Ghost Rider

GHOST RIDER is the story of an Evil Knievel type motorcycle jumper named Johnny Blaze who accidentally drips blood on a contract with the devil so his dad is cured of cancer but then dies in a motorcycle accident the next day so he leaves his girlfriend and then about 15 or 20 years later the devil turns him into a burning magic skeleton so he has to fight some gothy monster dudes and hang out with a cowboy (Sam Elliot, obviously). If you’re into bullshit like that, you might like this movie, but probaly not. I have too much respect for you to assume that.

Now, I gotta admit I went into this movie knowing I would not like it, and actually hoping it would be hilariously bad. It’s not like this is a surprise – the last movie by this director is DAREDEVIL, an absolutely fucking horrible comic book movie about a chubby blind lawyer in a red gimp outfit who fights a villain whose power is that he can kill people by flicking peanuts at them. (I’m not joking.) This is basically the same type of bullshit with more uncomfortable failed attempts at humor and a bigger budget for lots of cheesy video game style effects. (Apparently this movie cost $120 million, which almost makes me cry.)

Ghost RiderI should’ve known what I was in for but unfortunately the trailer was so gleefully asinine and embarassingly stupid looking that I got excited to see it. Or at least, that CGI shot of “ghost rider” swinging through the buildings like Spider-man WHILE RIDING A MOTORCYCLE made me laugh every time. I can’t remember if that shot is even in the movie, if it is they don’t expand on it much. Too bad.

The skeleton is played by Oscar winner and poor crazy bastard Nicolas Cage. That sucker has been trying to make a comic book movie for what seems like 50 years, now he finally gets one and it’s this silly piece of garbage. And he doesn’t even get to play Superman, he’s only Clark Kent because whenever it’s super hero time his character switches to a Freddy Krueger voice and computer animation that would’ve been state of the art 6 or 7 years ago. It doesn’t really seem like the same guy anymore.

You know that joke about you get a fortune cookie and the fortune says “help, I’m trapped inside a fortune cookie factory?” Sometimes I get the feeling I’m getting those type of messages in movies. In this case, Nic Cage is trying to tell us what’s up with his career. He must’ve been involved in some faustian bargain type shit because ever since he got that Oscar for LEAVING LAS VEGAS he’s been cursed to roam the earth starring in horrible movies like CON AIR, 8MM, GONE IN SIXTY SECONDS, WINDTALKERS, NATIONAL TREASURE, THE ANT BULLY, THE WICKER MAN, etc. Slowly he is learning to use his powers for good, so every once in a while he pulls off a FACE/OFF or an ADAPTATION. But his main super power is a burst of explosive overacting, something he used best as Castor Troy in FACE/OFF but he even gets to use it to get laughs in trash like in 8MM when he watches a snuff movie and gets upset so he bites his fist. (I hear he uses that power in THE WICKER MAN too, but I haven’t seen that yet.)

In the case of GHOST RIDER, Cage only uses his super power in the most appropriate place: the scenes where he uses his super powers. When his head catches on fire, before heading back to the trailer so the video game creators can take over, Nic explodes into full-on Castor Troy mode, his eyes popping out and the pain of the fire causing him to cackle hysterically. This little bit of craziness is the only sign of personality for any character in the movie.

The main emphasis is on the love story, which seems like it’s written by a little boy who hasn’t kissed a girl yet. In the early scenes a young Johnny Blaze agrees to meet his girlfriend at noon the next day so they can run away together. That night he finds out that his dad has cancer (we already knew because there was a scene where he smoked a cigarette and then coughed) and then a weird pervy dude (Peter Fonda, poor bastard) who is obviously the devil comes in and offers to cure dad’s cancer if he signs a magic scroll. He doesn’t sign it but looks at it and accidentally cuts himself and drips blood on it. (This might’ve been done in post production because, Seagal DTV style, they later talke about it as if he intentionally signed it.)

