Ghost Rider is just plain entertaining. Sure, it’s not great cinema. It isn’t going to garner any academy award nominations, but it is lots of fun and I appreciate it for that alone. I was able to relax for nearly two hours and escape my problems, empty my mind of negative thoughts, and enjoy being free of worry. It was heaven! For a bonus, I got to watch as good triumphed over evil once again. In my book, that is a good day.
The movie centers on a young stunt cyclist named Johnny Blaze (with Matt Long as the young Johnny). As the film begins, Johnny and his father are in the midst of doing one of their daredevil motorcycle stunts at a local state fair. In the audience is Johnny’s girlfriend Rachel Simpson (with Raquel Alessi as young Rachel) watches. After the show she informs Johnny that her father is sending her away because he doesn’t think a “carnie brat” is good enough for her. The couple makes plans to run away together instead.
That evening, however, Johnny discovers that his father is dying of lung cancer. As he works on his bike and ponders what to do, a stranger enters and offers to restore his father to health. All he wants in return is Johnny’s soul. Of course the young man thinks he is joking and smirks as he opens the so-called contract that he is supposed to sign. But as is always true with the devil, there is a trick. As Johnny rolls open the scroll, he pricks his finger on a sharp spot and his blood falls on the contract, sealing the deal.
The next morning, Johnny awakens believing he just had a nightmare. That is, until his father tells him that he’s never felt better in his life and that his doctor says his cancer has miraculously receded. As his father prepares for his daily show, Johnny thinks perhaps everything will work out fine. However, just as his dad hurls his cycle toward the fire ring, it malfunctions. Both the rider and cycle go flying. Johnny watches as his father dies before his very eyes.
Realizing that his life now belongs to Mephistopheles, Johnny decides that he must leave Roxanne in order to protect her, leaving both her and him totally broken hearted.
The next we see of Mr. Blaze (now played by Nicholas Cage) he is fully grown and still doing daring motorcycle stunts. Each stunt is more difficult and dangerous than the one before because Johnny is looking for a sign. He needs something that tells him he has a second chance to correct the mistake he made as a young man. But the sign he is looking for doesn’t come. True, he survives fall after fall with little more than bumps, bruises, and a few broken bones. However, he chalks that up to being watched over by the devil and not as the sign he so desperately desires.
On the anniversary of his father’s death, Johnny plans his latest death defying stunt; a leap the size of a football field, goal to goal. At the last moment, he even includes six Black Hawk helicopters between the two goal posts. He figures that if he makes this jump alive, he has his much-needed sign. Just as Johnny is preparing to enter the arena, he is barraged with reporters who want to interview him. His manager explains that he doesn’t do interviews. A voice rings out asking “Not even for an old friend?” and Johnny turns to see the love of his life, Roxanne (now played by Eva Mendes). He agrees to do the interview, which doesn’t work out well, and Roxanne leaves before his jump.
Johnny, of course, makes the jump with ease. He then chases Roxanne down the interstate and won’t give up until she promises to have dinner with him. Once more intrigued with her once great love, she agrees to meet him but tells him he better not be late.
This is the part of the movie, of course, when the villains always make their entrance. In this case, it is not who the audience expects to see – – Mephistopheles – – but his son instead; part of a team of fallen angels that hide in the elements of earth, wind, water, and fire. The terrible foursome are seeking a contract for 1,000 souls that a Ghost Rider long ago refused to turn over as promised. Instead, the rider hid the contract to keep the devil from gaining even more power. Now Blackheart, his son, wants that power for himself. Of course, the devil can’t allow that to happen and finally calls in his contract with Johnny Blaze to become the Ghost Rider.
Obviously, the timing couldn’t be worse for Johnny; just as he is about to make up with Roxanne over dinner, he is called into service as the fabled, fiery Ghost Rider, a supernatural agent of vengeance and justice. He is, in essence, the devil’s bounty hunter. What happens from here, I’m not going to share because it would spoil the movie. Suffice it to say this film is action packed from beginning to end. But will true love prevail? That, my friends, is always the rub!
