I know very little about Ghost Rider. I’ve read only a few comics involving him (such as the New Fantastic Four arc, a cool Venom crossover and some What Ifs) and even less involving Johnny Blaze. All I know about him are the basics. I can’t remember his friends’ names. I don’t know if his love interest from the movie was ever in the comics. All I know is that Ghost Rider is fucking metal.
He’s metal and he’s a comic character with a movie. I had no choice but to see it.
Now, this may surprise you, but I’ve missed out on a lot of the more famous comic movie disasters. I haven’t seen Steel, Elektra or Captain America. While Superman 4 was the first movie I knew was bad (at age 6), it’s been years since I’ve seen it and I only recall certain details. I have that live action Hulk vs. Thor movie laying around, waiting to be watched. Ghost Rider, though, I knew I needed to see ASAP. I knew that while it was going to be bad, it was still going to be worth my money. I was totally right.
Ghost Rider follows three steps to success:
1) Start with your average superhero movie script. All the cliches and overused plot points. Ready? Good.
2) Take the above plot points and remove sense.
3) Make it so metal that it even controls Magneto!
So you get these scenes that you expect to see in a superhero movie. You sit through them easily enough because you’ve gone through the motions. The over-the-top feeling pushes you along. The scene finishes and you feel satisfied… for a little while. Then you start to realize how incomprehensible that entire segment was. How little sense it all made.
The main plot can be summed up with this: Johnny Blaze (Nicholas Cage) sold his soul to the Devil (Mephistopheles, as played by Peter Fonda) in order to cure his dad’s cancer. His dad died the next day due to a motorcycle crash anyway. Years later, Mephisto gives Blaze his powers and tells him that if he can kill his son Blackheart, he can have his soul back and everything’s cool. Considering Blackheart is an evil dick, that seems to be a bit of a win-win situation.
Now to the background of the Mephisto/Blackheart rivalry. There’s this contract signed by a thousand evil souls. The last Ghost Rider — who is the most obvious reveal in movie history — decided that Mephisto shouldn’t have that contract or it will make him too powerful. Now Blackheart (Wes Bentley) and his group of henchmen are out to find the contract and gain the power needed to overthrow Mephisto.
I’ll admit that I’ve never actually stolen or bargained a soul. It’s on my to-do list after reading Rom Spaceknight and finishing that final What If article. What I do know is that the Devil is the Bill Gates of soul-ownery. A thousand might sound impressive at first, but come on. If he felt like it, Mephisto could get like five times as much before noon on a Tuesday. It’s like this apocalyptic battle is really just Satan and Satan Jr. gambling small change. In fact, toss in a wacky black guy and you have an action-packed remake of Trading Places.
Other characters involve Johnny’s long-lost sweetheart Roxanne (Eva Mendez), his grizzled mentor the Caretaker (Sam Elliot) and some friends. His friends are really just in there for the five minutes Roxanne is written out of the movie because Nick Cage really can’t be trusted to carry a scene on his own. Roxanne is no Lois Lane, but once she’s back in the story, you won’t give a shit what happens to Donal Logue. I, for one, didn’t. I stopped caring about him after he stopped doing those cab driver commercials for MTV.
So like I said, the movie is filled with holes big enough to drive a bus through. It seems that for everything cool the movie has going for it, there’s this glaring problem. Let’s look at the prison sequence. Johnny Blaze is tossed into prison and freaks out because he’ll turn into Ghost Rider in the presence of the wicked during nightfall. We get one of the coolest scenes in the movie and the best comic book moment. Yet I’m still distracted by the set-up.
Now, Blackheart has this trademark of how he kills people. He just walks up to them, shoves his hand into them and freezes them to death while causing them to implode a bit. He does it various times throughout the movie, allowing police to figure that his victims have been killed by the same guy. At one of the crime scenes, they discover Johnny Blaze’s motorcycle’s license plate. Therefore, they arrest and question Johnny for all that murdering.
NOT ONCE did anyone even think of wondering how he could have done it. How this stunt rider broke into a bar, froze a dozen people to death and made them implode. Nah. They just toss him into prison because he’s certainly guilty. I mean, they found his license plate!
The Caretaker scenes are cool because Sam Elliot is the fucking man. He’s the white Morgan Freeman. He exists to be the cool old guy in movies who does all the narrating. He and Blaze hang out together and talk exposition at a cemetery during the daytime, the time when Blaze can’t become Ghost Rider. Caretaker explains that the cemetery is hallowed ground and is off-limits to Blackheart.
Several scenes later, Blackheart lounges around in a church and murders a priest. Then he and Ghost Rider have their final battle in another church. So much for that.
Now to the fight scenes. Average punks don’t hold much challenge to Ghost Rider, especially with his Penance Stare. The Stare leads to a couple cool sequences, by the way. Ghost Rider also has a fun chase scene with some cops, but when it comes to actual fighting, he takes on Blackheart and his three stooges. They’re all demons with elemental powers. One is earth-based, one is wind-based and one is water-based. Ghost Rider himself is all about fire, rounding out the equation.
The first fight is also Blaze’s first appearance as Ghost Rider. In these origin-based superhero movies, whenever our hero finally embraces his super persona and goes into action, it’s usually pretty damn rocking. That crime-fighting montage in Spider-Man or Bruce Banner’s first Hulk rampage get you on a high that lasts until the next scene. Here, the initial excitement that comes from Ghost Rider’s transformation is put to death by some horrible dialogue and laughable action. Right when it looks like things are getting back on track, the fight against the earth-based demon is over before it even begins. The dude begs for mercy after taking a punch.
Next is the wind-based demon, later in the movie. It’s amusing, but taking a step back, you realize that the villain didn’t really have any plan whatsoever. He had no offense against Ghost Rider or idea of how to stop him. He just flew around, bragging, “Haha! You can’t touch me!” Ghost Rider counters the problem and moves on. Nice plan, Blackheart.
The fight with the water guy, I won’t go over. It’s too silly and it spoils stuff too late into the movie. There’s so little that makes sense that I wouldn’t even know where to start. The Blackheart fight I’ll skip over more because it’s just kind of boring.
Acting-wise, this movie is hard to watch. Nick Cage is what you’d expect. Whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing is up to you (hint: bad thing). Peter Fonda only gets a handful of scenes, but has enough presence to make you feel like he had a bigger role. His first real scene had some nice acting, but as the movie goes on, he gets cornier and cornier. This is probably brought on by being in the vicinity of Cage and Bentley, not to mention the awful dialogue. The less said about Bentley, the better. I’m glad I only know about Blackheart from the Marvel fighting games or I’d be insulted.
The director is the same guy who did Daredevil, so you know what to expect. The difference is that considering all the demons and fire and motorcycles, you at least have a cushion. Remember that horrible playground fight from the beginning of Daredevil? Remember how retarded it was? If you’re anything like me, it probably sat in your mind as the rest of the movie went on. Why? Because there was nothing redeemable about it.
And really, that’s the point of this movie. It’s bad and fun at the same time and has little problem with you figuring that out. It’s like the movie version of a Foreigner album.
That’s enough from me. This weekend I’ll be at the NYC Comic Con with hermanos and Wanderer. Be good while I’m gone and stay out of my fridge.