Marvel adaptations are doing so well at the box office that they’ve started to adapt the B-list. This film opened with $44.5 million last week; let’s see how much of that momentum is maintained this week.

Cast and Crew

Nicholas Cage as Johnny Blaze / Ghost Rider
Peter Fonda as Mephistopheles
Eva Mendes as Roxanne Simpson
Donal Logue as Mack
Wes Bentley as Blackheart
Sam Elliott as Caretaker

Written and directed by Mark Steven Johnson

Complete details can be found at this IMDB page.

Premise

Johnny Blaze sold his soul to the devil for a good and noble cause, and is cursed by being bonded to the demon Zarathos. (NOTE: I don’t recall if the demon was actually named in the movie; I pulled the name from the comics.)

High Point

“He thought it would be cool.”

Low Point

The cartoony feel to the chain. It ignores gravity and never kinks, so it just doesn’t seem like a chain to me.

The Scores

It’s hard to be original when you’re adapting another material. They did effectively draw from the full 35 year history of the character, but the way they did so might seem disjointed if you’re not familiar enough with the source material to understand the intentions behind the images, attitudes, and situations that appear on screen without sufficient explanation. I give it 3 out of 6.

The effects are, oddly, impressive while still being unconvincing. As mentioned above, the chain doesn’t behave properly. In addition, the flame around the skull looks kind of neat, but the flame never obscures the skull like it does the material behind the skull. As a result, it never quite escapes the two dimensional feel of a comic book, which is a problem when the three dimensional object on screen turns. When the visual effects team makes a mistake like that, it stands out, but often that’s the only way to tell where the CGI ends and the real world begins. I give it 4 out of 6.

The story never makes it clear when revealing what makes the contract so powerful, nor why the Ghost Rider has so little learning curve in combat. (Comic readers will know why he can fight well from day one, but most of the audience won’t.) Most of the character motives and elements are in place. They are generally trite and cliche, but they’re in place. I give it 4 out of 6.

The acting is not bad at all. Cage is a natural fit to the character of Johnny Blaze. (In fact, he wore his own clothes in the role because they were better suited to the character than anything they had in wardrobe. They even had to use makeup to hide his Ghost Rider tattoo.) The rest of the cast play their shallow characters well. I give it 4 out of 6.

The production shows an improvement over Johnson’s work on Daredevil. The editing is tighter (though, I suspect, it was an editing decision that places Roxanne’s restaurant scenes before the transformation instead of during or after), and there are fewer ill-composed shots resulting from directly translating comic book panels to a different aspect ratio without adjusting the positions. I give it 4 out of 6.

The emotional response wasn’t bad, but wasn’t particularly good. Without a combat learning curve, there’s very little suspense. The film should have been 20 minutes longer, and every second of that time should have been spent showing these other demons pounding Ghost Rider into the ground. Without enough challenge, there’s just not enough suspense. I give it 3 out of 6.

Overall, it’s not a bad movie, but it’s not a particularly good one. Comparing again to Mark Steven Johnson’s previous comic book adaptation, I’d say that it’s of the same quality as the theatrical cut of Daredevil, but definitely not as good as the director’s cut. (Incidentally, Johnson says there probably won’t be a director’s cut of this one, as the studio agreed with most of his decisions.) I give it 4 out of 6.

In total, Ghost Rider receives 26 out of 42.