Mark Steve Johnson both wrote the screenplay and directed this movie which helped make for a seamless transition from paper to film. He pens a fabulous story with fascinating characters, awesome special effects, and staggering cinema photography. He puts it all together in such a marvelous way that the film is not only entertaining but inspiring as well.
Contrary to some of the blogs that started even before this film came out (February 16, 2007), the actors chosen for this project are actually near perfect. Some fans claimed that Cage couldn’t possibly pull off the part because he didn’t have the physique or the acting chops. Others claimed that Mendes was there just to be a pretty face and that she, like Cage, could not act. Some even took pot shots at Sam Elliott for his small, but pivotal, part in the film. I find it interesting that all these comments were made before the film was released, because they were not only incorrect, they were downright idiotic.
Nicholas Cage continues to be a highly underrated actor. Much like John Travolta, who can play a part with such ease that it appears he isn’t acting at all, Cage is comfortable with the parts that he accepts. He is more than comfortable in this one. He becomes Johnny Blaze and the Ghost Rider with a smooth, seamless ease. True, he doesn’t make huge, obvious changes between the two characters. He underplays the change to make it seem more realistic (or as realistic as one can believe a flaming skull to be). And his physique was proven to be quite nice, thank you very much.
Mendes also does a credible job in her role as Roxanne. The part isn’t Shakespeare. It isn’t meant to be. Roxanne is a sweet, uncomplicated, trusting young woman who merely wants the chance to finally get together with the love of her life. Still, when push comes to shove, she jumps in to defend her true love with conviction and moxy. What more can anyone want?
Peter Fonda as the devil is inspired. He is wickedly on spot in the role; carefully underplaying the evil to make the audience wonder if he could possibly be all that bad after all? Isn’t that exactly what the devil would do? I think so!
Wes Bentley as Blackheart is evil personified. Where Mephistopheles is underplayed, he purposely overplays Blackheart to set him apart as well as to show the insanity of ultimate evil. He has no heart and no soul and every act he undertakes, every movement he makes, and every decision he undergoes plays to that evil. No one will doubt his intention to create a hell on earth even more terrible than the one of legend.
Donal Logue as Mack – – Johnny’s friend – – plays the role well, showing concern for his friend and trying with everything in him to be supportive and compassionate. Although his role is small, he plays it for all of its worth and does so memorably.
Sam Elliott, as the Caretaker, is flawless. He makes the audience believe that good can always triumph over evil in the end. He is quietly heroic, taking the backseat to Cage, as he should, but still leaving his own indelible mark.
The special effects of this film are amazing, but not over-the-top as many fans claimed would happen. Some fans went so far as to predict that as much as 80% of the film would be nothing but special effects. That isn’t the case. This movie melds the real with computer graphic effects in a good marriage. There was not too much or one or the other. There were obviously spots that screamed for computer graphics and those parts benefited from them. However, real people played integral roles in the film as well. They didn’t take a backseat.
Again, I’m in wonder with today’s cinema photography. Each film I see lately seems to focus heavily in this area and the result is stunning. It is miraculous in this film. I could have enjoyed the movie for that reason alone. I’m just lucky that I didn’t have to because there is a lot right with this film.
My only complaint in the whole movie is the way the costume department dressed Ms. Mendes. In her first shot with Cage she is dressed in a white shift that is so tight that it pulls across the bust and invites a stomach “pooch” where none exists on the actress’s body. Come on, guys. This is a beautiful woman who can actually act. She doesn’t need all the tricks of tight clothing and excess cleavage to make her stand out. She does that on her own. You cheapen her talent by dressing her that way.
I loved this movie. I will undoubtedly watch it over and over and over again. It is that good. I can’t wait until it comes to DVD so that I can put in my library and watch it for years to come. Get my drift? It’s good. I give it four and one-quarter stars out of five. It would have gotten four and one-half if not for the ridiculous way they dressed their lead actress.
Ghost Rider is 114 minutes in length and carries a PG-13 rating for horror violence and disturbing images.