In the days leading up to the release of Marvel’s Comics big screen adaptation of the comic-book Ghost Rider, The New York Post ran a story reporting that Sony pictures, who financed the movie, was not holding screenings for the press because they knew they had a steaming turd on their hands. While I think Sony made a big, and insulting, mistake by not allowing reviewers to see the movie before opening night, they were right that there isn’t any great cinematic achievement to be had with Ghost Rider.
I went to see the movie on Saturday night, at what is one of the busiest theaters here in Denver, and the movie was only half full. Not a good sign for a movie that cost $120 million to make and has one of Hollywood’s top draws as the main character. You see, they call us comic book fans “nerds” but we know what makes a good film and it is apparent that Sony failed to listen. Just because of that Ghost Rider deserves the apparent grisly fate that awaits it.
Personally, I enjoyed the movie somewhat, if only for the fact that it was great eye-candy. Seeing yet another of Marvel’s characters brought to life was fun to watch. That’s where the kudos end however, and even though the transformation of Nicolas Cage’s character “Johnny Blaze” into the vengeful spirit of Ghost Rider was visually amazing, the story never picked up enough steam to be as engaging as the Spider Man or X-Men movies have been.
Part of this is just because the story of Ghost Rider is a bulky one to begin with. There is a lot of crucial back-story missing and instead of developing a well rounded plot the movie chose to go for flash over substance.
Cage did a great job in his role as the reluctant hero but the roles of the villains totally missed the mark. The character of “Darkheart,” played poorly by Wes Bentley, was just a waste and even the excellent casting of Peter Fonda as “Mephistopheles” didn’t capture the essence of the comics by any stretch of the imagination. The only other performance in the film worth mentioning was Sam Elliott’s convincing portrayal of “The Caretaker.”
The best thing I can say is that now that they got the initial setup of the Ghost Rider story out of the way, there is a good chance that a decent sequel could be made. Of course that depends a lot on who the next villain will be and if Cage, who is probably questioning his involvement, will return for another take. In the end Ghost Rider ranks as a better film than Daredevil on my fanboy scale, but not by much.