I was invited to accompany Peter David to Marvel’s screening of Ghost Rider last night and I’m glad I went.
The movie is far from perfect but better than expected and was well received by the party faithful.
Mark Steven Johnson’s script for Daredevil, at least the one I read while at Marvel, was wonderful but the finished product was seriously flawed and less than satisfying. As a result, when I heard he wound up on Ghost Rider, I was concerned.
Casting Nic Cage as Johnny Blaze made sense given his box office recognition, star status and love for comic books. Eva Mendes is gorgeous and a good match for him. The rest of cast was attractive and seemingly well chosen for their parts. It was also fun seeing Sam Elliott back on screen, the first time I’ve seen him, I think, since Hulk. And oddly, no Stan Lee cameo, a first.
The story is largely faithful to the source material which is a good thing. It does add the concept that for every generation there is a slayer, I mean ghost rider, considered to be the Devil’s bounty hunter. Interestingly, as explained in the film, this role existed only for a finite period of time although one would think the Devil would benefit from this over the millennia. Also, there hadn’t been one for 150 years until now which is a very elastic definition of generation.
The story effectively pits Ghost Rider between Mephisto and his son Blackheart. But we’re never really told the exact nature of the conflict between father and son. Also, Blackheart was accompanied by three elemental beings, fallen angels, but despite looking creepy are not terribly scary and too easily dispatched. After that, the story unfortunately fails to make a lot of sense as its internal logic is ignored. There’s one final sequence with Johnny Blaze and Sam Elliott’s Caretaker and when it ended, I asked Peter what the point was. Neither one of us could answer.
I definitely liked the Johnny Blaze and Roxie relationship although I felt her character was a little shallow and needed more to make her real.
I also liked the effects, notably the transformation sequences.
Oddly, and I usually don’t notice this, the cinematography was wrong. It was too brightly lit, even at night, robbing the film of the spooky atmospherics required. Maybe it was trying for the four-color comic book look, but they forgot to go back and look at the mood established by Mike Ploog’s great art from the initial story sequences. I even think the film stock was wrong with something different needed.
Still and all, it’s very cool to have a Ghost Rider movie made at all. It’s a good popcorn experience, 1:45 of fun.
Speaking of movies, I will have a feature article on the subject over at Comic Mix on Sunday.