The next day the dad is completely cured, and he can’t believe it. That night, he goes to see his dad’s motorcycle stunt, but his dad is killed. Then he has a confrontation with Peter Fonda out on a road. THEN, after it’s dark and raining, he drives by where he was supposed to meet his girl at NOON and instead of saying anything, he just drives past her.

Okay, so he’s dealing with alot between cancer, the devil, and the accident. But at no point did I understand why the fuck he forgot that he was running away with his girlfriend at noon. I mean that is a pretty big decision, you would think it would be weighing on his mind too. He had plenty of time to swing by or to call her to give her a head’s up if he was getting cold feet. “Sorry sugar, my dad got cancer and got cured by the devil and died, gonna have to postpone a couple days.” Or whatever. The guy is set up as a complete chump from the very beginning. Then later, after he’s grown into Nic Cage, he runs into her and sets up a date with her and (surprise surprise) AGAIN doesn’t show up. And it’s played for laughs (I think?). It’s like an episode of Silver Spoons where Ricky has two dates at the same time or some shit like that. Why did they think anybody would care about this shit?

The movie also makes the same fatal mistake Nic Cage’s NATIONAL TREASURE made. They have this ridiculous premise – a burning skeleton rides around on a motorcycle – and then they spend half the movie apologizing for it. So they have all these scenes played for laughs (I think, although very few laughs actually materialized in the showing I went to) where they talk about the burning skeleton and try to show how stupid it is. Like, a chubby goth girl sees the Ghost Rider and gets interviewed by the news and describes the burning skeleton, ha ha. And then Johnny Blaze tries to tell his girlfriend/stood up victim about the curse and there is more “laughs” about how stupid the whole idea is. The movie is saying isn’t this stupid? Who would make a movie about this shit? Who would want to see this? Ha ha ha you are an idiot for paying and we are idiots for giving you what you want! Ha ha!

What I’m saying is you have to have the courage of your convictions. There are nerds all around the world, apparently, who like this comic strip, they take the burning skeleton stunt jumper guy with a spikey jacket seriously, and if they’re gonna be filling your bank account you shouldn’t make fun of them. And at the same time there are people like me who are going to the movie exactly because it looks so stupid, and we would rather see you take it seriously too because then it would be alot funnier than this bullshit. Treat it seriously and everybody wins. If you think the premise is too stupid to do with a straight face then for God’s sake don’t make the fucking movie, you assholes.

I can’t think of anything that seemed clever or cool in the movie. The only thing that stood out as something I hadn’t seen before was that the hero had a couple weird personality quirks: he likes to laugh at monkeys, and he is obsessed with jellybeans, which he eats out of champagne glasses because he doesn’t drink. I mean God knows, you lose your dad at a young age and you’re indebted to the devil, you’re gonna come down hard on something, whether it’s booze, pills, pussy, or jellybeans and monkeys. That’s life. I assume Nic Cage added these touches, because he’s into that type of shit, but it really did not help to make the movie seem, you know, good.

If you’re wondering, the action is not very good either. There’s not really much fighting, he just has powers like “look into my eye sockets and you will feel bad about being mean” or “I have a chain that swings around.” Also he has magic scroll grip, so when the bad guy (Wes Bentley) has him hand over a magic scroll, he is surprised to find that Ghost Rider HOLDS ONTO IT REALLY TIGHT! Awesome.

The mcmuffin of this scenario is a scroll that is worth 1,000 souls. The whole time I kept wondering why it was such a big deal, since it took about 30 seconds to trick Johnny Blaze into signing over his soul, and I’m sure they coulda saved up way more than a thousand in the years since that happened. And sure enough when the bad guy gets the scroll it doesn’t make him more powerful, it only makes him vulnerable to Ghost Rider’s magic eye socket power. I definitely didn’t get the impression that thought of any kind was put into the writing of this movie.

