Review: Ghost Rider

Published 8 years ago by

By Vic Holtreman

Short version: Unfortunately Ghost Rider lives up to its pre-release buzz: Boring and bordering on cheesy.

ghost rider2 Review: Ghost RiderAs I had written earlier here at Screen Rant, I went in to Ghost Rider without any preconceived notions about the character since I had never read the comic book. I was also mildly optimistic (based on one of the trailers) that it might turn out to be at least good, if not great.

Oh well…

For those of you unfamiliar with the character, Ghost Rider is actually Johnny Blaze (seriously) who here is played by Nicolas Cage. I like watching Cage onscreen, although there’s a “sameness” to his performances from film to film that’s starting to wear a little thin on me. Nothing personal against the guy, but he has such a distinctively quirky delivery that it’s starting to overshadow the characters he plays.

Ghost Rider opens with a narrative explaining how back in the 1800s the devil made a deal with a man to become his “Ghost Rider”: essentially a bounty hunter for the devil, collecting souls that were destined to be damned. It turns out that there was a town of a thousand people who became corrupted by greed and turned incredibly evil. The Ghost Rider of the time went to collect and ended up with a contract worth all 1,000 of their souls.

Now for some reason these 1,000 souls would have made the devil incredibly powerful, giving him the ability to rule the earth or something like that. Why only 1,000 souls on a planet of billions or considering the number of souls the devil probably already had would make such a difference is beyond me. Anyway, this Ghost Rider, knowing what the consequences of handing over the contract would be, reneged on his agreement and “outran the devil.” Neat trick, that.

So, cut to a much younger Johnny Blaze, who performs motorcycle stunts in travelling carnivals with his father. Johnny is in love with Roxanne, whom we know nothing about beyond the fact that she’s really cute, loves Johnny, and her father is moving away with her to keep them apart because Johnny is not good enough for her. They resolve to run away together, but of course that doesn’t happen.

It turns out that Johnny’s father is extremely ill and that Mephistopheles (who was apparently the “devil” in the prologue and is played by Peter Fonda) comes around and offers Johnny a deal: He will cure his father in exchange for Johnny’s soul. Sure enough, the next morning his dad is healthy as an ox, but knowing that pesky agent of Satan, the good news can’t last long.

Johnny goes on to be an Evel Knievel-level motorcycle stunt riding superstar, who is obsessed with the darker side of religion and the occult. Just when he thinks he’s going to get a chance to start over without the impending call of evil hanging over his head, the big M shows up to call Johnny’s marker due. Of course as happens in this sort of movie, it seems there’s a young’un (called Blackheart) wanting to take things over who thinks it’s time for the “old man” to step aside. He wants the long-lost 1,000 soul contract and brings along demons representing earth, air and water. I guess “fire” is already taken by Ghost Rider.

Battles ensue, good triumphs over evil, yadda yadda yadda.

What’s kind of cool: The initial transformation of Johnny Blaze into Ghost Rider, the chopper, watching him ride and tear up the surroundings. Sam Elliot puts in a brief appearance as a caretaker of the cemetery where the contract is located. Again, Elliot is another character I like, but it felt like he was channeling Kris Kristofferson from Blade here. Oh, and Eva Mendes playing the love interest is of course, very hot looking.

What’s not cool: It shouldn’t have been, but I found the movie incredibly boring. You know the feeling, you’re sitting there watching the film and suddenly you become acutely aware of the passage of time. “How long has this been on so far?” “How much longer does it have to go?” “WHEN wil it be over?” I really hate when that happens. It also seemed like the director was really trying to go with an “old western” motif. There were shots that were obviously trying to emulate old westerns, like closeups of the eyes of the good guy and bad guys facing off and other little touches. Unfortunately, when combined with the music, it came across as cheesy and just about made me laugh.

And then there is the CGI. More than anything it reminded me of the terrible movie Van Helsing. The brief glimpses of Blackheart and Mephistopheles demon side looked like the ghost effect from the Disney ride “The Haunted Mansion.” It just looked like a 2-D projection onto the actor’s face. It was a definite PG-13 horror effect, not too scary as to not freak out the numerous 4 year olds in the audience (which it didn’t) but then so “clean” looking as to just seem completely fake.

I didn’t hate Ghost Rider, but I didn’t like it either. More than anything I walked away with a feeling of indifference.

Our Rating:

2.5 out of 5
(Fairly Good)

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  1. Based on the trailers, I’m not surprised to see the word “cheesy” in your review, but boring?! Ouch… that’s a bummer. Once again, thanks for seeing it so I don’t have to.


  2. I went into this movie with two preconceived notions.

    1. I didn’t think it would be that great, based on the trailers.

    2. Vic would poo poo on it because he has his beloved comic book characters, and Ghost Rider ain’t one of ‘em.

    Being a biker, I went to see it. I had three complaints. I didn’t understand why anyone would pay Sam Elliot to be in a movie and not really do anything. I also thought that the Little Grasshopper guy (the Devil) was about the worst show of acting since they cancelled Kung Fu like three decades ago.

