Review #403 of 365
Spoiler Movie Review of Ghost Rider (2007) [PG-13] 114 minutes
WIP™ Scale: (1st viewing $12.25 + 2nd viewing $12.75) / 2 = $12.50
Where Viewed: Colorado Cinemas Cherry Creek 8, Denver, CO
When 2nd Seen: 19 February 2007
Time: 10:00 p.m.
Film's Official Website • Film's Trailer
DVD Release Date: unscheduled
Review Dedicated to: Taylor C. and Michael G. of Hastings, MN (home town of the director Mark Steven Johnson)
Directed by: Mark Steven Johnson (Daredevil)
Written by: Mark Steven Johnson (Simon Birch)
Featured Cast (Where You Might Remember Him/Her From):
Matt Long ("Jack & Bobby") • Raquel Alessi (Uncle Sam) • Brett Cullen (Gridiron Gang) • Peter Fonda (The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things) • Nicolas Cage (The Wicker Man) • Donal Logue ("Grounded for Life") • Wes Bentley (American Beauty) • Eva Mendes (Hitch) • Sam Elliott (Thank You for Smoking)
Soundtrack: Download now from — or — order the CD below
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Note: This is a spoiler review for Ghost Rider. If you would prefer to read the non-spoiler, click here.
"..not only is Ghost Rider, "not half bad", it's more than half good"…"
In the mean time, Johnny Blaze (Nicholas Cage) has become a super star, stunt man daredevil. He has a big spectacle planned for the show to be held on the anniversary of his father's death. He plans to jump from goal post to goal post over 6 Black Hawk helicopters with blades 'a whirring. Just before the jump, who should show up to interview him, of course, the grown up Roxy, (Eva Mendes). Looking gorgeous, she asks her segment producer to set up an interview with him just before the jump, and to everyone's complete surprise he accepts. It's been a while since he's done and interview, and he answers every one of her questions with personal questions about her and her life of his own. After successfully jumping over the helicopters and not becoming Blaze Chop Suey, he speeds off up the interstate after her and makes a date with her, unfortunately, his date is ruined when Mephistopheles returns to collect as promised with a new deal Johnny's soul will be returned if he destroys Black Heart and keeps him from taking over the world. It is then that Johnny begins to turn into the Ghost Rider with his skeleton skull head of flames, morphed demon hell cycle, and powers of strength and control of fire. As he scours the night, as the Ghost Rider, he keeps scoundrels under control, but leaves a wake of destruction and flame every where he encounters evil. He manages to dissipate one of Black Heart's henchmen, but he also inadvertently gives up his weakness. Despite his notion that he deserves a second chance and that he cannot live in fear (his mantra no less), his re-attraction to Roxy gives Black Heart the leverage he needs to force Johnny off the sidelines and into the fire. Black Heart offers him, ultimately, a deal of his own: Roxy's life for a long-hidden and invaluable contract of 1000 souls from a long-lost village apparently inhabited by really bad people. The contract was hidden back in the days of the old west by a Ghost Rider (cowboy style) who was the first Rider to stand up to the Devil and prevent him from gaining access to this much evil. Black Heart wants this power because he believes it will allow him to over power his father and remake hell on earth as never before. Johnny acquires the contract from the caretaker of a cemetery who turns out to be much more—he's actually the original Ghost Rider. He gives Johnny the contract willingly, and then escorts him to the town of souls to face Black Heart. Some critics and viewers have been spouting off that this makes no sense and that Sam Elliot who plays the caretaker was a waste of a salary. I couldn't disagree more. First, it makes perfect sense for the Rider, once he gets Johnny to the town (how else would Johnny know where the town was—it's some 500 miles from the cemetery?) he leaves him. He had only one more flame out left in him. And, now it's the kid's turn to take over. It would have been nice for there to have been more mentoring time between them, but a movie has limitation on length and scope. What bothers me continually in situations like this are two things:
(1) Fans of the original comic book cannot relax on the mythology and realize that the only person who's ever really been given the time (almost 12 hours) and the money (hundreds of millions) to perfectly adapt a book or comic book is Peter Jackson with the Lord of the Rings Trilogy. Mark Steven Johnson was given no such luxury in adapting this project that languished around Hollywood for more than six years and was supposedly, at one time, supposed to star Johnny Depp as the Rider. So, to expect these things to turn out perfectly every time is totally unrealistic and the nit-picking is plain ridiculous.
(2) If you haven't seen enough 'bad' superhero movies from Ang Lee's terrible translation of The Incredible Hulk to the almost painful Stephen Norrington version of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen or even Guillermo del Toro's horrendous rendition of Hellboy to know that some of them are just plain disastrous, that you don't go into every one of these new films with low expectations, when are you going to start?
"…go see Ghost Rider a second time…there's much more to this film than one might have noticed the first time around."
Of course, as a film critic, it is important to keep two things in mind: (a) we see a lot of movies every year, a lot more than the average person gets to see in a lifetime (I saw over 380 movies last year alone, for example), therefore we have a larger swath of films to compare in our minds and (b) that fact must not cloud judgment. There is no way that I would ever claim that Ghost Rider is the stuff of Academy Awards®. Far be it for me to make any claims that I am finally accepting Nicholas Cage's standard grimace as the penultimate in acting achievement. But, sincerely, when there are really atrocious films, films that pander to the prurient and vulgar interests of minors such as Beerfest and Road Trip, when there are films with little redeeming value that degrade women and foster racial stereotypes like Norbit, when there are completely socially irresponsible films like the unfortunately well-received Borat, when there are completely and utterly disturbing and useless films like The Hills Have Eyes and Hostel, out there for comparison, all of which may or may not be brimming with talent on and off screen and may have cost millions to make, it's important to put Ghost Rider and films like it into the proper perspective on the spectrum. It was not a brilliant film, but it is no way nearly as bad as a lot of people and critics have suggested. It is also not boring nonsense. There is actually a great deal more going on in the film than first meets the eye. Even Johnny Blaze's penchant for red and yellow jellybeans vs. alcohol, which gives him nightmares, is a subtle social statement that we need to find more of in films these days.
My advice is to go see Ghost Rider a second time with an open mind, devoid of preconceptions and notions. Just let the film happen and take it for what it is. Try to pick up on some of the important themes like "you can't live in fear" and "people deserve a second chance." If you already saw the film and have decided you better go with the pack and say it was awful and you hated it, give it a second chance. Pay attention to the elemental symbolism in the film. See if you can figure out what motivated Nicholas Cage to want to play this particular character despite the immediate backlash he much have known he would endure from fans of the comic book. See if you can pick up on his understated approach to some of the lines and the near daze-like state in which he drifts torn between the rage he feels for Satan and the fact that he watched his father die without him ever knowing the tremendous sacrifice his son had made for him. If you do, I think you'll realize that there's much more to this film than one might have noticed the first time around.
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Other Projects Featuring Ghost Rider (2007)
Matt Long • Raquel Alessi • Brett Cullen
Peter Fonda • Nicolas Cage • Donal Logue
Wes Bentley • Eva Mendes
Writer / Director
Mark Steven Johnson
|Collector Item||Comic Book||Wallet|
Ghost Rider (2007) Review-lite [150-word cap]