Ghost Rider: It's Not As Bad As You Think
by Alex Billington
February 16, 2007
When I'm seeing films deciding what makes them great, I prefer an enjoyable, well-made, visually appealing, good story, and above all, entertaining film. Remarkably Ghost Rider fits into that description well, but it didn't achieve perfection in the comic book genre. It's an entertaining film but struggles in its story and character development, but the visual effects and badass nature of Ghost Rider help fuel it back into the positive.
Ghost Rider, adapted from the Marvel comic book series, tells a new story of Johnny Blaze (Nicolas Cage), a stunt motorcycle rider who haphazardly signed a deal with the devil (called Mephistopheles and played by Peter Fonda) in his youth in order to cure his father of cancer. After his father later crashes and dies, Johnny leaves his girlfriend behind and, knowing that Mephistopheles won't let Johnny die, becomes the world's most daring motorcycle stuntman. Suddenly the devil's son, Blackheart (Wes Bentley) appears on Earth in typical villainous fashion in an attempt to take over the world himself, and summons his henchmen "The Hidden" made of earth, wind, and water to aide him. The devil in turn summons Ghost Rider to do his bidding and to rid the world of Blackheart, and Johnny must learn to cope with and take control of this inner demon.
The first superhero film in a series is always the hardest to direct because the world has to be introduced to this typically complicated character from nothing. This is one of Ghost Rider's follies, as it stumbles too much over its own feet and jumps forward in its story with no explanation of who, why or what. As for the characters, although Ghost Rider himself is undoubtedly badass in the movie, he's not the most intricate, deep, and dark character as desired by comic book aficionados or film critics. Nicolas Cage's dedication to the comic book character pays off in a certainly enjoyable performance but not perfectly the most convincing of any comic book character to come to the big screen. Even the villain and the supporting cast don't help. None of the demons ever really fought back - no surmountable and lengthy fight ever took place. There are also lots of cheap editing tricks and elaborate superhero maneuvers that replace the serene and subtle nature of Ghost Rider's dark character with a bland Hollywood gloss.
If you don't stare in awe at the visual effects in this then you are blind. They are some of the best of the year so far, as the film is visually fulfilling and often a joy to watch. It's these effects and the set pieces that add much of the entertainment to the otherwise rough story. This is not a story to be compared with such Sunday-afternoon basic-cable fare as the recent flops Catwoman, Elektra, or Daredevil, and its visual effects are comparable to those seen in 2006's Superman Returns and Pirates of the Caribbean 2. Ghost Rider is worth seeing for the visual effects and eye-candy factor alone, if not for a marginal story.
Although Ghost Rider doesn't have the best script and is somewhat of a story in shambles and lacking explanation, it's visually entertaining and fun to watch. The characters lack the true intricacy to define Ghost Rider as a new standard in the comic book genre, but it's still interesting to watch and worth the price to see. And best of all it's a perfect appetizer to the feast of 300 and Spider-Man 3, the other two enormous comic book movies arriving later this year.