I consider today’s review to be a preamble (of sorts) to a review from the near future. I plan to see the recently released sequel to this movie in theaters, but I really have no idea why. I’ve seen today’s movie before and (though I have purchased it 3 times) do not actually like it. I’m an enigma. Besides that fact, I have never been that big of a fan of the comic books this movie is based on, so far having only read a 6 issue story arc and one other comic this character made a cameo in. And yet, I remain hopeful that the sequel I intend to see would be the awesome movie to fix the pile of shit today’s movie was … even though Rotten Tomatoes actually rates the sequel lower than this one. It makes me very afraid to see the sequel, having just found that out. But I remain resolute and won’t be swayed. Today’s movie is the first part, a movie so mockable that I’ve taken more notes on this movie than any other movie I’ve reviewed, totally one and a half pages of mostly angry nerd thoughts. But, since it would be too easy and lame to simply post my notes as a review, I am forced to write a full review of Ghost Rider, written and directed by Mark Steven Johnson, and starring Nicholas Cage, Wes Bentley, Peter Fonda, Sam Elliott, Eva Mendes, Matt Long, Raquel Alessi, Brett Cullen, Donal Logue, Lawrence Breuls, Matt Wilkinson, Daniel Frederiksen, and Rebel Wilson.
In the old Westie times, the Devil himself, Mephistopheles (Peter Fonda) tasks his bounty hunter, the Ghost Rider, with retrieving a contract worth thousands of corrupt souls from a town called San Venganza. Knowing it would give the Devil too much power, the Ghost Rider runs away and hides the contract. 150 years later, Mephistopheles has not yet learned from his mistakes and decides he would like to make another Ghost Rider, choosing a 17-year-old motorcycle stunt rider, incredulously named Johnny Blaze (Matt Long). Blaze sells his soul (kinda) to the Devil in exchange for curing his father of cancer. Apparently, no one ever told him to be very careful with his words when making deals with the Devil, because he just gets the Devil to agree to cure his dad’s cancer, saying nothing about him living a long, full life. Johnny’s dad dies that same day in a motorcycle crash. Lesson: always read the fine print. Johnny’s curse makes him decide to ditch his girlfriend, Roxanne (Raquel Alessi), not wanting her to get caught in some loophole he was too dumb to pay attention to. As he tears off down the road on his dad’s motorcycle, he (unfortunately) turns into Nicholas Cage. Nowadays, Johnny’s a somehow successful daredevil stunt man who practically never lands his jumps, but survives anyways. One day, he gets interviewed by a reporter who turns out to be Roxanne, now (very VERY fortunately) turned into Eva Mendes. He manages to talk her into a date, but ends up standing her up again because Mephisto comes back and tells Johnny he needs to kill Mephisto’s own son, Blackheart (Wes Bentley), who has come to Earth to find the contract of San Venganza in order to overtake his father with it’s power. Johnny turns into the new Ghost Rider to do it, and away we go.
I feel so conflicted about this movie. Not about my opinion of the movie, mind you. It’s crap. But it’s crap that looks good at times, like one of those diamond encrusted craps that I’m sure we’ve all seen at one time or another. Let’s talk story, since the people that wrote this movie obviously didn’t. The story of the Ghost Rider is a dark and badass one. They got the main story points in here, including the selling of the soul, the Devil’s betrayal and the death of Johnny’s father, the guy with his head on fire, it’s all here. What they apparently decided to do with their dark story of the Devil was to try to make it light-hearted and funny whenever they could, failing on the funny, of course. The only way for me to do this in any coherent fashion is to just go through the movie chronologically. First, the premise is good. I like the idea of the contract with all of the souls that would make the Devil come to Earth to claim it. That’s all well and good. But when we jump into Johnny’s story (mind you, this happens 5 minutes in) it goes to Hell. Not literally, that would be too awesome. It just starts with the sucking. One thing I noticed was, as a smoker myself, I would recommend that Johnny’s dad not think that the answer to a coughing fit is to grab a cigarette. Next, the contract thing is complete bullshit! Sadly, this is the foundation that the movie sits on. Johnny NEVER AGREED TO THIS CONTRACT! Since when does holding a contract and getting a papercut count as a legally binding contract?! I know we shouldn’t expect the Devil to play fair, but if this is within his power he can go up to anyone and say “Sell me your soul. Oh, you didn’t say no, GIMME!” Speaking of which, how the Hell is Johnny so surprised when the Devil fucks him over? I have a very good friend that’s an Athiest, but I’m sure even he’d agree that (if there was a Devil) one would not give him your trust lightly. When we jump into Nicholas Cage as Johnny, it somehow gets worse. What’s lower than Hell? ‘Cause I kind of already blew my load preemptively with that … Either way, it