Ghost Rider: The Franchise That Flamed Out

Ghost Rider: The Franchise That Flamed Out

My take on the 2007 Ghost Rider film.

Rated PG-13

114 mins.

They couldn't all be winners. As we saw most recently with "Green Lantern" and "John Carter of Mars," there will be some dead horses in the gulch in the twelve years-and-counting Gold Rush of Hollywood comics adaptations. Case in point, "Ghost Rider," (2007) starring Nicolas Cage and Eva Mendes. Sometimes getting a spontaneous actor to play a lesser-known comic book character (i.e. Robert Downey Jr. in "Iron Man") yields unexpected riches. Sometimes it doesn't.

Originally Marvel Comics' melding of its competitor's "Batman" with the West Coast cults and biker subcultures of the early '70s, the revival of "Ghost Rider" was perfectly timed with the "American Chopper" zeitgeist then raging through the country (God forbid a quiet afternoon go by without the staccato belch of a hog racing up the street). But how Satan's bounty hunter with a heart of gold would play in the Bush-era, mega-church mentality of modern red-state America was something the studios hadn't considered. Whoops.

It's wasn't for lack of trying. we learn through perfunctory flashback of carnival stunt-rider Johnny Blaze's soul-selling pact with Mephistopheles (Peter Fonda, whose monotone evokes the Prince of Darkness as much as anything) to save his father from cancer. A Luciferian Catch-22 is of course involved, spurring the soulless Johnny to leave behind his teenage love (did they really need to get another actress for the younger years of the then under-30 Mendes?). Cut to the present, where the adult Johnny (Nicolas Cage) is a popular but haunted Evel Knievel artist in Houston arenas. Satan's son Blackheart (Wes Bentley) and his Goth crew are in town looking for a contract of lost souls that could bring about hell on Earth. Johnny is our only hope, and soon he's transformed into the Ghost Rider, a flaming skull, tattoo-brought-to-life avenger almost as terrifying as Cage's acting.

Nic, at this point right before he began his run of single-word titled B-disaster flicks ("Next," "Knowing") was a cross between old-fashioned movie star ("Windtalkers," "National Treasure") and Lisa-Marie marrying goofball (he probably accepted the role because black leather made him feel like Elvis in the '68 Comeback Special)and he injects enough of his natural camp to keep the familiar pulp slightly above ho-hum. He must have suggested Blaze's habit of swilling jellybean martinis and listening to the Carpenters while pondering the dark forces that hound him. Meanwhile, sidekick Sam Elliot's voice-over description of Old West legends unintentionally parodies (de-parodies?) his narration in "The Big Lebowski" ("It was as dark as a black steer's tuchus on a dark prairie night...").

"Ghost Rider" was always admittedly one of Marvel's lesser properties, probably the reason it was dumped into the movie season's winter twilight before the Fantastic Four and Spider-Man sequels earned the expected summer bank. But Mighty Marvel's overexposure of its patented 'outcast hero' formula proved fatal. Mendes has chemistry with about any male lead she's paired with, but I nodded off during the usual "confused explanation to loved one" scene.

Liquid flames smothered all, and the climax had some great stereo effects depending on how well your local theater was equipped. It's just, despite swearing at the cops and some suggestive S & M maneuvers with his chain, Ghost Rider made kind of an inert heroic presence. So even Nic barely had the legs to propel the Rider beyond the sequeless ignominy that befell "Daredevil" (the fumbling reboot "Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance") Still, if failures like this mean Hollywood won't strip-mine every last third-tier comic book property ("Guardians Of The Galaxy"? Really? Really?), at least we'll be spared pairings like LL Cool J and Justin Timberlake in an adaptation of Marvel's blaxploitation classic, "Heroes For Hire: Power Man and Iron Fist."
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Member Since 1/23/2013
Filed Under "Ghost Rider" 1/25/2013 Source: Stephen Conn
DISCLAIMER: is protected under the DMCA (Digital Millenium Copyright Act) and... [MORE]
Bam - 1/25/2013, 10:28 AM
Slow Clap
Jollem - 1/25/2013, 10:37 AM
ghost rider looked better and cooler than the hulk. spirit of vengeance had lot's of action and 'splosions and cgi. it was a fun movie and didn't pretend to be anything else. i guess it could have had more one-liners...
dezdigi - 1/25/2013, 1:17 PM
Nice story, Cipher.
I skipped SOV after watching the below average Ghost Rider.
I'm glad it didn't cost me anything precious to me. I obviously don't value my brain cells that much ... pass the whiskey!
jessepostal - 1/25/2013, 2:08 PM
The first was pretty corny, Fonda was terrible, his acting was right on par with cage, but it's got some cool scenes, spirit was fun and looked great, it was a fun b movie, that gets a lot of hate because not many on here like a to b action movies with simple plots and dialogue
dezdigi - 1/25/2013, 4:46 PM
MisterMagurlypse - 1/26/2013, 7:46 PM
LLCool J and J Timberlake doing a HFH movie, that would be pricking awesome! On second thought, I'd rather watch the bootleg version of Cipher tappin that cacti ass.

Seriously, Ghost Rider uno, wasn't too bad, SOV sucked!
Jefferys - 1/27/2013, 12:32 AM
I'd take Jesse McCartney over Justin Timberlake any day. At least Jesse has a hell of a lot more demanding presence than Justin. Justin is more of a supporting character type.

On the other hand, I saw SOV was severally disappointed with the way the entire story was lead out. The action was great, but it lacked the Ooh Aah feel that most CBM's or action movies in general carry. I can't take Nick Cage's voice seriously, if he's meant to be suffering inner demons than make him sound like that, not trying to audition for a Jailhouse Rock movie.
GhostZillaRider - 1/27/2013, 10:25 AM
@Cipher- Not only am I barely containing uproaorious laughter, but I think I just wept a little upon finding another human being (especially one with a Y chromosome) who loves Blast From the Past.

Oh, the memories. I'll be revisiting that special part of my DVD library quite soon, now that you've brought it up.

Sorry to hear about your lighter. :(
MisterMagurlypse - 1/27/2013, 4:16 PM
LOL, as long as my $$$ goes to that very worthy cause. You better be studying up on the cactrasutra, no premature agaveulation.
KeefNCookies - 1/28/2013, 9:59 PM
They were both terrible.

The first movie completely shit on the original characters of Mephisto and Blackheart and the repetitiveness and lack of originality within the fight scenes was beyond disappointing. While it had some somewhat interesting visuals, it wasnt enough to watch again.

The sequel/reboot or whatever the hell it was ridiculous in every single aspect except the visuals, which were good enough but often wasted (pissing fire... really? Freakin idiots). No villian, no challenge, no interest or entertainment.

It's too bad, because I have enjoyed a few of The Ghost Rider's series and minis. But then again, when you pick N.Cage as the lead, thats an automatic forfeit on achieving an A-rated movie. Why he's still getting so many high-profile sci-fi jobs are absolutely flabbergasting.
Odin - 2/3/2013, 2:48 PM
GR was OK. movie, but GRSOV was awfull.
TheSuperguy - 2/12/2013, 7:50 PM
I actually enjoyed SOV better than the first one. I thought GR looked cooler than the first one, I thought there was more action, and I thought it was darker. Still not that great a movie.
MightyZeus - 7/8/2013, 6:46 AM
Both Ghost Rider movies where bad, really bad.

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