Sunday, March 18, 2007

Ghost Rider

Another Marvel comic book hero, in the form of Ghost Rider, makes the transition to the big screen. He isn't a character I'm familiar with as I grew up in the 1960s, reading comics like Spider-Man, Captain America, Daredevil, Iron Man, the X-Men, the Fantastic Four, Thor and the Hulk. Here's the basic story…
In the days of the American West, the devil sent his bounty hunter, the Ghost Rider, to collect a contract for the souls of the entire town of San Venganza. But the rider did not return and instead hid himself and the contract.

Many years later, when motorcycle stunt rider Johnny Blaze (Nicolas Cage) learns that his father is dying of cancer he is approached by Mephistopheles (Peter Fonda) who promises to cure him in return for his soul. Johnny agrees and true enough, his father is cured of cancer but is then almost immediately killed in a motorcycle accident and the devil claims Johnny's soul, telling him that sometime in the future he'll call on his services as his new bounty hunter. This drastic change in events forces him to abandon his girlfriend Roxanne (Eva Mendes) just as they were about to elope.

Ghost Rider
Twenty years later Johnny is a successful stunt rider, defying death in more and more dangerous acts when he meets Roxanne again and tries to pick up the threads of their relationship. However, it's also when Blackheart (Wes Bentley), the devil's son, decides to come to earth with his fallen angels and challange his father's dominion by finding the long missing contract of San Venganza. The devil makes good on his threat and turns Johnny into the Ghost Rider with orders to destroy Blackheart and his gang and recover the contract and if he does that, he'll get his soul back.

I remember seeing a very early trailer for this some time ago and thought then that it might be worth seeing as the concept of a flame-covered, bike-riding skeleton as the hero was definitely novel. However, the movie doesn't follow true to the comic storyline, which will probably not please fans, but that is quite complicated and in-depth, which wouldn't have lent itself well to being transformed onto film, at least not a standard feature-length movie of under two hours. That said, it's a reasonable plot and we quite enjoyed it in a kind of mindless, popcorn munching way.

Ghost Rider
The hero or anti-hero of the piece is played by Nicolas Cage, who's definitely starting to look even wearier than usual so maybe his days as an action hero are numbered. Don't get me wrong, I like cage and some of his earlier movies were excellent - Gone In 60 Seconds, Face/Off, Snake Eyes, 8mm, Con-Air and The Rock are all worth seeing and he pulls off the character of Johnny Blaze quite well here too. It was nice to see Peter Fonda as the devil - we don't see that much of him at all these days. The eye-candy and love interest comes in the form of Eva Mendes as Johnny's "ex" and she does a pretty good job.

It's over the top and very cheesy in places but Ghost Rider is a comic book character after all so go in expecting just that, de-tune your movie critic mode and you won't be too disappointed and fans might even appreciate that they're planning a sequel already!

Genre: Action, Fantasy, Thriller.
My Rating: 6/10

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