Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Movie Review: Ghost Rider

Ghost Rider is a superhero for the heavy metal crowd. Leather, flame, bones, chains, motorcycles - he's something you'd expect to see on a Guns & Roses album cover.

I have a few Ghost Rider comics that I collected way back when he was partnering with Blade and a few other heroes who hunted supernatural baddies. The stories didn't really deal with his origins much so I can't compare the comic to the movie. I can tell you that the movie seemed to be written to appeal to the NASCAR and tractor pull watching audience. This doesn't detract from the movie any more than having James Bond playing poker instead of baccarat detracted from "Casino Royale".

Probably the greatest power that Ghost Rider has is his Penance Stare. Hard to draw and hard to film, the Penance Stare is a great concept. Batman can get you locked up, Superman can kick your ass, but Ghost Rider makes you feel all the pain and suffering you've caused. It's the ultimate eye for an eye punishment.

I liked most of the movie and the special effects to generate Ghost Rider were pretty good. But Ghost Rider got some of the lamest lines you've ever heard. He was just painful to listen to. However, he does mercifully little talking.

Nicolas Cage is a fanboy. At one point, nearly a decade ago, he was up for the role of Superman for a version of Superman 5 that never happened. More on that at the end of this blog.
Anyway, the point I was getting to is that Nick Cage likes comic books. He named his son KalEl after the Kryptonian name for Superman. He's the executive producer for "The Dresden Files" and I heard about some similarly geeky project that he's pushing that I've forgotten.
I mention all of this because there's a lot of belief in the fanboy community that big name celebrities can't play superheroes. They can become big names later, but they have to start with nobodies. Christopher Reeve was a nobody before he became Superman. Harrison Ford and Mark Hamill before Star Wars and Hugh Jackman as Wolverine are also good examples. Then there was the disaster that was Ben Affleck as Daredevil, Halle Berry as Catwoman, Jessica Alba in The Fantastic Four, and Eric Bana as The Hulk. They forget that Michael Keaton and Christian Bale were both great Batmen, Tobey Maguire as Spiderman, Ron Perlman as Hellboy, and Patrick Stewart was born to be Professor X. Really, it's why is that actor in that part? If it's because that actor is hot at the moment then you're asking for a disaster. If it's because that actor is right then it's fine. There's really no doubt that Tom Cruise shouldn't be allowed on the set of the Iron Man movie, let alone be playing the title role. Oops, they've changed it to Robert Downey Jr. now. Hmmm. I can see him as Tony Stark, but I'm not sure about Iron Man.
Again, I'm getting off topic. Nicolas Cage does just fine as Johnny Blaze. I think it's the comic book geek in him that made it work. Often with comic book movies the secret of whether is succeeds or fails is based on how big a fanboy the director is. With X-Men 1 & 2, Superman 5, Spiderman 1-3, and Lord of the Rings 1-3 you have a fanboy director. With X-Men 3, Superman 3 & 4, Daredevil, Catwoman, and a host of others the movie failed because you had a studio trying to squeeze the popular comic book genre for some more money and getting directors who just didn't get the story or the characters.

Anyway, Ghost Rider is a good but not great movie. Kinda like the Blade movies. Good, but I don't need to have it right on hand for repeated viewings. Most importantly it didn't suck. Glad I saw it but I probably won't get it on DVD unless they come out with sequels that are better.

And here's the promised script to Superman V. Written by Kevin Smith.

Here's the story of how it was ruined.

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