Ghost Rider

Reviewed By William Goss
Posted 02/16/07 23:02:33

"Hell On Wheels | Uh, More Like Awesome On Awesome!"
1 stars (Total Crap)

Perhaps the shoddiest big-budget ‘effort’ by a major studio since the likes of 'Eragon' a couple of months back, 'Ghost Rider' marks a strikingly sloppy attempt to kick-start a franchise and rake in the dough of eager fanboys the world over with a film full of flashy effects, a peculiar sense of humor, and precious little else besides seam after seam, which is then only exacerbated by some truly atrocious editing.

Like, OMG, last night I got to see this super special screening of that new Ghost Rider movie, and it was SO cool! Well, I mean, hot! LOL! Anyway, it was all loud and flashy and funny and ten kinds of sweet.

So, stunt motorcyclist Johnny Blaze (Nicolas Cage) finds himself greeted once more by the likes of Mephistopheles himself (Peter Fonda, because Rutger Hauer knew better), forced to fulfill his end of a childhood bargain and thus transform into the Ghost Rider, a flaming skeleton/bounty hunter summoned to stop the son of the Devil, Blackheart (Wes Bentley), from collecting a contract that would unleash Hell on Earth.

Well, if you haven’t read the comic books, and you totally should, the Ghost Rider is this flaming skeleton biker who fights off demons at night because he sold his soul to Satan and stuff. Anyway, in the movie, he has to stop the son of Satan (that dude from American Beauty) and save his girlfriend (Eva Mendes), who is hawt like GR is hot. Ha! Get it?

Or something. While it may not be fair to call the plot incomprehensible (technically, all the pieces seem to be there), interest in what’s going on and investment in the characters aren’t even of secondary concern to Daredevil writer-director Mark Steven Johnson. No, Johnson’s priorities seem to be sure that one obvious gag right after another distract from the genuine lack of torment that our protagonist should, in theory, be under – a lack of a moral burden that Cage is more than happy to exchange for a series of quirks and an Elvis impersonation that comes frustratingly close to fruition without ever crossing the line of supposed camp that everyone seems to be teetering the entire time anyway.

So Johnny – which is the Ghost Rider’s real name – he does all these stunts like jumping from field goal to field goal OVER A BUNCH OF HELICOPTERS and then goes down the highway after his girlfriend’s news van and does a bunch of cool stuff. But then he misses their dinner date because he turns into the Ghost Rider (!!!) and burst into flames and pops out spikes and has to fight Satan Jr. and these guys made of earth, wind, and water (because fire beats all of those) with his flaming chopper and chains, which NEVER got old!

Fonda makes for the least intimidating Satan the screen has seen since Elizabeth Hurley, Donal Logue does his routine sidekick number until his character goes seemingly forgotten pending a brief third-act emergence, Eva Mendes pouts around as Johnny’s childhood crush, often letting her cleavage emote for her, and Sam Elliott’s cemetery caretaker shows up to lend credibility (which he doesn’t), collect a paycheck (which he does), and alternate between clarifying the story and muddling it. Oh, and then there’s Bentley, demonstrating at every turn his perpetual inability to elicit the slightest sense of menace, even when flanked by flukies composed of earth, air, and water, who find themselves dispatched in manners either risible or inexplicable.

Nic Cage was funny like he was in Gone in Sixty Seconds, and that Donal Logue guy was funny and Eva Mendes stayed seriously hawt and there were these two old guys, but I didn’t know/care who they were.

Matters becomes eye-rolling when attempting to be jokey (out comes the old gem of janitor-with-headphones-not-paying-attention-to-chaos-nearby), and giggle-inducing whenever it tries to sober up (when ripe pearls of dialogue such as “Is this ever going to end?” and “If this gets out in the press, his career is over” are provided every other reel in a virtually unscreened product such as this, simply ignore them one cannot). The special effects are often serviceable, although some shots fail to justify the seven-month delay that bumped this from last summer to the February wasteland, yet they’re whored out to not the fleeting fights, but scenes in which our flaming figure emerges from a river, only to flip the bird to pursuing police and speed off, a move which I’m quite reluctant to believe has a precedent in the comic itself.

Okay, and there’s this one part where the Rider actually flicks off the police, that has to be the coolest thing since Juggernaut said, “I’m the Juggernaut, bitch!” and I was like hahaha. And then he rides up the side of a building and lassoes a helicopter, which was kinda cool. And this plump Goth chick – who looks a lot like this girl, Claire, from school, who sits in our corner during lunch – she’s all, like, tryin’ to tell the newslady, who’s Ghost Rider’s girlfriend, about how GR saved her and how his head was on fire and that was funny too.

When this is what $120 million can buy you, then one is tempted to tally up exactly how many people must’ve sold their soul to the studio in an effort to get this made and make a buck. Even as it posits itself as a straight-forward superhero entertainment, Ghost Rider can barely satisfy on that level, instead opting out with undercooked ham throughout its ensemble and more cornball moments than anyone could possibly need, let alone want, all capped off with nothing less than a Grapes of Wrath speech (if this is a nod to Peter’s pa, he’d be better off without it). Johnson and friends have taken a character from the same tier as Blade and crafted around him a movie on the same level of Catwoman. Do yourself a favor and go gaze at some Meat Loaf covers instead.

(Oh, and he drinks jellybeans while listening to the Carpenters and watching monkey shows on the TV. WTF??? LOL!!!)

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