Ghost Rider

A film by Mark Steven Johnson

The best I can probably say about Ghost Rider is that I did not have to pay to see the film - though a fellow critic at the Thursday night premier did (jokingly?) demand his money back. I could also mention how funny I found the film. The only problem with that is, Ghost Rider is not meant as comedy. IMDb lists its genres (in order) as action, thriller and fantasy. Not a comedy in the bunch. But boy is it ever funny. I suppose this is just mean-spirited bashing though and not constructive criticism. Oh well.

Perhaps to all those fan-boy denizens who inhabit the lobbies, atriums and hallways of all the convention centers and hotels where William Shatner, Kevin Smith and all those Klingon-speaking pony-tailed forty year olds (still living at home of course) hang out and ply their wares, the latest in the Marvel Comic-turned-franchise wish fulfillment may be a fun-filled tour de force of fire-headed hokum, but to those of us who expect (or at least hope) something more from life - well, I suppose you get what you pay for, and who really was expecting (or even hoping) for anything better. This isn't Spider-Man after all.

Already weighted down by the genre - even the best of these films (the Spider-Man franchise, X-Men 2, the underrated Hulk and perhaps the first two Superman's) are far from great art - and even moreso by using such a lame character this time around, Ghost Rider fails on almost every level. First off, turning the comic version of Johnny Blaze (aka, Ghost Rider), who was a hard-drinking, hard-partying shell of a human being, into a PG-13 friendly jelly bean-chomping teetotaler, is just the beginning of this films woes. Full of some of the worst dialogue (even for a comic book movie) this side of Daredevil - the one comic book movie which actually makes this one seem almost good in comparison (and also, coincidentally, directed by Johnson) - and some of the most clownish acting this side of, well, this side of just about any other Nicolas Cage film. "He may have my soul, but he doesn't have my spirit." and "I'll fight fire (dramatic pause) with fire." are just a couple examples of the more egregious lines of what passes for dialogue and acting in this movie. I must admit though, the casting of Peter Fonda, looking all red and wrinkled in his close-ups as his father had in Once Upon a Time in the West, as hokey and hammy as he is, is the surest high point of this otherwise ludicrous motion picture.

In the end though, I suppose if you are making the sober choice of going to see a film about a a biker who sells his soul to the devil and in turn has his head become a flame-encrusted skull, your right to complain about said movie may very well be null and void. So allow me to close with not my words, but those of Phil Villarreal of the Arizona Daily Star: "For years scientists have theorized that one day Nicolas Cage would overact so badly that his head would burst into flames. Now, with Ghost Rider, the phenomenon has finally come to pass." What more can be said? [02/18/07]