gets retarded pretty quick. The first thing that started to piss me off was the fact that Johnny Blaze was a super popular and famous daredevil who apparently made a habit of never landing his fucking jumps. I understand that there’s a certain level of hoping to see a cool crash and all, but if I go to see a daredevil jump something, that’s what I want to see. If all he does is fail, I’m out. I don’t think the Faces of Death videos are so popular with people that he could get that large of a crowd that only want to see him die. And, if the chances were high that he was only going to fail anyways, why not just have him jump his motorcycle into a wall instead of wasting money to get cars and helicopters for him to jump over? Also, it’s a bit contradictory of me to say this since I’ve complained about movies setting up obvious and stupid things early in the movie that pay off with obvious and stupid things later, but this movie sets up those things to no effect whatsoever. Why does Johnny drink Jelly Beans out of a martini glass? What is his fascination with monkey movies? Why does this movie have such a strong anti-smoking and anti-drinking message but they’ll have Johnny Blaze riding, and doing tricks on, his motorcycle without a helmet? Later on, another thing occurred to me: shouldn’t we get on top of making better body bags? Every time someone is being wheeled away in a body bag in a movie, their arm falls out of the side. Those are some shoddy zippers. When Roxanne comes back to Johnny, one should think that there should be SOME reason for her to do so. He stands her up as a teenager (a grudge she is still holding), but he manages to talk her into going on a date where she gets stood up again. She tells him off (as he rightly deserves), but then shows up at his house and starts making out with him. He’s done nothing to deserve that! ::SPOILER ALERT:: Near the end of the movie, when it’s revealed that Sam Elliott was the previous Ghost Rider, he apparently has only one more transformation into the Ghost Rider left in him. How does he use it? He transforms to ride side by side with Johnny Blaze through the desert in some Ghost Rider money shot, then tosses him a shotgun and leaves. That’s how you use it? Also, what the Hell were the sins of that little lizard you barbecued when you were riding through the desert, Ghost Rider, protector of the innocent? I’ll say only one nice thing about the story: I actually liked the way they beat Blackheart. At first, Ghost Rider’s Penance Stare was ineffectual on Blackheart because he had no soul. Once he’s absorbed the souls from the contract of San Venganza, he’s got plenty to go around, and Ghost Rider burns him to death with those. That was actually fairly clever. Granted, the did kind of piss on that by having Cage deliver some soliloquy reminiscent of Mighty Mouse (something like “Wherever innocents are suffering, wherever evil does bad things, Hercules will be there with his Legendary Journies”). ::END SPOILERS::
This is probably going to go a little long, people, ’cause now we’re talking dialogue. SHIT! The only thing muttered during any action scene in this movie was one-liners so bad that you could only see them coming if you had just taken a tire iron upside the head. These phrases were along the lines of, or downright verbatim, “You’re going down”, “I don’t think so”, “I’m all out of mercy”, and “You not do bad things no more.” That last one might have been residual brain damage from the tire iron. In the few comics I read of the Ghost Rider, he barely ever spoke, and when he did, it was some pretty awesome version of “I’m going to kill the shit out of you right now.” He’s a demon, and should most certainly never be heard to mutter “YEEHAW” while he’s roping a helicopter out of the air with one of his chains. Of course, a lot of the things Nicholas Cage said, if they weren’t awful already, were made so by the country accent he decided to use. Take, for instance, when he asks Roxanne if she “still likes Eye-Talian” food. Some of the lines in the movie may have been made worse by the editing, though, like when Johnny was psyching himself up for his date with Roxanne. He’s in the mirror saying “You deserve a second chance” to himself, but the editing is cutting to scenes of Roxanne sitting in the restaurant waiting. I don’t know if you know this, movie, but that KINDA indicates to the audience that these events are happening simultaneously, and if Johnny is still psyching himself up for the date that he’s already 20 minutes late for and he hasn’t even left his house, then I would argue that he does not, in fact, deserve a second chance. Of course, I think the pinnacle of awful lines in movies has to be one that the writers were apparently so proud of they actually used it in the trailer: when Nicholas Cage says “I feel like my skull’s on fire, but I’m good.” When I saw this movie in theaters and this line was excreted, it made my testicles hurt. I can’t remember the occasion that well, but I’m sure one of my friends would tell me that I yelled “OOOOOOoooooooWWW” when this happened. That is not a common phrase, movie! I have never heard ANYONE say (unironically) that they felt like their skull was on fire.
I’ll give you guys a bit of a respite and talk about something I liked … briefly. The look of the movie. The Ghost Rider looked appropriately badass. At first, he looked pretty awesome with Johnny Blaze’s normal attire, but when he upgraded his leather jacket to one with spikes all over it – and a matching gauntlet – he became pretty epically badass. I thought it was strange, though, that when a cop runs up to the guy who is a skeleton with a flaming head and cracks him in the face with a nightstick, he seems to only get shocked when the flaming skull head guy puts his dislocated jaw back in place. Cops see flaming skull head dudes every day, but ones that can relocated their jaws? UNHEARD OF! His motorcycle was also the tits. I cannot really bring myself to complain about any aspect of the Ghost Rider himself. Blackheart, on the other hand, just looked like a pasty emo boy that occasionally had a little demon face peak through. He was never that intimidating. Mephisto was a little better, but not much. When Blackheart became “Legion” after absorbing the souls from San Venganza, he actually looked LESS cool, just having glowing red eyes and shitty dark-elf-from-World-of-Warcraft makeup. I confused myself a little bit when I took great issue with the stupidity of the Ghost Rider riding on water, yet when he rides up and down the sides of a skyscraper, I said to myself “I’m with you.” I don’t think I’ve ever made the claim that I make sense. I didn’t like a couple of things in the fights, either. First, when Ghost Rider defeats the air elemental demon by creating some silly vortex of fire with his chains, that wasn’t really interesting. Even worse was what happened to the water demon, who just pulled Cage into the water, struggled with him for a bit, and then died when Cage turned into Ghost Rider and yelled at him underwater. It seemed as if they finished the movie and realized “Ooops, we forgot about the water dude. Just toss something in. Who’s gonna care? Have you seen the rest of this crap?!” Then, in the final battle, Cage unloads on Blackheart about 8 times with the shotgun, never doing any significant damage. When Eva picks up the gun, she shoots his head off by the second shot. Should the damsel in distress really be a better shot than our hero? I guess, since his big move a little earlier was to peg Blackheart with snowballs made of fire like a schoolyard bully in A Christmas Story.
One more description paragraph to go. I still need to talk about the performances … unfortunately. It occurs to me that I really should try to watch a Nicholas Cage movie that isn’t shit, but that could take a lot of looking that I don’t feel like I have the energy for right now. He was pretty shitty in this movie. He was apparently going for a horror movie style performance, but he landed at a horrible movie style performance. That’s why you read these things, people: my stunning mastery of wit. His transformations into the Ghost Rider start off good, but then go way overboard into him laughing maniacally like a demented little boy torturing a cat. But later, he gets possessed by that cat as he’s transforming in a jail cell and starts almost hissing and lashing at the other criminals like he was trying to fend off a big dog. I’d say the first transformation was reminiscent of him burning alive in The Wicker Man, but my brain won’t allow me to recall that movie. Eva Mendes was a breath of fresh air that I needed in this movie. Her performance wasn’t anything special, but she was smokin’ hot, so I at least had that going for me. Even her younger self, Raquel Alessi, was smokin’ hot AND very reminiscent of Eva. A lot of the bad things to Eva’s character probably weren’t her fault. She just played it regular, but things were probably just written stupidly. First off, who brings a Magic 8 Ball on a date? Secondly, how fuckin’ gay was the waiter that she asked “You think I’m pretty, right?” and got “Meh” out of? I remember her saying that she put on a little weight to make Roxanne more of a “real girl”, but if that’s true it just made her look better. Also, how the Hell does she look at the Ghost Rider and automatically think “…Johnny?” Eh, that’s just nitpicky. Easily the worst part of the cast was Rebel Wilson. I know my friend Mike fell in love with her fat, goth girl character, but I wanted to punch her in the face. Yeah, she was only in it for a minute, but it made me angry. I have not the words to express how I feel about this pointless little character.
Wow. I just did a Harry Potter-length review on this movie. I grant you that this movie is much more tolerable than Thankskilling or Transmorphers, but when you shit on comic books it just hurts me that much more. This movie took a great, dark ass-kicker of a character and made him into a backwoods hick of a joke. The story is good when they stole it from the comic books, and there is a vaguely clever part to the ending, but the rest of the story is just awful and the dialogue just matches it. If nothing else, the Ghost Rider himself looks pretty awesome, but it’s hard to notice when he’s spitting out shitty lines. Even though I purchased it three times, I recommend you purchase it three times less. You don’t even really need to concern yourself with viewing it at all. Fingers crossed for part two, but I’ve got a bad feeling about this. Speaking of which, Ghost Rider gets “I feel like my skull’s on fire” out of “I’m the only one who can walk in both worlds.” By the way, I probably could’ve done at least one more paragraph, so I’ve actually used some degree of restraint.
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