Friday, July 13, 2007
4 Color Cinema
I've never been a big fan of Ghost Rider. When I got into comics, it was Danny Ketch who rode the big chopper with his head on fire, but neither Danny nor Johnny Blaze (either with or without his Hellfire-spittin' shotgun) ever did that much for me compared to other Marvels. So when it was announced that Blaze would be the next Marvel hero to make the transition to the Big Screen, I wasn't terribly impressed.
And now that I have seen the film, in its extended version, I remain not all that impressed.
It's not bad exactly, as all the requisite elements are there. We have Johnny, a troubled and downright weird guy played with obvious enthusiasm by Nicolas Cage. We've got the super-hot Eva Mendes playing Roxanne Simpson, who doesn't have a lot to do except look pretty and help the plot advance -- so she's a success. We've got an fairly interesting villain in Blackheart, a rudimentary story (stop Blackheart from getting the MacGuffin), and some admittedly cool special effects. But it doesn't ever really come together into anything other than those individual parts.
Worse yet, it drags. Perhaps it's because of this extended DVD edition, but for a film about a guy who rides a motorcycle, things certainly do plod along rather lazily. There's some standout scenes with GR tearing up the streets or driving up the sides of buildings, but they are too few and far between to generate any sense of urgency or momentum.
There are some good points here. As I said, the effects are tremendous. Ghost Rider looks absolutely amazing, and the Hellcycle is no slouch, either. Cage is clearly having a lot of fun playing one of his childhood heroes, and Blaze, as a character, is better for it. But the performance is almost too off-kilter, and one begins to wonder if Cage is just screwing with us or if Blaze is supposed to be this loopy. Wes Bentley's Blackheart is about as well as the character can be done on film without being a riff on Maelbolgia from Spawn -- same goes for Peter Fonda as Mephisto(pheles). And Sam Elliot's turn as the Caretaker might ape every "grizzled old mentor" cliche in the book, but he does it with such panache that we don't mind too much.
In the end, though, those strong points cannot outpace the fact that the film is just not that exciting. And for a comic book movie, especially one starring a dynamic character such as Ghost Rider, that's one sin that's just unforgivable.