Ghost Rider Review

While Sam Elliott may say the west was built on legend, the reality of this is the acceptance of generations of damned souls riding horses and wearing cowboy hats. A literal “ghost rider,” presumably some quiet rider of the night, is sent off to sign contracts with the devil and think nothing of it. In the modern era, horses are replaced by motorbikes and cowboys are replaced by stuntmen. A natural change in pace, one that will surely shine bright. Brett Cullen and Matt Long may open with the father and son intensity, that dynamic never gets old for the comic book lows, but Nicolas Cage takes the reigns from there. Once the backstory is established and the emotional integrity of the piece needs a bit of fire to get it going.

Hard it may be to hold much love for any form of integrity Ghost Rider hopes to show, it is at least eventful. Horribly dumb and foolishly adapted, but heart-warming in a strange way. Mark Steven Johnson directs this with the usual glum satisfaction of a star-studded cast, a frightening disposition for cringeworthy one-liners and an acceptable introduction to villainy and temptation. The literal devil incarnate is the offering for Ghost Rider. Amazing how the great Peter Fonda can stumble around the scene, not quite focusing on anything in particular while he turns dreary dialogue into an admonished example of bad writing. Still, Cage’s introduction with Ozzy Osbourne’s track, Crazy Train, is a magnificently dense way to introduce the hardman rocker.

That intensity has density. Was Ghost Rider the catalyst of Cage’s downfall? “Hey, is the bike okay?” he says in a rough redneck-styling after almost dying. Johnson and the script have confused what it means to be cool. The mid-2000s are a grim period. Blaze holds jelly beans in a martini glass and watches a monkey fight a man on television. His pact with the devil makes him dangerously dumb, and it is not until his skull sets ablaze randomly that Ghost Rider really takes off. Even then, it does little. Cage has little to offer, not even that overwhelming and ambitious niche of his fascinatingly maddened persona. The Cage Rage is swept away, securely kept out of sight even in the most demanding of scenes. He is just a bit dull, and so is Johnson’s feature.

One of the leading issues with Ghost Rider is that the uselessly camp origins of a character named Johnny Blaze (because the man spends much of his time ablaze) is adapted with a sincere desire to turn him serious. To give him the Batman Begins treatment. As hellfire rains from the sky and a man walks toward the camera to give audiences a jump scare, Ghost Rider could be said to have some slight pacing issues. It certainly has issues around setting and scenario. Biker gangs and jean shorts are frequent and completely nondescript in their need to be shown. The same goes for the jump scares, the rain of hellfire from the sky and the sudden shoehorning of references to the Hell’s Angels. It is not something that will make much sense, to comic book readers or otherwise.

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