Wednesday, June 29, 2011

A Hellish Ride

Poor direction, shotty writing and an incomprehensible character ensures Ghost Rider goes down in flames.

On Continuity
ARTH VADER (AV): So young stunt man, Johnny Blaze (Nicolas Cage) makes a pact with the Devil (Peter Fonda) and gives up his soul. In exchange, Satan cures Johnny’s father of cancer. When Satan’s son, Blackheart (Wes Bentley), wants to conquer the Earth, Johnny becomes Ghost Rider, the leather-clad, flaming skull-for-a-head biker of vengeance. Mission? Stop Blackheart and his three naughty minions, save Johnny’s old flame (ha-ha, get it?), Roxanne (Eva Mendes), from the clutches of evil and save the world. (Hey, stay awake!)

THE PONTIFICATOR (TP): (Yawn)...this was surprisingly close to the origin and character source material than I thought it would be. The minor changes were very minor and there was room left for the character to grow and reveal, as was done in the comic. Unfortunately, it wasn't done on screen and the source material is really outdated.

AV: Zarathos, what were you thinking? The continuity with the comic books was close but in an entertainment sphere dominated by special effects, this was the best we could do? The whole premise of Ghost Rider is silly to me. I never connected with the whole biker/leather pants/chains/flaming skull bit. I believe the comic was popular at one time, probably due to the flaming skull thing. This movie’s lame-o special effects coupled with one of the most ridiculous hero scripts ever written, makes it really hard to understand why this movie (or this character!) was ever made. Does the movie align with the comic books? I guess... but does anyone care?
Casting, Directing and Acting
TP: The casting could have been better. This was not the role for Nicolas Cage. I never felt like he was Johnny Blaze, just Nicolas Cage attempting to play Johnny Blaze. I like Eva Mendez but she brought nothing to her character besides good looks. Peter Fonda came off as trying to be too smooth instead of evilly being cool.The directing was better than both the casting and the acting, but that isn't saying much considering how poor both were.

AV: I couldn't agree more, Pontificator! To start, I am NOT the world’s greatest Nic Cage fan. I think certain stars can transcend themselves onscreen, others simply appear to be playing a role. Mr. Cage gives one such performance. Johnny Blaze comes off as a flat, pasty, cardboard replica of a personality. Eva Mendes, who I absolutely adore, is a very unlikely damsel in distress. Together the two have as much on-screen energy as an old AA battery with that gooey white crap coming out of it. In fact, I haven’t had to stomach such an unbelievable pairing since Natalie Portman and Hayden Christiansen. Peter Fonda’s Satan is neither menacing nor particularly bad. Director Mark Steven Johnson has dialed in another yawn-fest (also known for making us all roll our collective eyes during his first hero film travesty, Daredevil).
TP: This is the area where the movie shines. The bike was awesome and the effects it had on the surrounding environment were well done. Ghost Rider himself looked very nice and if you always keep in mind that he is engulfed in hellfire, not real fire, then it’s easy to accept why water has no effect on the flame and why there is a flame trail behind the bike. The film did very well with the quick reveals of the true nature of the evil characters, adding some well proven techniques from serious horror movies. Are you on board with that Arth?

AV: Can't ride in the sidecar with you this one old friend. Special Effects? Hello? Anyone home? Someone forgot to tell the effects folks to come to work the first week of post-production for Ghost Rider. A bike leaving a trail of flame? Chains that become snake-like serpents of steel? Really? The Special Effects are rushed and border on cheese ball to me. The best SFX in this film have nothing to do with Ghost Rider himself. The “Evil Knievel” stunts, the driving, even the Shadow Horse ride in the desert, all are better than the character effects. Very disappointing.
Taking A Deeper Look

Now granted, one expects a certain level of ridiculousness from a superhero flick, but this film went to hell-in-a-hand-basket from the opening credits. The laughable predictability of the action sequences are only eclipsed by the torture of having to watch Ghost Rider battle evil minions, one-by-one, before facing off against Blackheart for the finale.
TP: This movie had a finale Vader? I must have missed of the many things this film lacked. It also lacked humor. Cage isn’t funny regardless of how hard he tried to be and the poor script wasn’t helpful in making anyone else funny. Without humor, it wasn’t well rounded and became a campy horror film with really cool special effects. I found myself growing tired of the seemingly forced romance and always looking forward to seeing the Ghost Rider...although his adversaries weren’t nearly as engaging or interesting as he was.

I know. For me, Ghost Rider was a gimmick from the start. I believe this character was engineered to appeal to an ultra-macho audience that never connected with comic books in the first place. Ask any kid who their favorite super hero is and 998 out of 1,000 would say anybody other than GHOST RIDER. He’s a kinder, gentler demon, who is really doing God’s work (aww, see he’s really a good guy, Momma!). That premise alone should have been all the indication we would ever need to determine the feasibility of this movie.

Looking Ahead: Sequels
TP: Please don’t. If Ghost Rider should ever come to the screen again it should be a reboot with perhaps the Danny Ketch version of Ghost Rider...complete with flame-tired, ninja racing style bike...and a better script with unknown actors hungry to make their mark in Hollywood. I just think there are more mystical artifacts laying around than there are traveling carnivals with stunt bikers doing the impossible.

AV: I am sorry to announce that this waste of digital space is gearing up for a sequel and Nic Cage is returning to reprise his role. Look here: – hey, I guess we can think if it as a kind of Hell-on-earth!

THE PONTIFICATOR Rates Ghost Rider: Great special effects, but not much else is offered in this film. Let this be a lesson that when you make a deal with the get burned with four out of ten busted blocks.

ARTH VADER Rates Ghost Rider:
Neither Sam Elliot’s gritty narrative, nor Eva Mendes’ beauty and savvy characterization even come close to making this movie matter. I cried uncle by minute five. After the stunts, the only thing to applaud for in Ghost Rider was the roll of the end-credits. I guess if this movie were on TNT late night, I wouldn’t rush to find the clicker to change the station. 1.5 busted blocks – oh ok, two but not one-half block more.

Ghost Rider: 3/10 Busted Blocks
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