As a fan of comics and superheroes, the Ghost Rider has always struck me as a concept that's equal parts interesting and totally bizarre. The story is that motorcyclist Johnny Blaze sells his soul to the demon Mephisto in order save the life of a friend. When Mephisto fails to take Blaze's soul, he instead bonds it with a vengeful demonic force. Now, when night falls, Blaze turns into the Ghost Rider, and rides though the night punishes the wicked of the world. Now all of this sounds very cool to me. However, there is something about the image of a biker with a flaming skull head that, even by comic book standards, is so odd to me. I mean, look at him!
Unfortunately, the 2007 movie based on the character does little to make him appear any cooler.
The movie follows the comic book origin pretty closely. A young Blaze sells his soul to Mephisto (I can't recall if the demon was actually named Mephisto in the movie, but screw it. That was his name in the comics, so we're gonna rock with that. Oh, and he's played by Peter Fonda) in order to cure his father's cancer. It works as pop makes a full recovery...only to die in a motorcycle stunt accident. Remember class: demons are assholes.
The years pass, and Blaze (now played by Nicholas Cage) has followed in his old man's footsteps to become a famous stuntman. As Blaze prepares to performs his most dangerous stunt ever, Mephisto's treacherous son Blackheart (played by Wes Bentley) escapes from hell to find a macguffin that will help him usurp his father. In response, Mephisto turns Blaze into the Ghost Rider and sends him to defeat Mephisto in exchange for his soul. Somewhere in all this, Blaze reunites with his childhood sweetheart Roxanne (Eva Mendes).
First off, let me say that Eva Mendes is hot, and I thank the casting director and everyone else involved in putting her in this. Her fineness was truly the best part of the movie.
Now, in the case of everything that wasn't Eva Mendes, let's start with our male lead. I won't mince words: Nick Cage is horrible in this. In fact, Johnny Blaze in general is horrible in this. His character is written like someone said "Hey, that Spider-Man guy is really popular. Let's make our guy awkward and nerdy like him!" The problem is where Peter Parker is likable and fun in his clumsy social-akwardness, Johnny Blaze comes across as that kid everyone just knew was going to become a serial killer one day. Dude is creepy. For example, when Roxanne is reintroduced, she is a reporter trying to interview Blaze before his big stunt. Johnny, being the weird ass guy he is, decides this would be the perfect time to reveal how he's spent years pining for her and regrets how things ended between them Following the stunt, he proceeds to chase her news van down on his motorcycle in a desperate attempt to get a date. I'm sure that this stalkerish display was supposed to endearing, but instead, it's really awkward and uncomfortable. This is made worse by Cage, who turns the desperation up to 11, staring at poor Roxanne like all he wants to do is get her home and lock her a basement so that no one else can have her. More than that, Blaze seems like he never fully understands what's going on around him. He walks around with a vacant look, speaking in this odd hush. When he turns into Ghost Rider, he decides that maniacal laughter is the best response to having his head suddenly burst into flames.
Speaking of the Ghost Rider, he's a mixed bag. Visually, he looks great. I know I made fun of him higher up the there, but I really do like his look here. Sadly, he doesn't do much more than look cool. The action scenes are really short and boring: what happens is Blackheart sends one of his boys after Ghost Rider, GR waves his whip at the guy and the bad guy burns up. I'm fine with the idea of the hero just busting up everything in the room, but it has to at least be fun and interesting. These scenes are barely 3 minutes long. And speaking of Blackheart, he's really lame, and Blaze doesn't seem particularly interested in stopping him (or doing much of anything, really) until the final act.
Overall, Ghost Rider felt like it was trying to fit into the same mold as other superhero movie (hero who is unsure of himself gets powers and learns some lessons and stuff) with a character that just doesn't fit that mold. The Ghost Rider is very different from other heroes who have hit the big screen, and thus, needed a movie that played to the characters strengths.
Though, if nothing else, watching the movie does have me itching to read some Ghost Rider comics.