It seems that all the big budget movies now a days are either sequels
of earlier successful films, based on TV shows, or adaptations of comic books (or sequels
of movies based on comic books.) It's a bit surprising that Hollywood
keeps going back to comic books after so many of the movies that are based
on the four color heroes are roundly slammed by the critics and movie going
pubic. (Electra, Incredible Hulk, and Catwoman just
to name a few.) One more title to add to the "comic movies that suck"
list is Ghost Rider, a Nick Cage action film that is filled with
eye-popping images, some horrid over acting, and an incredibly weak script.
Blaze (Matt Long) is a daredevil stunt rider. Along with his father
Barton (Brett Cullen) he performs motorcycle jumps and stunts with a small
circus. The father and son team don't get along that well, but when
Johnny discovers that his dad has cancer he sells his soul to Mephistopheles
(Peter Fonda who seems to be channeling Jack Nicholson) in exchange for
having his father cured. Barton is cured, and Johnny decides to leave
the circus and run off with his girl friend Roxanne (Raquel Alessi).
Things aren't quite that simple however. Though Barton is well, Mephistopheles
kills him during his next performance and warns Johnny never to get involved
with anyone again. After all, the young Blaze now belongs to the
devil who has big plans for him.
Fast forward a number of years. Johnny (now played by Nicolas
Cage) is now a famous daredevil. He fills auditoriums with people
wanting to see his jumps and there are videogames based on his stunts.
No matter how dangerous a jump or horrible a spill, Johnny gets up unhurt,
it's almost like he's being protected.
seem to be looking great for Blaze. He's famous, respected, and rich,
and he even reunites with Roxanne (now played by Eva Mendes.) For
some reason Roxane has only aged about ten years while Blaze has aged 20,
but that doesn't seem to bother anyone in this movie. Before Johnny
can rekindle the blaze (no pun intended) with his paramour from years before,
Mephistopheles appears and announced that he has a use for the cyclist.
It turns out that Mephistopheles' son, Blackheart (Wes Bentley), has turned
against him. Along with three other demons from Hell, Blackheart
is searching for the Contract of San Venganza that will allow him to overthrow
his father and create Hell on Earth. In order to aid Blaze, Mephistopheles
gives him the power of the Ghost Rider. With a flaming skull for
a face and a bitchin' cycle to ride, it's up to Blaze to prevent the unthinkable.
This movie had a lot of potential. Being a fan of the comic since
the mid 70's, I was looking forward to this adaptation. After all,
the comic is very visual and would translate well to the silver screen.
What could be more exciting than a flaming skeleton on a fire-filled motorcycle
battling demons from Hell? While the film is filled with some fantastic
and impressive visuals, nearly every other part of the production is lacking.
First the script is filled with so many holes it's not funny. From
Mephistopheles telling Blaze to find Blackheart and then him driving down
the street to his exact location to the inconsistencies with the Ghost
Rider legend as presented in the film, it's hard to just not scoff at the
plot. The dialog is pretty bad too, filled with lines that writers
of B-movies in the 50's would have thrown out for being too clichéd
these are significant flaws, the thing that really damns the movie (again,
no pun intended) is Cage himself. Now don't get me wrong, Nicolas
Cage is a good actor, he just didn't show it off here. He constantly
overacts and is so hammy that it is unintentionally comic. Cage can't
even point to anyone in the movie without it being humorous. When
he does, he forms his hand into a claw and partially extends his index
finger. It looks like he's Verbal Kint from The Usual Suspects.
When he has to deliver a line, it's even worse. Why he thought such
a technique would help the movie is anyone's guess (in the extras he said
that he wanted this to feel like an old horror movie) but it really ruins
an already sub-par movie.
The one person who did an excellent job was Sam Elliot. Every
time he was on screen it was like a breath of fresh air. He played
the caretaker at a cemetery who helps Blaze out after he turns into Ghost
Rider and does a wonderful job. They need to make a spin off movie
with that's devoted to his character, but with an intelligent script of
The Blu-ray Disc:
This Blu-ray disc presents the movie with its original aspect ratio
of 2.4:1, and does quite a good job too. The film is filled with
eye candy and there are several scenes that would make excellent demo material.