I mean, compare this movie to BLADE. That was also a Marvel Comics character, one that is more obscure than Ghost Rider I think, so it doesn’t have a built in audience. And that was another movie that I went into thinking “ha ha, this will be funny.” It even has a connection because both movies have Donal Logue in a supporting role and the writer and director of BLADE were gonna do this character years ago before they got dumped for this chump.

BLADE was able to take a cynic like me and convince me that not only is this Wesley-Snipes-as-leather-jacket-wearing-half-vampire-super-hero not stupid, it is in fact awesome. It was able to make me love that character and his world and even some of the secondary characters (like Whistler). It treats the whole world with dead seriousness (“The world you live in is a sugar coated topping”) but finds humor in the personalities (“motherfuckers always tryin to ice skate uphill”) and also finds room for several classic action scenes (the dance club massacre, the subway chase, the redonning of the sunglasses, etc.). You come away knowing exactly who that character Blade is, what he is about, and you would love to see him again. It turned me from scoffing finger pointer to 100% devotee within the span of one movie. So I don’t see how there’s any justification for doing such a horrible job on this one. I don’t care if it’s a burning skeleton on a motorcycle, make it work or don’t do it. Come on people whatever happened to god damn EFFORT?

APPENDIX I: Comic strip movie ranking chart

Not as good as BLADE 1-3, BARBARELLA, BATMAN BEGINS, X-MEN 1-3, HULK, PUNISHER.
Arguably slightly less asinine than DAREDEVIL.
Longer than ELEKTRA and therefore more painful.
Not as bad as SPAWN, BATMAN AND ROBIN.
Music not as good as POPEYE.
Humor on par with GARFIELD 1.

APPENDIX II: Ghost ranking chart

1. GHOST DOG
4. GHOST DOG RESURRECTION (hypothetical DTV sequel starring RZA)
12. GHOSTS OF MARS
13. GHOST DAD
75. GHOST RIDER

This entry was posted on Saturday, February 17th, 2007 at 7:40 pm and is filed under Action, Comic strips/Super heroes, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

21 Responses to “Ghost Rider”

  1. Ghost Shitter!

  2. ya know this movie is Cage’s passion, right? like he has a Ghost Rider tattoo that they had to cover up for the film

  3. Man, this is surprising the shit out of me, but I pretty much loved this stupid movie until Ghost Rider showed up. There was all this weird energy in the early scenes, but then when it gets to what’s supposed to be the good part our hero becomes an obvious stuntman with a green hood over his face who moves like he memorized the choreography at half-speed and was warned repeatedly not to improvise. Just absolutely no life in that performance at all. I gotta admit that it made me incredibly excited for the sequel, though. They supposedly have Cage playing Ghost Rider the whole time, and the interviews I’ve read with the douchebag directors (not an insult, just an honest classification of their personalities) say they’re leaning toward practical stunts and not that PlayStation cutscene bullshit they had in this one. It’s feeling like it could be the movie DRIVE ANGRY wanted to be.

  4. I have to admit, the trailer for part 2 got me wondering if I should see it. I mean I really shouldn’t because it’s some of my most hated directors doing a sequel to a piece of shit movie that I regretted paying money to see in the first place. Those guys fucking suck – how is it even possible to take the premise of GAMER and make it as boring and painful as they did? It’s not possible, but they did it. Also, I am convinced that their asinine camera work combined with 3D will blind at least 30 people.

    But I like the way they shoot Nic Cage skeleton in that trailer.

  5. I don’t know, Vern, I seem to have a much higher tolerance for the work of the hybrid Brundlefly bro-monster known as NeveldineTaylor than you do. They do the chaos-cam/”every shot is EXXXTREME” thing with more style and confidence than anyone else. I feel like I’m watching somebody’s really weird and specific visual strategy, not just an image salad that three overworked editors tossed up because the director couldn’t make up his mind on the set. It’s kind of like how when McG is on his game you don’t mind that you’re just seeing a bunch of unrelated cool shit with no connective tissue. I feel like there’s an actual vision at work here. GAMER was definitely pushing it (although I’m gonna invoke the cliche of ‘It was better on the small screen’) but for some reason no matter how hard they jook and jiggle I always feel like I’m seeing just enough of what I need to see, while still getting that “This is happening right in your fucking face, asshole, can you fucking handle it?” thing that all directors seem to be going for these days. I can totally understand if it just feels like a headache to you but for me these guys seem to have a knack for tapping into something immediate and pre-intellectual. This might be going too far but they kind of feel like little fratboy Herzogs to me. So them working with Cage is a perfect match.

