In a recent spate of big-budget and high profile comic book adaptations praised by critics and applauded by audiences, "Ghost Rider" looks plain dreadful due to a substantial lack of first-class entertainment.
Based on the famous Marvel comic about a stuntman who serves as the devil's personal bounty hunter, "Rider" is a sort of Faustian action spectacle that falls victim to the cruel pairing of sloppy screenwriting and monotonous action.
At first, the movie introduces us to Johnny Blaze, a motorcycle stuntman who sells his soul to Mephistopheles (Peter Fonda) to save his father from cancer. But the devil breaks his promise and kills the man anyway, shattering Johnny's world and causing him to leave everything behind, including his girlfriend Roxanne.
At this stage already, it is clear that "Ghost Rider" is a hasty and soulless project. Mark Steven Johnson, who wrote the script and directed the film, jams so much information about Johnny's tragic past into the first 30 minutes, that it is impossible for the spectator to even remotely connect with the characters involved.
The same predicament overshadowed Johnson's previous flick, "Daredevil," which was slammed by critics for failing to do its title hero justice. Sad to say, Johnson did it again, and "Ghost Rider" drowns in its undeniable simplicity. Patience here is a must because it takes forever before the audience gets to see the rider burst into flames for the first time.
So after the focus on young Johnny, the movie jumps to grown-up Johnny (now played by Nicholas Cage), who is a big star and lures thousands of fans to his dangerous stunt shows. Blaze's luck however is not meant to last long, as Mephistopheles' sudden return prompts the stuntman to become the famous ghost rider.
Every night, in the presence of evil, Johnny transforms into a flaming skeleton who rides a killer bike and hunts down bad guys planning to take over the world. His first mission is to eliminate Blackheart (Wes Bentley), a vicious tyrant who also happens to be the devil's own son. Flame on!
Once Nicholas Cage finally catches fire, "Ghost Rider" shifts from dragging story to repetitive action, featuring so-so special effects, trashy dialogues and superficial stunts void of any twists or suspense. Throughout the final part of the film, the rider faces a remarkably easy job in eliminating semi-spooky creatures, which leaves the audience gasping.
Cage's solid performance as the ghost rider undoubtedly saves the celluloid form bursting into flames. Cage pulls off a way better job in the role of Blaze than he did in the recent "The Wicker Man," a true insult of a movie. Cage supplies the character of J.B. with the necessary eccentricity. After all, he portrays a man who sips jellybeans out of a martini glass and watches apes doing karate on TV.
Eva Mendes slips into the role of Johnny's childhood romance Roxanne, who later in the movie is a famous news reporter. Mendes' striking charisma is undeniable, but her performance as one of the worst reporters ever on the big screen is utterly irritating.
"Ghost Rider" has the potential to snatch big bucks at the box office, but its dragging plot and tedious action set up a pointless comic book adaptation that primarily suffers from a waste of splendid resources. It may not be of any interest to many disappointed cinemagoers, but a sequel to "Ghost Rider" is already in the planning. Jeepers!