Saturday, March 10, 2012

Marvel Movie List #23 Ghost Rider

You're not really surprised are you?  This movie was doomed before a single megabyte of film was computer-generated.  The character of Johnny Blaze is that of a brash young stunt cyclist who regularly defies death in the pursuit of fame and the cheers of a titillated audience.  What contemporary actor working today best exemplifies these qualities?  Which actor could best bring such a vibrant character to life on the silver screen?

This guy?  Seriously.  This is just mis-casting at its very purest.  And it speaks to fundamental failure by anyone involved with this project to understand the nature of the character they were working with.  You simply do not cast an actor, any actor, over 35 years old to play a character like Johnny Blaze.  You've got plenty of talented young actors out there who would be perfect for the role.  What about that new guy playing Captain Kirk?  (Ok, bad example, that guy should be doing nothing but making more absolutely awesome Star Trek movies for me to watch.  Nothing but.)  You get my point.
Look, I'm not going to waste all of our time stating the obvious.  Whether you find Cage to be an innovative actor who constantly pushes the envelope with fresh choices and character interpretations (I typed that without laughing, I promise), or you find him to be a caricature of himself who hams it up and has no clue how to generate depth or meaning, he is simply the wrong actor for this role.  Why the producers didn't just stick with the much better young actors who played young Johnny Blaze and his girlfriend is beyond me.  (Oh yeah, Eva Mendes is in this film too for some reason)

Speaking of characters and roles, this film understands neither.  Ghost Rider is the Spirit of Vengeance.  He is the Blaze character described above possessed by Zarathos, a demon who seeks to punish those who take advantage of the innocent.  Thus, Ghost Rider's earthly mission is to seek out those who do wrong and protect those who are guiltless.  Part of his power set includes a debilitating "attack" called the Penance Stare, wherein he forces a person to relive all the pain they have caused others.  This attack often leaves the target in a catatonic state from the shock of experiencing all of that pain.  In addition to that he can also channel and control hellfire and employs various implements, most famously two lengths of chain, to fight against those who would do evil.
Watch Ghost Rider and tell me where you see any of that.  You don't.  Instead you get the Special Effect running around chasing cardboard villains.  Granted, Blaze alone isn't a terribly deep or compelling character, but add the Zarathos element and you have the makings for a dark anti-hero who evokes themes of spirituality and morality.  Instead we get a jellybean drinking, raging schizoid who becomes a Special Effect that does everything a stereotypical super-hero might do.  Snore.

Perhaps the biggest problem is that the plot does nothing to challenge any of the characters in the film.  Instead, the plot meanders about for what feels like 3 hours in order to have Ghost Rider run around trying to prevent his adversary, Blackheart, from creating hell on earth by capturing a thousand souls.  To do this he has to fight some forgettable minor foes, track down an Old West Ghost Rider (their ride is the coolest thing in the film), find some ancient contract or something, and then have a showdown with Blackheart, kind of, to win the day.  I guess that would be ok, if it had anything to do with the heart of the character, or if any part of that journey was interesting.  This sounds like a movie, but it doesn't sound like a Ghost Rider movie, at least not if you are familiar with the character. Again, the Special Effect riding alongside the Old West Special Effect is the most exciting part of the film. This should not be.

Ghost Rider has no likeable characters, forgettable performances by pretty much everyone, a totally mis-cast main character, an overly complicated plot that drones on for far too long, and no real depth or substance.  You tell me why it is #23 on this list.  It is saved only by the Special Effect and the very cool homage to Hamilton Slade (the original Ghost Rider).

Aimee's Take: I'm going to make this short. You can probably just assume that I share all of the above opinions, and more. I'm not a tremendously huge Ghost Rider fan, but I can pin down exactly two things wrong with this movie that make it unwatchable.

The cast is just bad. Just bad. Nicolas Cage is too damn old to be in this role. Eva Mendez is bitchy. Both of them should have sat down with whoever was in charge of this thing and advised them that the two young actors from the first fifteen minutes should be in their roles for the entire film. As a closing argument, I give you this, which sums up everything I feel about hearing that Nicolas Cage is in a film I'm interested in.

And the other thing? I can't figure out what the plot is. Hard to be invested for a couple of hours when you really don't understand what you're looking at. I know Johnny made a deal with the devil, and it resulted in him drinking jelly beans from a martini glass. At some point he gets attacked by things, becomes Ghost Rider, and then has to get a list out of a shovel. I just don't know why I care.

That's all I got. It's a bad movie.


  1. My comment is along the same lines but has more to do with the casting of a 27 year old actor to play Nic Cage as a teenager. And one who, in my opinion, bears little resemblance to Cage. Either get a true teenager who is believable as Cage- both because he is young enough to grow and change and because he really LOOKS like Cage- or have Cage play himself as a teen with some help of a good make-up artist. (he wasn't THAT much over 35 5 years ago was he? I'd put him at around 45 now so...)

  2. Cage is pushing 50, so yeah, 5 years ago he was 45, WAY too old to play Johnny Blaze in any iteration of the comic character. I'm not sure why they wanted a "big name" for this role, since the kid who played young Blaze would have been just as good if not better than Cage. Just ill-conceived from the get-go.