I’m sure by now you’ve heard the film adaptation of Marvel Comics’ Ghost Rider character licks the balls. Well, I’m here to offer a dissenting opinion.
Sure, I never liked Ghost Rider (but always felt he had a cool visual; a black leather-clad biker whose head is a flaming skull, riding a burning chopper, so what’s not to like?) and sure, the movie was directed by Mark Steven Johnson, the guy responsible for the cinematic butt-rape of my boy Daredevil, a crime I will never forgive, but I am still a hardcore geek and I try to see any comic book movies when they come out, more often than not getting burned in the process. And thanks to expecting to get burned, I have learned to expect nothing from comic book flicks so any actual entertainment I get from them is gravy. Armed with that philosophy, and the overwhelmingly negative reviews from both the media and my friends who saw it, I expected nothing whatsoever from GHOST RIDER.
The film tells the story of Johnny Blaze (Nicholas Cage), a stunt biker of Evel Knievel-level proportions who many years ago sold his soul to Mephistopheles (Peter Fonda) and must now become the Ghost Rider, an entity that functions as the Devil’s bounty hunter and collects the souls of evildoers. The Devil needs the Rider to kick ass on his douchey son, Blackheart, who, aided by three elemental demons, wants to destroy the world and depose his dad, and along the road of supernatural asskicking Johnny is taught the lore of the Rider from a grizzled old gravedigger (Sam Elliot) who has good reason to know about all about the Rider. There’s also an utterly superfluous love story, but that doesn’t get in the way of the tongue-in-cheek monster stuff, and I have to admit that I was entertained.
Now don’t get me wrong, GHOST RIDER is not a “good” movie, what with the utterly disposable romantic subplot, campy gags, and a couple of major lapses in logic, but it is a fun bit of popcorn silliness that would work great on cable as a time-waster. And the one major component of the film that took me pleasantly by surprise — and probably irked the diehard Ghost Rider groupies — is the fact that the film is actually a Western in contemporary biker drag; from the opening narration we are told that the West was built on tall tales and legends, and that’s exactly what GHOST RIDER is, a semi-spooky heroic tale of second chances and taking one’s destiny by the horns. If you’re expecting a straight superhero epic you will be sorely disappointed, but if approached with the right frame of mind and a firm acceptance that what you’re watching is a fun B-movie, then GHOST RIDER is definitely worth matinee price, the eventual DVD rental fee, or a viewing on HBO. And as for Mark Steven Johnson, this was his second chance after the abominable DAREDEVIL — still arguably the worst of the Marvel Comics movies, although the recent PUNISHER movie gives it a run for its money — and I think he’s turned out a work that is definitely being unfairly maligned. Maybe he'll do DAUGHTERS OF THE DRAGON next, or WEREWOLF BY NIGHT...