    Just to be clear I would rather see Herzog’s GHOST RIDER: PORT OF CALL BULGARIA. But this is almost as good.

  6. I don’t know, man. I still think that CRANK works seriously well. Their frantic style of shooting compliments their frantic style of writing so perfectly in this case, that it’s incredible! It really feels like there were two people at work, who knew exactly what they were doing and how to do it right. I’m not gonna say you have to like it, but in my opinion it’s exactly what a purposely absurd, no-holds-barred film about a killer who needs a constant adrenalin rush to survive (and not even in a metaphorical way) should be like.
    Unfortunately the rest of their work (including CRANK 2 and their unfilmed JONAH HEX script) proof pretty well, that their debut was just a fluke and they are less talented than your average 16 year old YouTube “filmmaker”.

  7. I like Crank and Crank 2. I’m hoping for Crank 3: Ghost Rider.

    I liked the first Ghost Rider film okay. It’s not awful or anything. It’s just there. The scene where he’s on the bike and Sam Elliot riding the fire horse was pretty badass.

    Ghost Rider was the only comic I read as a kid. Not that I loved it so much it was the only comic I wanted to read, but for two or three years I picked up copies from the NEX after mowing my neighbors’s lawns. As an 8 year old it was the most badass thing ever.

    But, yeah, I’m hopeful for Ghost Rider 2.

  8. I wonder what their version of Jonah Hex would have been like?

  9. I got this idea for the third CRANK movie that I fully believe is the only way to do it. I’m calling it CRANK: PLEASURE PRINCIPLE. I’m not gonna shoot my wad on it here just in case someone steals it from me. It’s that good. Any of you insider types know how I can get NevildineTaylor to stop funneling beers for a second and take my calls?

  10. I like Neveldine / Taylor because he* seems to be the only American filmmaker willing to attempt to out-crazy the Japanese at their own game. Talking head in a jar! Statham kaiju! Bai Ling! Your move, Japan. I can’t wait to see what he gets up to with Cage.

    *I like to think of him as one person whose middle name is a forward slash mark. It seems like something he would do.

  11. These are exactly the reasons, why I didn’t like CRANK 2. It were too many random ideas, without any feeling for what works and what not. I don’t think that anybody would have missed the 10 minutes long talkshow flashback, if they had left it on the cutting room floor. I can appreciate crazy, random movies, but only if they leave out all the stuff that doesn’t work. And CRANK 2 felt like I was watching a deleted scenes reel on the DVD, instead of the movie with all the good stuff.

  12. I think of CRANK 2 as the GREMLINS 2 of its time: Everybody involved knew there was no reason for it to exist, so they just took the studio’s money and used it to do whatever random gags struck their fancy. They both expand and mock the first film without ever even attempting to tell a coherent story, because they already told the story they wanted to tell the first time. The whole movie is doodling in the margins, and that’s its charm. You could have easily taken the Hulk Hogan part out of GREMLINS 2, but why in the name of all that is holy would you want to?

    By the way, full disclosure: I am currently wearing a cowboy hat that was originally owned by Mickey Rourke, so I’m pretty sure I’m gonna win this one.

  13. Gamer was a profound meditation on where the media is going, made by people who are part of the problem. Yeah, I still love saying that.

    I agree, Neveldine/Taylor does shakycam better than the inexplicably praised Paul Greengrass (and therefore all his Salty imitators). If you’re going to use it, at least N/T keeps things in frame and focus and I do feel an energy, so it’s not just “look how REAL this is, man, it’s REAL like REAL life, man.”

