Rising up from the depths of hell, Ghost Rider is a merely a thought-free way to spend the night. It is more standard superhero fare, in line with last year’s Fantastic Four than the next great, pop-culture defining franchise. Nicolas Cage is just the latest A-Lister to step into the Marvel universe and with minimal effort, he remains above previous disappointments such as George Clooney’s comical Batman and Ben Affleck’s nightmare-inducing turn as DareDevil.
The first glimpse of the movie is a father and son who participate in a no-holds-bar stunt show in a small town in rural Texas. Johnny Blaze is a showoff who does anything to win over a crowd but in doing so attracts the attention of Satan himself. His antics frighten his girlfriend and anger his father who both worry he could seriously injury himself. Upon discovering his father is suffering from terminal cancer, he unwillingly makes a deal with the devil. As soon as the blood dries on the contract, his father is killed during one of their shows … proving that when you make a deal with the devil, you never get what you bargained for.
Audiences are then reintroduced to Johnny as a world-renowned daredevil who has no regard for his own life. The sheer danger of his stunts attracts thousands of on-lookers awaiting the inevitable moment when Johnny doesn’t get back up. He believes he has nothing left to lose until an old flame wonders back in. Roxanne (Eva Mendes) is the only girl that he has every loved and the one he let slip away. However, things get complicated when Mephistopheles (Peter Fonda) arrives to enlist Johnny help and to have repay his debt. The prince of darkness bestows Johnny with the riders’ powers and sends him out to recover a valuable contract of lost souls in exchange for his own. The wafer thin film tries to juggle: a love story, elementary spirituality and intense action sequences with mixed results, at best.
Cage has perfected the vacant, empty stare throughout his career and it fits the cursed Johnny like a glove. This is definitely not one og his better performances but after commercial duds such as Matchstick Men, The Weather Man and Lord of War, this could be the prescription back into mainstream conciseness.
Wasted in the film are the talents of Mendes. In the com-flick, she’s a carbon-copy of the same typical superhero love interest, which does nothing to add to the plotline besides a treat for the male viewers. With very little development and a flat character it is hard for audiences to care or understand Roxanne’s lament over Johnny.
Setting Ghost Rider apart from other comic book adaptations is its distinct soundtrack choices. Where in movies such as The Hulk, Punisher and Spiderman the music is usually a fist-throbbing rock anthem, here the intervals are broken with the angelic sound of The Carpenters. Not really the first band you would think of placing in an action film, but it certainly highlight the longing in Johnny’s character.
The movie’s biggest selling point are the rather impressive special effects, which moviegoers have come to expect from this genre of films. After viewing the movie, one can understand why Ghost Rider couldn’t be filmed earlier as only with current technology could a man with a flame skull for head appear believable.
Ghost Rider never kids itself into thinking it is something more than the sum of its parts.
In the end, audiences are left with an entertaining far be it mediocre, popcorn designed roller-coaster. Boasting broad appeal and stuffed with various elements, Ghost Rider offers people something a bit more exciting to watch than the usual sitcom or medical drama on television.