A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Ghost Rider

June 28, 2010

Ghost Rider

Another week and another Marvel property brought to the big screen. Ghost Rider is one of those lesser known properties from the seventies (like, say, the Silver Surfer or Iron Man) so it doesn’t come with the instant recognition of a Spider Man or Hulk or X-Men movie. Lucky for us we have a cool opening monologue from Sam Elliott that presents the premise of the Ghost Rider, a kind of bounty hunter for Satan who has to collect the souls of the damned.

The movie starts out with a great vibe. The whole opening, set in the seventies it seems, has a cool kind of Devil came to Georgia feel to it. Young Johnny Blaze is a kid who does stunt driving at county fairs with his father. To save his father from dying of cancer Johnny signs a deal with the Devil. It goes about as well as you’d imagine that should go. His father doesn’t die of cancer anyhow.

Years later Johnny is a mega-successful stunt rider who leaps over trucks and helicopters. He seems unable to die, and is haunted by the fact that his success is probably the result of his ill-advised contract with Satan. And there are foul things afoot – with an extremely sinister devil named Blackheart (played with erie flare by Wes Bently from meeting with three elemental-themed demons who want to find this fabled lost contract. An entire town of damned souls owed to Satan that will give this young devil unimaginable power. Enough, perhaps, to defeat his father, Mephistopheles, and rule the Earth.

To defeat Blackheart the devil calls on Johnny, demanding that he fulfil his contract and return the rebellious demons to hell. And so Johnny Blaze becomes the latest Ghost Rider, with a cool new flaming skull make-over and a nifty flaming custom bike with a kind of bones and steel look. He leaves destruction in his wake and can see the evil in the hearts of criminals and use their sins against them. He meets up with an enigmatic grave-digger played by Sam Elliott (remember him, from the intro? Mr. Plot exposition?)

So there’s all this cool stuff the movie has going for it. Warring devils. Apocalyptic legends. Wes Bently. Sam Elliott. It’s also loaded with cool special effects. There’s a sinister vibe to the whole main plot that’s very well handled and makes for a really cool movie. So why, with all this cool stuff going for it, does the movie at times seem so cheesy and schmaltzy?

Two words: Nick Cage. I guess I enjoy his odd take on things, and I appreciate that he’s a fan of comic books and wants to play a comic book hero. But a lot of what he brings to this movie lessens it. Why the jelly beans and the obsession with monkeys on TV? Why the Carpenters? Even when he is supplanted by computer effects as the Ghost Rider his character is given to cartoonish one-liners, which don’t seem to fit the mood of the rest of the movie.

I don’t know. Maybe the film makers felt that having a hero with a flaming skull and spiked leather wardrobe made the movie too dark. But to make the hero, who looks so bad-assed and awesome, into the comic relief? I just wish they hadn’t, because it’s a pretty cool movie as it stands, and it might have been more.

Still. It’s a fun movie, even with the missed potential. It has moments of marquee awesome (such as the inevitable Ghost Riders in the Sky reference.) Even the romantic sub-plot is tolerable, mostly because Eva Mendez gives Blaze’s love interest Roxanne a little strength to go with her bodice defying build. Her character is meant to be the wailing damsel in distress who can’t live without Johnny – but she’s having none of it.

I hadn’t watched this movie all the way through since seeing it in the theater way back when it first came out (all of three years ago.) I’ve thrown it in the DVD player just to have something to watch once in a while and been turned off by Cage’s comic take on things and decided I had better things to do than watch it all the way through. I’m pleased, on this second complete viewing, to see that for the most part the film is as fun as I remembered it being that first time. You just have to get past some of the cheese in the middle.

June 28, 2010 - Posted by | daily reviews | , ,

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: