Thursday, September 27, 2012

Ghost Rider

You remember that god awful Spawn flick from the late 90s? You know, the one where that bad ass character was turned into a whining pussy and his sidekicks were a little kid and a dog? Well picture that kind of dumbing down scenario and apply it to the character of Ghost Rider, and you have this sad excuse for a comic book film.

Sure the FX scenes are uber cool, but the one thing that can make a totally CG sequence work in my eyes anymore is if there's some good characters and an interesting plot to back it up. That's what this flick lacks, any kind of character development and the total absence of a decent story.
What is there for a story is as follows: Mephistopheles (an ass kickingly awesome Peter Fonda) comes to Earth to save the father of young motorcycle stuntman Johnny Blaze in exchange for his soul. Well, old Scratch screws the kid over and when the story jumps forward 30 years we find out that Johnny (Nicolas Cage) is nearly indestructible until the Devil comes to collect his debt. The son of Satan, Blackheart (Wes Bentley), arrives on Earth to collect a relic that contains the souls of some of the most evil people to have ever lived which will allow him to overthrow his father and rule the planet. So Mephistopheles calls on Johnny to be his soldier on Earth, known as a Ghost Rider, to stop his son.

Well, this is all fine and dandy (as it was in the comic books), but it plays out at such a breakneck pace that it makes little sense and gives the viewer no time to absorb all the plot devices that are constantly being thrown at them. There's no time for character development, just non-stop FX and unintentional laughs (Eva Mendez's first appearance on screen has to be one of the cheesiest things I've ever seen). The dialogue is beyond childish, and why the hell is Nicolas Cage trying to channel the spirit of Elvis for the whole movie? His goofy "pointing stance" is so dumb looking that I couldn't stop chuckling to myself whenever he did it... and he did it a lot. Lots of things seemed added into the film just to fill out the 2 hour runtime, like a battle with a helicopter atop a skyscraper's roof, and the final scene with Sam Elliot's Caretaker character (what a wasted opportunity for some ass kicking with this guy).
The villain's henchmen, who are themed after the elements, are supposed to be these epically evil badasses who are insanely hard to kill, but it takes Ghost Rider all of 10 seconds to beat them whenever they pop up. And usually the method he employs to dispatch said henchman makes absolutely no sense (I whip my chain around in a flaming circle and you die! Suck it Air Dude!).

The romance angle is incredibly dumb as well, which comes off as something akin to a high school stage play. Eva Mendez looks lost for the movie's entire runtime and is just there for eye candy. I didn't believe that these two felt anything for each other either in the present or in the scenes set in the past.

Director Mark Steven Johnson, who helmed the oft-maligned Daredevil flick (I highly recommend checking out the Director's Cut) just doesn't seem to get this comic book property. It's supposed to be a dark, violent and flat out nasty character, but here he's been turned into a little bitch who just wanders around aimlessly on his motorcycle looking for trouble. Sure the character looks pretty cool when he's on fire and all skeletony, but the vocodered voice FX sound really bad and makes it hard to understand what's being said.
In the end you have the Spawn of the new millennium. What used to be a dark and dangerous character in the funny books is turned into a big joke of a feature film, and as usual the comic book fans are left in the dust.

1 out of 5

P.S. I found this little tidbit of info kind of funny: Due to the massive FX budget for the film the helicopter battle scene was cut. After the director delayed the release of the film a year in order to switch to cheaper FX companies, he now had it in the budget to reintegrate that helicopter scene. But he had already filmed the scene without it, and it was to have Ghost Rider drive up the side of a skyscraper to fight the Air Baddie, beat him, and drive back down the building. Now the scene plays out schizophrenically, with the helicopter coming out of nowhere once G.R. gets to the top of the building, he lassos it with his burning chain and flings it away while screaming "You're pissing me off!". The helicopter flies away unharmed, then the Air Baddie shows up. It was a pointless addition that stops the momentum of the film in its tracks, and wasn't as cool as the director made it out to be (in interviews he was so proud to be able to put that scene back in because it was "detrimental to the plot"). It felt like something that was added at the last minute to pad the movie thus making it worse.

*written 2/16/07

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