    Crank: High Voltage is the most amazing movie ever made. I cannot believe it exists. I cannot believe they got human beings to act out those scenes. Well, Bai Ling I can believe, but Amy Smart is a real person and bravo to her. Gremlins 2 is a great comparison, but not in a negative way. I wish more movies would worry less about making sense and just try crazy artistic ideas. You know, the Tree of Life approach.

  14. Mr. M, isn’t there another version of GREMLINS 2 that did not have Hulk Hogan in it? I seem to remember the scene with the Hulkster is in the theatrical release and there was another scene in it’s place on the home video release of them film. G2 is a great film and it always found it to be more fun than the original.

  15. Yes, Charles. They did a John Wayne VHS scene that I believe is an extra feature on the DVD. Nice idea, adapting the gag to the home video format, but not as funny as Hulk.

  16. Thanks Fred, and I agree that it is a nice bit redoing the gag for the video release & that the version with the Hulkster is far superior.

    Speaking of Hulk Hogan in film has anyone around these parts seen the amazing NO HOLDS BARRED staring Hogan & Zeus “Tiny” Lister? I have it on VHS and it features one of the most hilarious fight scenes. In it the lead character Rip (Hogan) a pro wrestling superstar (yes Hogan is essentially playing himself, but you have to stick to what you are good at) is taken to an abandon warehouse in a limousine where he is ambushed by a number of nameless bad guys. What makes the scene so memorabilia is when Hogan confronts the limo driver after dispatching his attackers, and he is over whelmed by a foul smell. He asks the Limo driver “What’s that I smell?” to which the limo driver responds “d-d-dookey”. They then cut to a shot of the limo driver’s solid trousers so that you can see that he has indeed craped his pants out of fear of the beating Hogan was about to throw him. The scene is about as subtle as a kick to the nuts and Hogan’s acting in it really has to be seen to be appreciated. He turns it up to 11 and half. I hope that when Hulk passes a way that this is the scene they show in his remembrance during “the performers who have passed away montage” at that years Oscars.

  17. Sorry,

    memorabilia = memorable

  18. I just watched NO HOLDS BARRED a couple weeks ago. Some really amazing cheap-seats emoting from pretty much everyone, including Tiny Lister, whose character might as well have been a werewolf for all the subtle shading he had. The dookie part was the best, but I also loved the romantic motel scene with poor Joan Severance (“I’m gonna sleep in the lobby. There’s a couch out there with more of a sense of humor than you.”) and how the evil exec whose network was failing because he didn’t have one (1) specific wrestler on it called Hulk “jockass” like five times. Like this was a joke that he thought up that he thought was really funny so he was going to keep saying it until it became a thing.

    What won the Oscar that year? RAIN MAN or some bullshit? No fucking justice at all, man.

  19. I saw parts of No Holds Barred years ago, isn’t there a scene where Joan Severance checks out Hulk Hogan’s ass as he’s doing pushups or something?

  20. Yes, Griff there is, and what makes it even better is that he is doing it on the other side of a bed sheet that has been hung up to separate the bed so at first Joan can not see what Hulk is doing she can only feel the bed moving and hear him grunting so naturally she thinks he is stroking it. However, when she decides to take a peek she sees that he is in fact doing push ups, but she still takes a moment to check out the Hulkster’s assets.

  21. Mr. M, I completely agree. To use a couple sports analogies the entire cast left it all on the court, they all gave it 120%. I also always found the evil exec’s use of the term “jockass” strange. Something also interesting to consider when watching NHB is that it is a WWE (at the time WWF) film and Vince McMahon’s finger prints are all over it, so it gives you a some insight as to McMahon’s mind state. For example look at who the villains are in the film, they are execs from a rival cable company who are trying to steal Rip (Hogan) away from his current company that helped make him a star. The plot of the film is a dig at his then rival Ted Turner.

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