Released earlier this year to a successful box office run, Ghost Rider is yet another Marvel character making his way to the big screen. There’s something about these comic movies that have everyone all psyched these days, all of them performing admirably in the theatre and selling just as well upon DVD release. For me, there are only a couple of these Marvel films that I actually think were well done and in good contrast compared to their comic book counterparts. In fact I’m probably the only person on this c…ntinent to despise the Spiderman movies. So I wait in anticipation, is another Marvel franchise about to be ruined, or can director Mark Steven Johnson pull off a good one.
A Ghost Rider is a bounty hunter for Mephisto (Satan) (Peter Fonda), and for as long as time can tell, the devil has had a Ghost Rider. In the days of the Old West, a Ghost Rider was too retrieve the souls of an entire town, but the souls proving to be too powerful to be in the hands of Mephisto, the Ghost Rider outran the devil and hid the contracts. 150 Years later Mephisto is back and he wants the contracts. Fooling a young Johnny Blaze into trading his soul for his father being cured of cancer and then later having him killed anyways, he is doomed to one day face the curse of the Ghost Rider.
Years go by and Johnny Blaze (Nicolas Cage) is now a famous stunt man, who even after wiping out on his bike in the worst ways is still unscathed. Trying to forget his past and turn his back on reality, Blaze lives a troubled life, forever haunted by the day Mephisto took his father away. During Blaze’s next appearance and his next dynamic stunt he runs into his childhood love Roxanne Simpson (Eve Mendes). He takes her presence as a sign, and successfully jumps over six Blackhawk helicopters over the duration of a football field. He asks her to have dinner with him, reluctant at first she agrees, but he never shows up. After all these years, Mephisto is back and wants Blaze to honor is contract. He wants Blaze to retrieve the souls and along the way kill Blackheart, who wants to take control of hell for himself. Trying to control the Ghost Rider curse while mending a relationship with Roxanne, Blaze has an almost impossible task ahead of him, with his only help coming in the form of a mysterious caretaker (Sam Elliott).
As I mentioned before, the majority of Marvel movies are really disappointing (i.e. Fantastic Four, Spiderman, and Elektra), these movies all for individual reasons (such as casting, story, or incompatibility with its original comic form) sucked. On the other hand, the original X-Men and The Punisher had a darker feel, especially the ladder. This is something I personally enjoy in these movies, not teen idols cast in lead roles (E.g. Spiderman, Fantastic Four), in fact initially I had my doubts about the casting in Ghost Rider. Although I have accepted Nicolas Cage’s performance as acceptable, I still can’t understand the decision to cast Eve Mendes. Although there was nothing wrong with her abilities as an actress I just didn’t see her in the role, but that wasn’t enough to detour me from trying to enjoy this movie.
Although the portrayal of the characters in the movie aren’t entirely fitting of the original characters, I still found this movie (apart from that) to be rather entertaining. There were some great roles on behalf of Peter Fonda and Sam Elliott that really boosted this movie up, and although their roles were small their presence was felt. Nicolas Cage played a rather toned down Johnny Blaze, a troubled and deep man as opposed to the bas ass Johnny Blaze some of you comic fans might remember. Even though the character different I really enjoyed the performance, suiting the Johnny Blaze the filmmakers were trying to portray. But aside from the well put together ensemble (aside from Mendes), I enjoyed the special effects, the action, and even the left field storyline. Although Ghost Rider wasn’t dark like The Punisher or its original comic book counterpart, it still had a good vibe about it, not as “teeny” as Fantastic Four or Spiderman.
This movie was far from being perfect; there were some dull scenes and some over the top stuff going on, but it was entertaining and probably a bit better than I would have given it credit for prior to seeing it. If you enjoy all the Marvel movies I’m sure this won’t be an exception, but if you’re picky like I am, Ghost Rider is really going to step the boundaries. Ultimately, Ghost Rider isn’t either really good or really bad, its somewhere in a purgatory, but it’s worth checking out so you be the judge.
Presented in a 2.40:1 widescreen aspect ratio, Ghost Rider looked rather impressive, especially for a movie filled with so many low lighted scenes. The flaming skull of Johnny Blaze was mesmerizing and crisp, flowing with vibrant colors. As I mentioned, Ghost Rider is a very dark film, and artifacts as well as grain were almost nonexistent, a very good looking print. Although looking rather impressive for the most part I was rather detoured by the lack of detail in the characters, a very soft picture where detail was hard to come by. Although the colors were crisp, many scenes were soft but over all I was quite impressed with the video transfer.
Sony has included two audio tracks; Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1. Although both tracks were very impressive, I found the 5.1 DTS had more depth to the sound, especially during the motorcycle scenes. For both audio tracks every channel was put to good use, music and explosion lighting up every single one almost constantly. If I were to complain about anything, which isn’t easy to do for this audio track, I was a little disappointed in the difference of sound between the quite dialogue scenes and then the loud dominating actions scenes, so there were some slight balancing issues. Apart from that I was really impressed with Ghost Rider in both the audio and video department, they are sure to please fans.
Although there not that much features, what is included is pretty interesting and a good experience for fans of the movie. Personally I would have liked to get a bit more detail on the visual aspects of the picture but I won’t complain.
- Audio Commentary – Writer/Director Mark Steven Johnson and visual effects supervisor Kevin Mark- Talks about everything Ghost Rider from comparing the comic to the movie, all the way too production details; a pretty interesting listen.
- Audio Commentary – Producer Cary Foster- Not all that insightful, mostly boring talk about some of the more intimate production details, if I were too listen to only one of them it would be the Mark Steven Johnson commentary.
- The Making of Ghost Rider Documentaries – Split up into two separate parts titled: Spirit of Vengeance – Spirit of Adventure- in the Spirit of Vengeance we get to see some on the location footage in Australia along with interviews with the cast and crew including Sam Elliot and Nicolas Cage. They talk about some of the background behind the production and their personal experience with Ghost Rider the comic. In Spirit of Adventure the filmmakers and cast talk about their experiences making the film, more specifically the freeway scene in which Johnny Blaze flirts with Roxanne Simpson.
Ghost Rider is on the better side of the Marvel movie spectrum. Not quite as good as some but at the same time quite a bit better than others. Ultimately it is worth a rental for you to determine yourself whether it’s worth the purchase. The audio and video were impressive, the features to a lesser degree, but you are already a fan of the movie then this disc is a worthy purchase.
Special Features List
- Two Audio Commentaries
- The Making of Ghost Rider Documentaries