    Otherwise, it was surprisingly good. It moved along nicely. The effects were great. Mine and my girlfriend’s daughters were sufficiently scared, holding onto us tightly for the whole show. Vic is substantially off base on this one.

    Frankly, it was refreshing after the preceding incredibly disappointing comic book to live action films. That’s right; I’m talking specifically about Batman and Spiderman. Great comic books, but the movies were nothing but hype.

  3. It did occure to me that one reason I didn’t hate this movie was because I didn’t know Ghost Rider before seeing the movie. I hated live action versions of Batman and Spider Man because I knew them for many years before the live action movies, and I didn’t think the live action versions did either justice. Maybe one reason I have tolerance for Ghost Rider is that I never really developed the character in my mind before seeing the live action movie.

    Another issue is Batman and Spiderman are so tough in my mind, and so woosified on screen. I am a combat vet. I read these comics to divert my mind from the horrors of reality when I was deployed to the world’s butt crack. They don’t have the right to be so vulnerable to thier feelings and relationship challenges. My ex-wife divorced me while I was fighting terrorists in the Middle East. Am I really supposed to feel sorry for a super hero and his girl problems? You know the answer is no.

    Ghost Rider kicked butt. I was never expected to feel sorry for him.

  4. I agree with Vic’s review. I’ll add my two bits anyway, though (for background, I’ve never read any of the Ghost Rider comic books and came to the story fresh, with no preconceptions).

    1.) They didn’t explain the ‘rules’ of the Ghost Rider universe nearly well enough so that one could understand what was going on beyond “good guy fights bad guy”. It kills audience involvement if you can’t explain what the limitations are of the characters are, and why.

    2.) Sam Elliot was one of the best parts of the film and the director starts to make out like he’s going to play a significant role in the film’s finale. It would have only made logical sense. What happens? He “rides” alongside Cage’s character until they reach their destination, heads aflame (cool scene by the way), then turns tail and disappears as if to say “Well, I got you here, now you’re on your own!” Well, what the heck did you bother riding with him for? Singing traveling songs? Apparently Elliot was hired only as a wellspring of exposition for Johnny, which while it was delivered as eloquently as Elliot is capable of doing, give the guy something to actually contribute to the events going on!

    3.) Peter Fonda and Eva Mendez going through the motions with as little acting effort expended as is humanly possible.

    There were moments of opportunity in the movie, where it seemed like enough things might go right with it that would justify the expense you know had to go into it, but by the end, I just didn’t care about the characters, and you can’t make a movie where you can’t identify with the leads. It’s film-making death. And you can’t let the audience not know what’s going on – especially in a movie that deals with science fiction or the supernatural. Fantastic events need a solid foundation as to how the fantastic elements work, or everything falls apart because of lazy storytelling. This movie acts as exhibit A in the case to prove it.

  5. Jerseycajun,

    Well said! One of the main reasons I found the film boring was that it didn’t make me CARE about the characters. They were empty shells. As far as I’m concerned the most fleshed-out character in the movie (pardon the pun), was Johnny Blaze’s best friend. He seemed like the most human character in the film, with at least some depth of emotion.


  6. “Randy”,

    In regards to Spiderman, you’re missing the ENTIRE point of the character. He was a geeky, picked on teenager who suddenly came upon these awesome powers. He was not a military trained guy, taught how to act in, and how to handle combat situations. In the comics and in the movies he had all these awesome powers yet he could barely afford to pay the rent in a cruddy slum apartment and had no friends to speak of. It’s a testament to his character that he didn’t turn into a super-villain.

    It’s probably a good thing you don’t read comics these days because they’re now chock full of superheroes with “feelings and relationship challenges.” Actually it’s at a point in the comics that I wish they WOULD get back to just punching out the bad guys. :-)


  7. I didnt have any probs with it.

    The unrated cut is better as well.

  8. I know this movie is extremely old news now and nobody will really care, but I just wanted to say I walked out of the theater within 15 or 30 minutes of the movie. I thought it was boring and predictable. Why sit there 2 hours just to see a CGI-filled battle scene? Pointless waste of time. I walked out and got my money back too. Also not to mention I despise Nicholas Cage with a burning passion.. as an actor anyway, I don’t know him personally. If I did I’d tell him to find a new career.

  9. well twist burton i think your opinion is pretty gay nobody cares if u despise nick cage its about movie numnuts yeah it’s probably not the best movie but still. and the movie aint even 2 hours and i bet you dont even have career your self you big hater. he prpbably hates you to and desnt even know you.

  10. I saw this when it came out and I thought it was the most boring film ever, more boring than Rango. And isn’t Nic Cage a little old to play Blaze???