Superhero Month: "Ghost Rider" Review

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Johnny Blaze, a stunt motorcyclist, gives up his soul to become a hell-blazing avenger and fights against power hungry Blackheart, the son of the devil himself.
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Superhero Month: "Ghost Rider" Review

-- Rating: PG-13 (for horror, violence, and disturbing images)
Length: 114 minutes
Release Date: Feb. 16, 2007
Directed by: Mark Steven Johnson
Genre: Action / Fantasy / Thriller

In "Ghost Rider," a motorcyclist who has given up his soul to the Devil becomes a vigilante, fighting against a power-hungry son of the devil. The film was written and directed by Mark Steven Johnson and is based on a Marvel Comics' character of the same name.

"Ghost Rider" begins in the American Old West. In the story, the Devil, Mephistopheles, (Peter Fonda) dispatches his trusted bounty hunter, known as the Ghost Rider, to collect a contract for one thousand corrupt souls. If this contract were completed, the Devil would be capable of bringing Hell to Earth. When the Ghost Rider realizes the nature of the contract, he refuses to do his master's bidding.

The story then jumps to one and a half centuries after the incident, and the Devil is still interested in the contract. This time, he approaches a teenage stunt motorcyclist named Johnny Blaze (Matt Long), who has a romance going on with Roxanne (Raquel Alessi), and tries to get him to sign over his soul. Johnny is at first reluctant to sign the contract, but when the Devil offers to cure his father's lung cancer, he caves in and signs it. True to the Devil's promise, Johnny's father is cured of his lung cancer, but to the young man's chagrin, his father dies in a motorcycle stunt accident.

Years pass, and Blaze (Nicolas Cage) is now a man and has become a celebrity stunt rider. Roxanne (Eva Mendes) is now a grown woman and a journalist. On the same night that the two go on a dinner date, Blackheart (Wes Bentley), the son of the Devil, comes to Earth in the company of three other fallen angels who have been banished from heaven. Their main aim is to find the lost contract. In his quest to defeat the exiles, the Devil enlists Johnny's help and offers him his soul back. Johnny is then turned into a new Ghost Rider, and he makes it his mission to defeat the exiles.

Serious movie critics appreciate the importance of tone in any film. If the tone is not right, then a movie will seldom resonate with fans. This is especially true with adoptions where fans already know-or think they know-a thing or two about the story. In "Ghost Rider," the filmmakers managed to get the tone right from the beginning and maintain it throughout the remainder of the film.

Cage is a strong and reliable actor, but he had appeared in a string of financial flops before acting in "Ghost Rider." In fact, some people had even predicted "Ghost Rider" would be a flop too, but it went on to huge financial success.

Those who hold onto the theory that movies beginning with prologues are inherently boring may be surprised after watching "Ghost Rider." The movie opens with a rather troubling prologue, but it is far from boring. Even though the script may have needed a little tweaking, the special effects are stunning and the acting is solid.

The origins of "Ghost Rider" are very interesting. The 1970s were filled with numerous Marvel comics that blended horror and hero comics in a very clever way. Marvel, one of the reinventors of the superhero genre, dabbled in this subgenre by producing works such as "Son of Satan," "Swamp Thing," and "Tomb of Dracula." Indeed, "Ghost Rider" is one of the most aggressive stories to come out of the famed Marvel Comics stable.

Some people, though, say that the Ghost Rider character is both frightening and entertaining in the comics but is a bit silly in the movie. To this group of critics, the movie was only saved by Cage, whose performance is enigmatic enough to turn silliness into entertainment. Cage has acted in dozens of films, including "Raising Arizona," "Lord of War," and "Gone in 60 Seconds." Peter Fonda is an American actor with numerous film credits to his name, including "3:10 to Yuma," "Supernova," and "Second Skin." Eva Mendes is an American singer, model, actress, and fashion designer. She has appeared in numerous films that include "Urban Legends: Final Cut," "Hitch," and "The Other Guys." Without their performances, "Ghost Rider" would not have been the film it is.

Rating: 2 out of 5 stars