Ghost Rider

Cast:
Nicolas Cage as Johnny Blaze/Ghost Rider
Eva Mendes as Roxanne Simpson
Wes Bentley as Blackheart
Peter Fonda as Mephistopheles
Sam Elliott as Caretaker
Donal Logue as Mack
Laurence Breuls as Gressil
Daniel Frederiksen as Wallow
Mathew Wilkinson as Abigor
Brett Cullen as Barton Blaze
Matt Long as Young Johnny Blaze
Raquel Alessi as Young Roxanne Simpson

Review:
What do you get when you hire a director who really understands and loves the material? A faithful adaptation of a comic. In recent years it happened with Bryan Singer and X-Men, Sam Raimi and Spider-Man, as well as Christopher Nolan and Batman. It is now safe to put writer/director Mark Steven Johnson in that class as well for Ghost Rider.

ComingSoon.net’s Superhero Hype! got a chance to watch the anticipated Ghost Rider movie, opening February 16 and starring Nicolas Cage, Eva Mendes, Wes Bentley, Sam Elliott, Donal Logue and Peter Fonda.

In the Columbia Pictures release, superstar motorcycle stunt rider Johnny Blaze (Cage) makes a deal with the devil (Mephistopheles, played by Fonda) to keep his father from dying. But Mephistopheles tricks Blaze, who leaves childhood sweetheart, Roxanne (Mendes), in order to protect her. Years later, the son of the devil, Blackheart, wants to take control over the world with the help of three fallen angels, called the Hidden. It is then that Mephistopheles comes to Blaze, who must now hunt down the rogue demons as the Ghost Rider.

There’s quite a bit of comics history for Johnson to cover in the film (just look at Wikipedia’s rundown of the Ghost Rider comics to get some kind of idea), which makes the beginning of the film seem forced. The backstory is about your typical father/son who jump motorcycles for a living (!), but it’s this relationship that forces Johnny to sign his soul to the devil and we never really see that overwhelming love between father and son. There’s not a lot of time to tell the origins either, so you’re moved quickly to the point where Nicolas Cage and Blackheart & Co. take over the story.

It’s probably a good thing, because that is also where the movie starts getting good. We need a bit more setup until Johnny Blaze (Cage) is called upon by Memistopheles. But when he does, we get the treat we’ve been expecting. Soon after, you get to see Blaze transform into Ghost Rider for the first time, which looks extremely painful for Blaze but enjoyable to the Ghost Rider.

When Ghost Rider does battle with Blackheart and the Hidden (or the elements, so to speak) it’s an all-out slugfest with no holds barred. Their powers give the Ghost Rider a challenge in having to figure out how to defeat them. The scenes feature impressive special effects that’ll have you say many times, “cool!” We won’t spoil them here, but many of the best visual effects, including the full transformation, you haven’t seen yet in trailers or clips. For example, the riding up the building scene from the trailers is quite long and is definitely a highlight of the film, with much more happening before and after.

Nicolas Cage really hits one out of the park here. We noticed a similar southern accent to how he talked in Con-Air (hey, the movie takes place in Texas after all), but Cage has created both a tragic yet fun character on-screen. It’s entertaining to watch him play Johnny Blaze/Ghost Rider. Fonda and Elliott are great as always, while Bentley was good casting for Blackheart and Logue adds comic relief to the dark story. Eva Mendes is definitely nice to look at, but she doesn’t add much as Roxanne. We didn’t really feel to close to her as we probably should have.

Those who were afraid that the film’s initial release was moved from summer 2006 to February 2007 should be assured that the FX team has pulled out all the stops. CGI flames can be tricky and Ghost Rider’s flaming skull, body and hellcycle are awesome and well worth the delay. The special effects for Blackheart and the Hidden were also very well done.

Naturally, since this is the story of Ghost Rider, parents should heed the rating for this film, which is PG-13 for horror violence and disturbing images.

Ghost Rider is a fun ride and definitely worth checking out!

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