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Ghost Rider
Nicolas Cage is Ghost Rider.
Ghost Rider
Nicolas Cage Stars in "Ghost Rider".
OPENING WEEKEND: $35,000,000
DOMESTIC TOTAL: $110,000,000
  This Film is NOT a Future Release.
  The Following Preview has been Archived.

February 12th, 2006: Nicolas Cage plays Johnny Blaze, a motorcycle stuntman turned into the fearsome, skull-faced vigilante, Ghost Rider. As a young man, he gives up his soul to Mephisto (Peter Fonda) in a deal to save his dying father. Consequently forced to part with his true love, Roxanne Simpson (Eva Mendes), Blaze reluctantly fades away from his comfortable life. After years go by, he and Mephisto cross paths once again. It seems that Mephisto’s son and nemesis, Blackheart (Wes Bentley), has sworn to overthrow his father so that he may mold a new and more horrifying hell in his own vision. Mephisto offers to return Blaze’s soul if he will defeat Blackheart. Blaze becomes the hell-spawned Ghost Rider, nourished with Mephisto’s power and ready to exact vigilante justice on the wicked. Suddenly, Roxanne reemerges in Blaze’s life and he is compelled to protect her as well as his new secret.

What to Expect: Nicolas Cage is Ghost Rider, or so he claims. He is such a big fan of the comic books that he called the director himself when he overheard that Johnny Depp was being considered for the role. He’s been attached to the project ever since then. Reportedly, the superstar actor even owns five Ghost Rider motorcycles and sports a Ghost Rider tattoo, which had to be covered up with make-up while filming. Somehow, knowing Cage’s fanatical and spirited outlook on life, I’m not surprised. He’s not embarrassed for a moment about his geeky obsessions, and his well-documented fondness for Elvis exemplifies this. I believe that they have made the correct casting choice with Cage, whose incomparably bold approach has made him one of the best American actors working today. It is true that his style may seem excessive sometimes, but I love seeing him go for broke. He holds nothing back in his performances and brings energy and vigor to even the most generic action films like National Treasure. For those who think he doesn’t have range as an actor, just seek out Leaving Las Vegas, Peggy Sue Got Married, Raising Arizona, Wild at Heart, Face/Off, Bringing Out the Dead, Adaptation, Matchstick Men, and the recent The Weather Man and you will be treated to some of the best and most versatile performances of any actor. I specifically omitted many other memorable titles to save space. In my mind, Cage will relish the opportunity to play the title character and with him in the lead, Ghost Rider immediately goes up a few points.

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The supporting cast in Ghost Rider is quite good in their own right. In perhaps a slightly cheeky bit of casting, Peter Fonda, the Easy Rider star, is set to play opposite of Cage. The two-time Oscar Nominee should be able to deliver a restrained, but sinister performance as Mephisto to contrast Cage’s dynamic Ghost Rider. I think the two will complement each other nicely. The sexy Eva Mendes, who appears to be everywhere lately, will play Johnny Blaze’s love interest, Roxanne. With consistently successful films like Once Upon a Time in Mexico, Stuck on You, Out of Time, and Hitch in the past few years, Mendes has solidified her presence in Hollywood. I especially like the inclusion of Sam Elliot and Donal Logue (The Tao of Steve, American Splendor) in the cast. The former, a seasoned veteran with a low raspy voice and calm mannerisms, provided a memorable narration in The Big Lebowski. His long list of credits already includes one comic book film, Ang Lee’s underrated 2003 Hulk. Logue, on the other hand, is a quirky, chubby comedian that doesn’t quite seem to fit in with the material, but is capable of adding some humor to the film. By far the oddest casting involves Wes Bentley as Blackheart. Touted as the next big thing after his subdued performance in American Beauty, Bentley has only managed to appear in two films in the past four years, with terrible outcomes. In 2002, he played in the big budget war epic The Four Feathers, which was a total debacle at the box office. Last year he made the uninspiring The Game of Their Lives, which hardly anyone actually saw, or even heard of for that matter. I’ve personally never been a fan of Bentley’s acting and with his career steadily declining, I don’t really like his inclusion in a major role in Ghost Rider.

This type of material sounds extremely tricky to pull off and could easily become campy, resulting in one of those movies that critics jump on to add to their “worst films of the year” lists. Comic book purists may be upset since the film does not follow the original storylines found in the Ghost Rider comics. However, the director, Mark Steven Johnson, claims that he has picked out the best parts from the two different Ghost Rider eras of the ‘70s and the ‘90s. In interviews he has also promised not to allow the movie to become excessively lighthearted, but we’ll just have to wait and see about that. Given his track record, I’m not convinced just yet. Back in 1998, Johnson’s directorial debut, Simon Birch, infuriated me with its heavy-handed approach. The story of a little boy who sacrificed his life to help save a group of kids from drowning was a noble endeavor, but was handled so poorly and in such manipulative fashion that I couldn’t help myself from despising it. Critics were split down the middle between those who liked the story and those who found it too contrived. Johnson followed up the unbearable Simon Birch with the comic book adaptation of Daredevil, starring Ben Affleck. The film received largely negative reviews and was nowhere near as successful as many other comic book movies that had come out up to that point. While it certainly had its drawbacks, I found it to be a decent and entertaining way to spend a couple of hours. It was unquestionably an improvement over the dreadful Simon Birch and is probably a better indicator of what Ghost Rider will be like, which is still somewhat unsatisfactory. David S. Goyer, who has worked on the script for Ghost Rider with Johnson, has done some quality work in the past with screenplays for films like Dark City and the first two Blade movies. On the other hand, he is also responsible for writing atrocities like The Crow: City of Angels, Kickboxer 2, and Blade: Trinity. He’s clearly experienced enough to write for Ghost Rider, but it looks like the screenplay could be a toss up.

In Conclusion: There are a lot of bad signs with this project, which has been in development since 2001. Recently, it suffered another setback when its summer release date was changed to February 2007, creating doubt about the progress. The filming has basically been wrapped up, but it will be another year before it will see the light of day, which is not a very good sign. February is usually not the hottest movie season of the year and certainly not as attractive as the summer period. By pushing its release date back by another six months and avoiding summer competition, the producers are almost acknowledging their insecurity about the film. I don’t think that either Johnson or Goyer will manage to create anything exceptional. In fact, it is more probable that they could completely ruin this film. I think the premise is cool, but the screenplay will probably play out in a fairly generic and conventional way. Really, the cast might be the only saving point for the film, especially since Nicolas Cage alone should be able to propel the material and save it from total insignificance (I am still baffled about Wes Bentley’s inclusion in the cast). Ghost Rider will entertain with the dark subject matter, good special effects, and strong performances, but it will fail to leave a lasting impression. I honestly feel that the film is going to resemble Johnson’s Daredevil, which is disappointing, but not completely damaging.

Similar Titles: Daredevil, The Punisher, Elektra
February 16th, 2007 (wide)
June 12th, 2007 (DVD)

Sony Pictures

Mark Steven Johnson

Nicolas Cage, Peter Fonda, Wes Bentley, Eva Mendes, Donal Logue, Sam Elliott

Total: 227 vote(s).

Action & Adventure, Fantasy, Suspense

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Ghost Rider at AskMen.com

Ghost Rider at RottenTomatoes.com

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