When Ghost Rider is driving up the side of a skyscraper and then engages
in a battle with a helicopter at the summit is some of the coolest (though
admittedly silly) scenes in the film and this really pops off the screen.
The level of detail is excellent too, with every crag and line on Nicholas
Cage's face being reproduced with horrifying accuracy.
The CGI looks especially good on this BD. While you can still
tell that it was generated by a computer, Ghost Rider, as well as his motorcycle,
look real enough that you're not constantly reminded that they are artificial.
They don't have that cartoony feel that many CGI figures do. *cough* The
Hulk *cough*. Though the movie itself isn't great, the images
Sony gives this disc an uncompressed 5.1 audio track as well as a Dolby
True HD option. (There's also a French dub in 5.1.) There really
isn't much difference between the two, and viewers will be pleased with
either selection. The movie has a very dynamic and active soundtrack
and these tracks reproduce that faithfully. Right from the start
you know you're in for an audio ride. The credits start with a motorcycle's
view of driving through tracks of fire, with the engine revving and music
blaring, and when that finishes the scene segues into a carnival scene,
with noise from the attendees and the barkers filling the room. The
entire soundstage is put to good use, especially during the action sequences,
with battle sounds and motorcycle roars coming from all corners of the
room. The reproduction was flawless, with no distortion or other
common problems. It's only too bad that the script to the film wasn't
as impressive as the audio that accompanies it.
This disc has some solid extras, all of which are presented in 1080p,
which is a big plus. The negative is that they don't port over all
of the bonus material from the SD release. It boggles the mind that
studios like Sony don't realize by now that people enjoy extras.
If they want more people to adopt their next generation format, they have
to stop omitting bonus material from those releases. *sigh*
If they really wanted to drive sales of Blu-ray players, they should include
MORE featurettes on the more expensive BDs. Getting back to this
disc, people who splurge for the BD won't get too see the featruette Sin
& Salvation: Chronicling 40 Years of Ghost Rider Comic Book History
and a series of animatics.
What do we get on this disc? First off there are two commentaries,
one with producer Gary Foster, and the other with both writer/director
Mark Steven Johnson and visual effects supervisor Kevin Mack. I have
to admit that I only sampled these two commentaries, sitting though this
movie two more times is more than this reviewer could take. They
both seem about average from the sampling I had, with Johnson inexplicably
stating that Cage did a good job on the film.
There are three featurettes included also: Spirit of Vengeance,
Spirit of Adventure, and Spirit of Execution. These basically
form an 82-minute 'making of' documentary that was pretty good. It
was more than the fluff pieces that often appear on DVDs though there was
more than enough back-patting going on. These documentaries look
at the genesis of the project, the filming, etc. and include interviews
with basically everyone associated with the movie. There was a lot
of interesting information included and in a lot of ways this was more
entertaining than the film itself. I thought it was very interesting
when Mark Steven Johnson was talking about casting Cage. He said
that Nicolas came to him and said that though he's been vocal at wanting
to play Superman and other comic book characters, that Ghost Rider was
the one hero he's always wanted to play the most. Yeah right.
Cage named his son Kal El (Superman's Kryptonian name) not Johnny Blaze.
It sounds like bullshit to me, but it got him the gig.
Ghost Rider is a fair movie at best. Though the visuals
are outstanding and this BD reproduces them wonderfully the script is bad
and Cage's acting is the most horrific part of the film. This is
worth watching especially if you're a comic fan or in the mood for a mindless
film, if only for the impressive scenes when the Ghost Rider is on the
screen. Make it a rental though, as there's little repeat
viewing pleasure in this.
Note: The images in this review are not from the Blu-ray disc
and do not necessarily represent the image quality on the disc.