Ghost Rider (2007)
Director: Mark Steven Johnson
Writer: Mark Steven Johnson
Cast: Nicolas Cage, Eva Mendes, Sam Elliott, Peter Fonda, Wes Bentley
Synopsis: When the motorcyclist Johnny Blaze finds that his father Barton Blaze has a terminal cancer, he accepts a pact with the Mephistopheles, giving his soul for the health of his beloved father. But the devil deceives him, and Barton dies in a motorcycle accident during an exhibition. Johnny leaves the carnival, his town, his friends and his girlfriend Roxanne. Years later Johnny Blaze becomes a famous motorcyclist, who risks his life in his shows, and he meets Roxanne again, now a TV reporter. However, Mephistopheles proposes Johnny to release his contract if he become the "Ghost Rider" and defeat his evil son Blackheart, who wants to possess one thousand evil souls and transform hell on earth.
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for horror violence and disturbing images
Ghost Riders In The Sky
"Ghost Rider" is arguably one of the most under rated fictional characters in history. If you ever stopped to analyze all the elements that "Ghost Rider" typically deals with in his regular adventures, then you'd probably come to realize he's a vastly complex character. Unfortunately due to the rather graphic nature of his stories, Marvel Comics rarely tries to push him into the lime light too often, as they wouldn't want to cause their comics to be deemed unfriendly towards commercialism. However, "Ghost Rider" still remains one of the most visually interesting characters out there. Unlike most superheroes that exist within the Marvel Universe, "Ghost Rider" tends to deal more along the lines of the supernatural elements that most comics wouldn't dare explore. Ranging from graphic images of hell, to even portraying the graphic demonic nature of various supernatural creations such as vampires, werewolves, ghosts and demons. Indeed, "Ghost Rider" isn't exactly kid friendly to say the least.
For those that are unfamiliar with the story, I'll gladly fill you in before jumping right into this review. "Ghost Rider" is based off the infamous Marvel Comics character. Like many superheroes such as the Flash, Green Lantern, Phantom and etc, there's been many incarnations of the character throughout the years, as Johnny Blaze wasn't always the only person to don the name Ghost Rider. However, this particular film follows the story that was derived from the 1970's version, where Johnny Blaze (Nicolas Cage) falls in love with his teenage sweetheart Roxanne (Eva Mendes), and happens to work in the circus as a stunt cyclist with his father. I guess one could say that both Johnny Blaze, and his father Barton could be described as the Evil Kenevil of comic book characters, as they would perform all sorts of death defying stunts. Many ranging from the simply magnificent to the damn near physically impossible. Indeed, danger was certainly no element that bothered the Blaze family.
Unfortunately, as luck would have it, Barton falls ill due to cancer; which leaves Johnny in a rather vulnerable state emotionally, as he was originally planning on running away to start a new life with Roxanne. However, he reluctantly decides to forgo his plans with Roxanne, so he can take care of his father in his hour of need...or does he? As Johnny is alone working on his motorcycle, a mysterious stranger walks in on him, who somehow knows everything there is to know about Johnny Blaze. Not only does he know about Johnny's entire predicament, but he also knows how badly he wishes that he could be free to start a new life with his girlfriend. Who is this mysterious stranger you may ask? And, why does he know so much about Johnny Blaze? Is he some sort of deranged stalker? An angel sent down from heaven to help Johnny in his hour of need? Or perhaps, he's something else entirely? No, the person that walks in on Johnny is not entirely what he seems to be. In fact, he's not even human; in spite of his appearance. No, he happens to be a demonic creature that has gone by so many names in the past, according to various religious scriptures, but in this story he's called Mephistopholes (or Mephisto for short). Like all tales dealing with the devil's shady dealings, Mephistopholes gives Johnny the deal of a life time. He offers Johnny a chance to live his own life with Roxanne, as he guaranteed that he would cure Barton Blaze of his cancer. The catch? Just Johnny's soul will do.
Johnny reluctantly agrees to Mephistopholes deal, as Barton becomes completely cured of his cancer, and all seems right in the world. Upon learning Barton's new found health, Johnny confronts his father about running away with Roxanne, and his father viciously disapproves of his decision; which causes them to get into a huge argument over it. In the end, they both go their separate ways, as both sides feel a bit bitter towards the other, but that's not the end of the story. Although the devil did promise Johnny that his father would be cured of his cancer, but...he never said anything about letting him live. Therefore, when Barton gets on his motorcycle to do another death defying stunt by jumping through a ring of fire, he ends up inevitably crashing in front of a large audience at the circus. Johnny rushes to see if his father is hurt after hearing about the accident, but Barton is already dead. Frustrated and angry over this, he confronts Mephisto about this whole ordeal to which he shrugs arrogantly: "Johnny, I lived up to my end of the deal, as I cured your father of his cancer. However, I wasn't going to allow him to get in between us. Forget about family. Forget about friends. Forget about love. Your soul belongs to me now, as there will be a day when I call upon your services."
Fast forward several years later, Johnny Blaze is a highly successful stunt rider that would even make Evil Kenevil envious, as he's able to pull off stunts that no ordinary human being could possibly achieve on his own. Unfortunately, the devil's son, Black Heart, is set free, as he maliciously hunts for the contract that would allow him to bring hell on Earth. Mephisto tries to reason with his son, as the time of the apocalypse isn't meant to happen yet, but his son refuses to listen. This forces Mephisto to call upon Johnny's services, and forces him to turn into the demonic Ghost Rider to hunt down Black Heart. Johnny refuses the task, but he soon realizes that...he doesn't have a choice in the matter. From here, ensues another cliched ridden superhero film that rides on the coat tails of "his curse", "his destiny", and etc to try to appeal to most audiences.
Look, I can understand where Sony wanted to go with this movie, as it's fairly obvious they were trying to make Ghost Rider into a more mainstream character with this film, by taking a more lighter approach to the character. However, that's not who Ghost Rider is, or even what his stories are meant to portray. No, as I said earlier, Ghost Rider isn't exactly a kid friendly sort of character, as the very nature of his stories are very dark; almost reminiscent of old school horror films in a strange way. Unfortunately, Mark Steven Johnson who not only wrote the script for this film, but directs it as well, he tries to paint a lighter yet more heroic image of Ghost Rider, but it fails tragically as it betrays the very nature of the character.
Although, most fans blame many of this film's follies on Nicolas Cage's portrayal of the main character, Johnny Blaze/Ghost Rider, but I tend to disagree with that assessment. Sure, I'll be the first to admit that Nicolas Cage would not have been my first choice for this role, but I thought he portrayed a great Johnny Blaze; in spite of the mediocre script that he had to work with. No, the real problem with this film was it's script, and weak villains if anything else. As the old saying goes, a hero is only as great as the villains he fights, and the villains in this movie seem to be relatively harmless to be honest. In every fight scene, it really doesn't seem like Ghost Rider ever has much of a problem defeating them; which sadly makes him seem like a rather weak character to root for. As for the special effects, they're pretty much everything that you'd expect from a film like this, as it's probably one of the few things that Sony got right about the movie.
Overall, I'd have to give this movie a one and a half out of four. It's not a bad film by any means, as it's fairly decent for what it is. However, it doesn't stay true to the heart of what the character is supposed to represent, nor does it try to; which is rather sad to be quite honest. Out of all the superheroes out there, Ghost Rider has always been one of the most under rated, and it doesn't look like that's going to change anytime soon....