Marvel has a checkered past with film adaptations of its back catalogue, often adding nothing new to characters beloved by its existing fanbase. While one can reason that extending their scope to those outside of that class would ultimately help their viability and continual evolution, Ghost Rider has nothing to distinctly define itself from other characters or movies. Either in its class or as a film in general, this adaptation lacks a voice of its own, a vision by which the audience can form a bond with it.
After trading his soul to Mephistopheles (Peter Fonda) in exchange for a rather unspectacular saving of his father’s life, Johnny Blaze (Nicholas Cage) a now famous stunt rider is called upon to assume the mantle of the Ghost Rider. A century and a half earlier the last soul damned to carry out this duty fled from the devil and hid a contract for a thousand souls he thought too powerful for anyone to possess but now Blaze must stop Blackheart (Wes Bentley) from doing the very same.
Every point essential to the mythos of the character is portrayed, allowing us to see what makes the character unique but this writer/director portrays it in such a structural manner, it never appears so everything is merely another item to be crossed off the checklist of background traits and abilities. Anyone that can make a character such as this uninteresting or even outwardly boring is worthy of distain and such is the man at the helm.
More so, this inorganic quality to the writing not only leads to monotony but an overall reliance on cliche and poorly crafted humour, hoping to point the inherent cool of the Rider, whilst making it seem completely farfetched.
But could this be another adaptation hoping to cash in at the box office? As a once off it is easy to believe and it is open to a sequel (one already being in the works) but the supreme lack of action sequences eats at its profitability in any long-term sense. We see an occasion setpiece, well shot and animated but again lacking any magnetism. If you can’t keep those of the lowest demographic who merely want to see explosions and buses going really fast then you have a sizeable problem.
Worse still, Cage personally took it upon himself to water down the harder edge already provided within the source material, leaving him a teetotaller who listens to The Carpenters which might set him apart from the gruff men engaged in his line of work but doesn’t make for an interesting lead.
Another director might have realised such faults and corrected them but writer/director Mark Steven Johnson (of Grumpy Old Men and Daredevil) is not known for his edge or talent for that matter. Any element of the B-Movie spaghetti western genre is killed by an overall gloss on the look and feel of every scene, constantly betraying its Hollywood sensibility. Plot holes about throughout, glaring in their simplicity and lack of thought, positing a calculated feel to the endeavour.
Cage attempts yet again to be charismatic but cannot find his footing for most of the picture, floundering in an uncomfortable void of awkward moments. Mendes also puts her best foot forward yet attracts our view on more than a physical level. Ironically in casting the earlier versions of both leads Mendes has a near double of herself whereas Cage has a disproportionately attractive beginning, making his some of the worst ageing done outside of a Fincher movie or Industrial Light and Magic. If anything, the best attempt at acting comes from his hairpiece.
Suffering from a distinctly visual problem, the villains of the piece overact in comparison to their desensitised presentation. Through this and the ease with which they’re dismissed, they never present a lasting threat, adding little tension to the development of the story.
There’s not much I can say in favour of this film, with it’s generally bland delivery and lack of any real defining moments, it’s innocuous but never exciting.