I grew up with the usual superheros that we’re all familiar with: Batman, Superman, and Spiderman. So admittedly I’m not up on comic books and their heroes. In fact, when a film is made based on a comic character I usually don’t find out until I’m in the theater waiting for it to begin or a friend will give me the back-story. I had no idea ‘Blade’ was a comic character either, and I loved that series. I saw the trailer for ‘Ghost Rider’ and thought it looked cool, basically because of the motorcycle – yes, I am a motorcycle geek, and proud of it. ‘Ghost Rider,’ is not a deep intellectual film. It doesn’t have to be. What it promises is a good time for 114 minutes.
Nicholas Cage is Johnny Blaze. He’s sort of our modern day Evil Knievel. The film starts out at a carnival. Johnny and his father Barton (Brett Cullen) are a father and son motorcycle stunt team. Johnny is a bit of a rebel showoff much to the dismay of dad. On the brink of running away with his girlfriend Johnny finds out his father is dying of cancer. Enter ‘the Devil.’ Yep, the BIG D or Mephistopheles if you prefer. Played to the hilt by Peter Fonda. He’s creepy, he’s sneaky, you know, what you’d expect. I have to admit though for me, it seemed Fonda was doing an impersonation of Jack Nicholson as the devil. Fonda makes a deal for Johnny’s soul by promising to ‘cure’ his father. Wha-la, dad is in perfect health the next morning but the devil plays a bait and switch. Dad won’t be around long after all and Johnny finds that his blood stained contract makes him the Devil’s new bounty hunter on earth.
Fast forward a few years, after Johnny travels the country as a motorcycle stunt rider, he becomes reacquainted with the love of his young life, Roxanne Simpson (Eva Mendes) who is now a T.V. journalist. But Johnny has other problems. One of the devil’s spawn has returned to earth to take on dear old dad and his soul taking legacy. Wes Bentley is Blackheart, and yes, he’s a rather nasty fellow. But as luck would have it, Johnny has some ‘earthly guidance.’ Sam Elliott as a cemetery caretaker weaves the tale for Johnny to help him better cope with his curse. Whenever evil is around the change happens. Basically a motorcycle riding skeleton on fire clad in a black leather jacket with spikes and chains. Pretty groovy. The special effects in the film are well done but not over done. They don’t appear plastic on the screen and are just fun all the way around.
Cage as Johnny Blaze/Ghost Rider is also good in the film. He doesn’t overact and seems like he’s having a good time with the role. Mendes is also good as his counterpart and is easy on the eyes, especially in the white dress. You’ll see what I mean. Directed and written by Mark Steven Johnson, ‘Ghost Rider’ is a lot of fun. I can’t tell you how close it is to the comic character. You’ll have to ask the comic experts about that. If you’re in the mood for a good fun time this film might just be the ticket.