The last time we saw Nicolas Cage, he was starring in the absolutely dreadful film, “The Wicker Man.” So excuse me if while watching the trailer for his latest film, “The Ghost Rider,” I wasn’t filled with anticipation. The film is not on par with comic classics such as “Spider-Man” and “X-Men,” but it is light years better than disasters including “Elektra,” “Daredevil” and “The Punisher.”
In this film, Cage stars as motorcycle stunt rider, Johnny Blaze. Years earlier, he discovers that his father has inoperable cancer and faces certain death. He makes a deal with Mephistopheles (Peter Fonda) that in exchange for his father’s health, he forfeits his soul (I guess Blaze hadn’t seen this coming in countless films with the same theme). Blaze discovers quickly the hard way the consequences of his deal losing his family, friends and his true love, Roxanne Simpson (Eva Mendes).
Fast forward to the present and Blaze has become a major motorcycle stunt star. By chance, he is reunited with his sweetheart Roxanne, who now is a newscaster and secretly still loves him. She decides to give our hero another chance, but Mephistopheles has other plans for him.
Attempting and completing outrageous stunts, Blaze displays an Evel Knievel-esque flair of surviving horrific crashes and surviving. While all around him think that he has guardian angel protecting him, he understands that is partly true. He is allowed to cheat death because Mephistopheles has other plans in store for him.
Mephistopheles has problems of his own. One of his chief adversaries, Blackheart (Wes Bentley), has escaped from Hell. Rounding up his own legion of doom, the elements (earth, wind, sand and water; The Ghost Rider already had fire on lock down!) he is searching for the contract that was originally stolen from the devil and hidden. Legend has it that whomever possesses the contract can gain access to the lost souls and reign as all-powerful.
For Mephistopheles, that’s where Blaze comes in. According to his curse, night time is the right time for the “rider” and before Blaze knows it, he has gone all “Fire Marshal Bill” and soon he and his motorcycle are transformed into a fiery mechanisms of destruction. His assignment is simply to hunt down Blackheart and his cohorts and gain possession of the contract before they do. Along the way, he meets a cemetery caretaker (Sam Elliott) who helps him understand not only his power, but also how he can use it for good.
The special effects in the film are absolutely amazing. Blaze transformation to the “rider,” with a literal “hot wheels” is well done and very effective. His hot seat is equipped to ride on any surface, up and down walls as well as ride on water!
Apparently the film’s budget went into the special effects and not into hiring screenwriters that could write believable dialogue. The film features many one-word “Terminator-esque” lines that are funny, but for all the wrong reasons.
Cage’s Blaze is played as a distant goof, who more interested in jellybeans, chimps and music by The Carpenters. He isn’t all there (maybe it’s the pressure of trying to deliver some of the film’s lines without laughing out loud!). Cage doesn’t hit a home run as “The Ghost Rider,” but the film entertains enough to give him a pass. I expect to see a sequel to this film, but for my money Cage will have to ride his bike a long time to make the public forget “The Wicker Man,” but this film is a small start.