Nicolas Cage plays a demonic biker in the latest comic book epic from Columbia Pictures.
If I've said it once, I've said it a thousand times: if you're going to enter into a contract with the Devil, make sure you have proper legal representation. I can't stress this enough, people. So many of our problems could be avoided if people would just exercise their due diligence prior to selling their souls to the Prince of Darkness.
Indeed, it's an ill-advised pact with Satan that forms the basis of the plot for Ghost Rider, the latest comic book to make the jump to the big screen.
Nicolas Cage stars as Johnny Blaze, a motorcycle daredevil who sacrifices his immortal soul in an attempt to save his ailing father. As part of the deal, Blaze is cursed to transform nightly into the Ghost Rider, a flaming skeleton that hunts down wayward demons who dare to defy the Devil.
The concept is not without its promise, as movie audiences have a long-standing love affair with anti-heroes. Unfortunately, Ghost Rider stumbles almost immediately out of the gate, as the filmmakers feebly attempt to shoehorn what is essentially an R-rated character into a PG-13 story.
While early drafts of the script stayed true to the comic, producers ultimately opted to lighten the story considerably, presumably to make it more palatable to a larger audience. The result is a version of Ghost Rider that attempts to straddle an impossible line: dark enough for the fanboys and tame enough for families. Ultimately, it fails on both counts.
The Ghost Rider from the comic book is considered one of the darkest characters of the Marvel universe: a Jack Daniels-swilling, heavy metal-blasting cauldron of rage. Conversely, Nicolas Cage's Ghost Rider now listens to Karen Carpenter and drinks jellybeans out of a martini glass. And while attempts are made to have fun with the contrived quirks, it's not enough to make it work.
Arguably, a darker, more faithful version might not have fared much better, simply because the visage of a flaming skeleton atop a motorcycle is difficult to take seriously, regardless of the circumstances.
Cage's co-star Eva Mendes delivers a sub-par performance as damsel in distress Roxanne Simpson. It's interesting -- and somewhat distressing -- that Mendes manages to be unconvincing as a bubblehead local news reporter, a vocation traditionally reserved for failed actresses.
Director Mark Steven Johnson (Daredevil) does do a superb job with Ghost Rider's visual effects. Fire is a notoriously difficult element for CGI artists to render, but Johnson and his crew excel in creating fire that looks as real as the talking skeleton it envelops.
Aside from the dazzling CGI, however, the film is thoroughly underwhelming. Cage does his best to make it all work, but all of his dramatic skills (and fake hair) can't compensate for the film's many flaws. Ultimately, Ghost Rider is one comic book title that probably should never have gotten the feature film treatment in the first place.
But Avi Arad and the Marvel Studios folks seem intent on churning out as many movies as possible, without regard to whether the characters are even suitable for the big screen. With heavy hitters like Spider-Man and The X-Men already farmed out, Marvel appears to be raiding the cupboards for all the B- and C-list characters they can find, which means audiences can expect more than a few Ghost Riders over the next couple of years. Terrific.