Now, for one of the coolest comic book movies ever!
I’ve been a fan of Marvel Comics since I was a little kid. Spider-Man, X-Men, Fantastic Four, I loved them all. And the movies in recent years have overcome some of the appalling crappiness that so plagued super hero movies in the decades preceding CGI (with the exception of the first two Christopher Reeves Superman movies and Tim Burton’s first Batman movie, which were awesome.) The first Spider-Man movie blew everyone away because it really was Spidey. (X-Men was great too, but I have to say that Spidey 1 and 2 have been the best Marvel movies to date.) Great scripts, awesome special effects, great performances, great director. They were magic. Hollywood (and the viewing public) seems to have caught on that comic books can make fantastic movies. (Ok, we won’t talk about Elektra. (Love that character and Jennifer Garner, who was a perfect choice, but awful movie. How’s that for being double-parenthetical?) And we’ll give a nod to Daredevil and Fantastic Four, because they were worthy efforts and I enjoyed them at the time, but things just… didn’t … quite click with those.)
Marvel has continued is string of real winners with Ghost Rider.
Here’s an image for you. Two Ghost Riders riding hell-bent-for-leather across the dark and stormy desert, one on a flaming hellsteed, one on a super-kick-ass chrome-and-hellfire chopper, with the song “Ghost Riders in the Sky” stomping in the background. Let me tell you. That was one of the coooolest movie moments I’ve had in a while. That alone was worth the price of admission.
So, for you non-comic-book folks out there, here’s a run-down.
Here’s the legend. Every generation, the Devil chooses a Rider, a bounty hunter to do his dirty work on earth. Someone who will take escaped souls back to Hell and perform whatever bidding Mephistopheles requires.
Johnny Blaze, motorcycle stunt-rider extraordinaire, is visited by a guy claiming to be the Devil (Peter Fonda, when was the last time he was in a movie). The Devil tells Johnny he can save his father from dying of cancer. Poor naive teenager that Johnny is, he makes the deal, and from that day forward, Old Scratch owns his soul. Johnny’s father is cured of cancer, but he dies the next day in a stunt-riding “accident.” Distraught over his father’s death and trying to escape the Devil’s reach, Johnny flees the carnival, leaving his gorgeous true-love, Roxanne, behind.
Fast forward about fifteen years. Johnny (Nicholas Cage) has become a national superstar stunt rider, a la Evel Knievel, and manages to get up time and again after some spectacular crashes. He has an â€œangelâ€ on his shoulder. He seems like a man with a death wish, and he also seems indestructible.
He’s carried a torch for Roxanne (Eva Mendes), and vice versa, every day for fifteen years, and suddenly they meet again at one of Johnny’s motorcycle events. This meeting is the sign that he’s been looking for, the sign that he could have a second chance after selling his soul to the Devil.
But the Devil has other plans. A demon known only as Blackheart (Wes Bentley) is loose and looking for a scroll that holds the contract to a thousand souls. That’s some powerful demonic currency. The Devil wants that scroll for himself, so he calls in his debt with Johnny. Thus, the Ghost Rider is born. At night and in the presence of evil, a demon takes over Johnny’s body, and he becomes the fearsome, burning-skull-in-black-leather-and-chains bad boy.
His mentor and predecessor as the Ghost Rider, played by Sam Elliot, provides the necessary background for Johnny to assume his new role and battle the forces of Evil with–well, more evil. Fight hellfire with hellfire! Armed with red hot chains and a sentient demon-chopper, the Ghost Rider tears ass across the city, up and down buildings, leaving a trail of flaming asphalt and molten glass behind him.
If there’s a serious flaw in this movie, is the behavior of the police when they arrest Johnny for the murders committed by Blackheart. Their over-the-top nastiness didn’t have a rhyme or reason other than to give the Ghost Rider a sequence to escape from jail and ride tearing across town to get away from them. If you look, you’ll find some other plot holes. But in the end, I didn’t care, because it was a damn fun ride.
So Johnny Blaze must battle the menacing Blackheart and his demon-elemental minions, struggle to save his soul, prevent both the Devil and Blackheart from getting the scroll, control the demon lurking within him, maintain his humanity, and win back his lost love, all in one movie. Can he do it? Well, duh!
I’d have to rank this as one of the best Marvel movies, better than FF, DD, Elektra (by far), and probably X-Men 3. The Cool Factor on his movie is through the roof; Nicholas Cage makes a great Johnny Blaze, Eva Mendes a great love interest, and Peter Fonda a damn fine Mephistopheles. I would love to see another one of these.
P.S. One of the previews before this movie was Fantastic Four: The Rise of the Silver Surfer! The Coolness Factor bounced high on that one too. Reed and Sue’s wedding is upstaged by the arrival of a flying silver guy on a surfboard. Got me all excited. I hope it’s better than the first FF movie (which could have been so much better)!