Although Mark Steven Johnson (Daredevil, Simon Birch) was the writer/director, Cage helped shepherd Ghost Rider from the page to the screen, which was probably a mistake.  What this movie needed was an impartial observer who could tell the difference between what is good in a movie versus what is good in a comic book.

The two are very different, and the final Ghost Rider film has all the hallmarks of a bad comic book movie.  The special effects are decent, but they do not serve as a complement to Johnson's plot, primarily because there isn't much of a plot.  Ghost Rider is a series action sequences strung together to look cool.  The only complement is cheesy dialogue and mediocre acting.  Ghost Rider might appeal to fans of the comic book.  It will definitely not appeal to non-fans.  The entire affair is a bit too silly, and worse, doesn't take itself too seriously at points.

Cage is Johnny Blaze, a circus stuntman famous for his motorcycle tricks.  Years ago, he made a deal with Mephistopheles (The Laramie Project, Second Skin) to save the life of his father at the cost of his own soul (Mephistopheles still managed to twist the deal so that Blaze’s father died). Years later, the devil comes back to collect, forcing Blaze to defeat Blackheart (Wes Bentley, The Game of Their Lives, The Four Feathers).  The deal was actually a curse - at night, Blaze transforms into the Ghost Rider, basically a biker with no skin and a flaming skull.  It's also that this time that Roxanne Simpson (Eva Mendes, Trust the Man, Hitch) reappears in Blaze's life.

That is basically the plot. Most everything in the movie is superfluous – Johnson looks like he wants to shoot scenes of a guy with a flaming head. At nearly two hours, Ghost Rider is mind-numbingly long, with nothing to support such a running time. Cage is, well, Cage. His strange mannerisms are not as prominent, but he still gives a slightly off-kilter performance. Mendes is eye candy only. Her role is pointless, and her acting is about the same. Ghost Rider does look kinda cool, but the decision to make all of the supernatural characters speak with a slight vocal distortion made them sound stupid. And there are too many things that don’t make sense. So Ghost Rider burns things he touches, but his shirt doesn’t burn? Things like this are too distracting, and when there isn’t much in the movie to keep people occupied, these things are more obvious. And what’s up the flaming dirtball fight?

Haro Rates It: Pretty Bad.
1 hour, 54 minutes, Rated PG-13 for horror violence and disturbing images.

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