Combustible Celluloid
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With: Nicolas Cage, Eva Mendes, Peter Fonda, Sam Elliott, Donal Logue, Wes Bentley, Matt Long, Raquel Alessi, Brett Cullen, Jessica Napier, Laurence Breuls, Daniel Frederiksen, Mathew Wilkinson, Kirstie Hutton, Gibson Nolte, Rebel Wilson
Written by: Mark Steven Johnson
Directed by: Mark Steven Johnson
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for horror violence and disturbing images
Running Time: 114
Date: 02/14/2007

Ghost Rider (2007)

2 Stars (out of 4)


By Jeffrey M. Anderson

When not performing one of his death-defying stunts, like jumping over six black hawk helicopters with blades whirling, Johnny Blaze (Nicolas Cage) rides without a helmet. Riding without a helmet is dangerous, but cool and sexy. Figuratively speaking, Ghost Rider the movie rides with a helmet. In fact it rides on one of those trick motorcycles, hooked up to a trailer so that actors can ride safely and still look cool.

Mark Steven Johnson may have learned something from his previous duds (Daredevil and Simon Birch) because Ghost Rider is cleaner and lighter, and doesn't feel as if it's desperately striving for a coolness factor. It almost succumbs to its silliness.

But though the film may feel effortless, by the same token it also feels as if it's not trying at all. Every plot turn is slavishly predictable, and certain lines of dialogue telegraph themselves. The CG effects are all too obvious and cheap-looking, especially the ghost head; how hard would it have been for some old time effects guys to cook up a realistic flaming skull? Worst of all, Wes Bentley plays his villain role with that same, one-dimensional strutting and preening that so many movie villains have; I last saw it in Blood and Chocolate, but it's everywhere. This guy is pure evil, the movie suggests, but where's the humanity or the seduction in that?

The general impression is that the producers decided that they needn't bother with anything realistic, artistic, or emotional. After all, "it's only a comic book." We still have Iron Man coming and perhaps Thor, The Avengers, Power Man and Iron Fist, Doctor Strange or a few others untapped as of yet. Let's hope the future filmmakers involved in those projects remember to ride free and helmet-less.

(Please see my full-length review at Ghost Rider
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