Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Vol. CLIII, Issue 10
Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

‘Ghost Rider’

by Josh Boris

The marriage of comic books and movies has been a natural and economically brilliant move. The transition from one visually oriented story-telling mode to another proves rather simple, especially since producers and directors need only copy the visual style of the comic book rather than attempt to match the imaginations of all the fans (in the case of non-graphic literary works).

As the “Spiderman” and “X-Men” franchises have shown, Marvel has proven to be a cash cow for the studios, and with the more popular works already utilized, studios have begun to delve into lesser known works such as “The Punisher,” “Daredevil” and now “Ghost Rider.”

“Ghost Rider” tells the tale of Johnny Blaze (Nicolas Cage), a stunt motorcyclist who sells his soul to Mephistopheles (Peter Fonda) in order to save his father from cancer. When the devil comes to collect on the deal, Blaze is transformed into the Ghost Rider, a demonic bounty hunter decked in leather and sporting a flaming skull for a head. The Ghost Rider is forced to hunt down Blackheart (Wes Bentley), an evil demon intent on taking over the world (what else?), while simultaneously trying to rekindle his romance with childhood sweetheart Roxanne (Eva Mendes).

When audiences go to a comic book movie (I’m speaking specifically of those of the superhero type), they know what to expect: supernatural occurrences, corny dialogue and badass action sequences. They’re not going to get award-winning acting, they’re not going to get intense, realistic drama and they’re going to have to suspend disbelief to a certain extent. I have no problem with this, and I enjoy superhero movies for exactly these reasons. However, the filmmakers have to at least try, and unfortunately in the case of “Ghost Rider,” everyone except for the special effects guys half-assed it.

The acting is atrocious. If they were over the top or crazy, that would be ok, but many of the actors appear as if they didn’t even bother to learn their lines and are reading off of cues cards just off-screen. Anyone who doesn’t suck is merely “fine.” The script is terrible with barely any redeeming points. There aren’t even any catchphrases or bad puns. When Ghost Rider lassoes a helicopter with a large chain (awesome), he says “you’re really starting to piss me off” (not awesome). No fire pun, no skeleton pun, nothing. At least puns or catchphrases make you laugh or groan; they pull you in. Writer/director Mark Steven Johnson took the easy way out every time.

The only redeeming factor is the special effects. The flaming skull and motorcycle are quite realistic (if that even makes sense), and the demons Ghost Rider fights (who are comprised of water, dirt and air, respectively) are also well done and fun to watch. However, the FX guys are barely even able to flex their muscles because each fight lasts less than two minutes and ends disappointingly. For an action movie, there’s a surprisingly small amount of action.

“Ghost Rider” is especially sad because of the amount of passion put into it. Nicolas Cage has been obsessed with the franchise (to the point of actually sporting a Ghost Rider tattoo) and put great effort into helping the film get made. You would think that with someone that passionate and influential to the film would do a better job of doing justice to the series, but that unfortunately isn’t the case. Unless you’re a Ghost Rider fan (I hear that the film is rather faithfully adapted) or desperate to see some cool computer-animated destruction, “Ghost Rider” should probably be skipped.

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