Another dull comic book adaptation

Ghost Rider

on February 16, 2007 by Shlomo Schwartzberg
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It's no coincidence that Daredevil and Ghost Rider — neither completely disastrous but both definitely dull — were helmed by Mark Steven Johnson. Reportedly, Johnson is a comic-book fanatic, which is fine, but one must bring more than enthusiasm to the table when tackling a superhero movie. Johnson, alas, is no Sam Raimi of Darkman and the Spider-Man movies — he's not even close.

Nicolas Cage stars as Johnny Blaze, a stunt rider who sells his soul to the devil (Peter Fonda) in order to save his father, only to find that things don't work out as he hoped. Flash-forward a couple of decades and the bill has come due, with Mephistopheles ordering Johnny to hunt down and kill his wayward son, Blackheart (Wes Bentley), who, along with a trio of other fallen angels, is bent on dominating the world. There's also Johnny's long-lost love interest, Roxanne (Eva Mendes), who comes back into his life just he is gearing up to fight for his very existence.

As unwieldy a film as one can imagine, Ghost Rider mixes Christian theology, classic Western motifs, pure horror (Johnny transforms into a skeleton with a burning skull when darkness comes), quirky humor, glitzy special effects and modern superhero angst to deathly ill effect. None of it is executed with any real directorial skill; nor can the actors for the most part bring themselves to take the hokey plot or dialogue too seriously—watching Cage and Fonda's verbal face-off is excruciating. As Johnny's best buddy, Donal Logue has a couple of nice riffs, but, other than standing around looking pretty, Mendes does little with her tepid role as a damsel in distress.

Incidentally, Ghost Rider wasn't screened for U.S. critics; had it been, this soporific movie would likely just have put them to sleep. Distributor: Sony
Cast: Nicolas Cage, Eva Mendes, Wes Bentley, Sam Elliott, Donal Logue, Matt Long and Peter Fonda
Director/Screenwriter: Mark Steven Johnson
Producers: Avi Arad, Steven Paul, Michael De Luca and Gary Foster
Genre: Fantasy action
Rating: PG-13 for horror violence and disturbing images
Running time: 108 min.
Release date: February 16, 2007

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