When I was young, I went with my mom to someone’s house… I can’t recall whose house it was or why we were there… but I do remember a movie playing on a large TV, one which frightened me. That was the first time I remember feeling scared. Given the few things I remember about that time, I was 90% sure that this movie was the culprit, but I couldn’t work up the courage to confirm my suspicions by watching it… until now.
Since it’s the season to be spooky, I figured that now would be the best time to try and confront this old demon of my childhood nightmares. I’m still not 100% sure this was it, but the scene at the train station does seem to match up with my memories… either way though, it’s something off my chest. Today, I’ve at last decided to review Ghost Rider.
The premise is as follows: Johnny Blaze, future motorcyclist extraordinaire, sells his soul to the devil in order to save his father’s life. However, in typical demonic fashion, he gets screwed over.
Come the present day, he returns with a new offer: defeat a troublesome demon for him, and he gets his soul back. Thus, Johnny transforms into the fiery Ghost Rider, inheriting the position of Hell’s bounty hunter.
Though Ghost Rider is a property of Marvel, Sony Pictures got the rights to make this film adaptation in 2007, as well as a poorly-received sequel (Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance) in 2012. I know it wasn’t the sequel that got me, ’cause that’s too recent, but… hm… guess I’ll have to cover that movie at some point too. One demon at a time, though. So, how does the original stack up?
Well… it’s no masterpiece, but it has its charms. I’m not usually into horror, but this film doesn’t go over-the-top with the fear factor, and I appreciate that. It has some good moments of comedic relief (the Ghost Rider’s later interactions with the police were great), and it wasn’t nearly as scary as I was expecting it to be. It’s good, at least in the atmosphere department, though I’m surprised they didn’t take the obvious 18+ route with it.
I also like how it takes the Texas setting and combines worlds by blending its Wild West past with the urbanized present. The biker/cowboy contrast is cool, and the demonic flair gives it some edge. Sure, it’s hammy at times, but I kinda like that about it.
This, however, is where my praises end. For starters, the live action animation isn’t great. I’ll give the undead make-up and visual effects some slack, since it’s 15 years old, but there’s a scene near the end that I just can’t let slide. (Spoiler warning, by the way, in case you care about avoiding spoilers for a 15-year-old movie that rarely gets rated higher than 5/10.)
The Ghost Rider lets Roxanne (Johnny’s love interest) touch his skull-face… but his flames turn blue. Blue fire is hotter than red, is it not? I know it’s supposed to convey his softness towards her… but I don’t care if it’s magical hellfire, that’s just not how fire works.
Better solution, just have him consciously put out his head flames; it would demonstrate his now-complete control over this form, and we see multiple times that he doesn’t die if his flames go out.
The story and dialogue aren’t great either. It’s not the worst I’ve ever seen, but some moments are just bad. Aside from the aforementioned blue fire, the wind demon fight was kinda dumb, and the pre-stunt interview scene was painfully awkward. Also, “stick to the shadows”? Really? Blackheart (the demon he’s hunting) already knows he’s coming, and a motorcycle isn’t exactly the stealthiest vehicle.
To give credit where it’s due, the motorcycle stunts were cool, even if they were obviously fake. The locations used were also neat, like Johnny’s garage and the ruins of San Venganza.
One more thing before I wrap up: the actors. Johnny Blaze’s younger actor was kinda just meh, but Nicholas Cage fits the present Johnny / Ghost Rider roles pretty decently. Eva Mendes is a great Roxanne as well, and Sam Elliott’s western drawl is always a welcome sound for sore ears. Mephistopheles is forgettable, as is the main villain Blackheart (played by Peter Fonda and Wes Bentley, respectively), but it is hard to stand out when you’re up against a character as audacious as the Ghost Rider, so that’s to be expected.
So… yeah. That’s 2007’s Ghost Rider. Not good, but not horrible either… if I were to compare it with the MCU line-up, it’d be about on par with Thor: The Dark World.
Funny thing is, I thought I’d hate this movie going into it, given the childhood nightmares thing… but I was actually pleasantly surprised. Compared to some of the shows I’ve watched in more recent years, like Re:Zero, Snowpiercer, or even Squid Game, this was nothing. I even found myself enjoying it at a few points… just goes to show you how preferences can change over the years. Perhaps I’ve been too harsh on the horror genre… or perhaps it’s just because I was in the Halloween spirit. Either way, have a good night, and don’t stay out too late!