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Ghost Rider
Reviewed by Joe Crowe, © 2007

Format: Movie
By:   Mark Steven Johnson (director)
Genre:   Superhero movie
Review Date:   February 21, 2007
RevSF Rating:   7/10 (What Is This?)

I have always had a rule about movies. If there's a dude with his skull on fire riding a motorcyle, I'm in.

I wish my skull was on fire.

I also wish I could ride a motorcycle. But moreso, the flaming skull thing. I bet it burns and stuff, but it really looks neat. That's why Ghost Rider has been a favorite since I read his 1970s comics. The idea, as created by Roy Thomas and Gary Friedrich, is just fun. A superhero who rides a motorcycle is fun. Yeah, but what if his head is a skull? Great! Better yet, what if his skull is on fire?

Stunt motorcycle rider Johnny Blaze turning into Ghost Rider was one of the way-out, super-neat ideas that Marvel boxed up in their attic for years, like Ms. Marvel and Iron Fist. There were X-Men comics to crank out, for goodness' sake. But not a single mutant's head was on fire.

Then he returned in 1990, but he was a troubled teen, not a stunt cycle driver. Lame. Then the original Johnny Blaze came back, and you could tell it was the 1990s, because he had a ponytail. Double lame. His arch-enemy was Vengeance, who had a purple skull with fangs, because lameness is X-treme!

Meanwhile, Nicolas Cage came out and admitted he liked comics, and he wanted to make comic book movies. The guy was in the excellent Raising Arizona, so I gave him the benefit of the doubt. Instead he made morose melodramas. His descent into movie lameassery isn't as pronounced as Tom Hanks, but still. He even got an Oscar, for crying in Leaving Las Vegas. He made a few action flicks, but none of them had superheroes.

He kept talking about doing superhero movies, but made 3-hanky weepers instead. Not fun. Then he supposedly was almost Superman, which would have been weird. But it would have been something. Instead, all the top guys' movies got done while Cage did Captain Corelli's Mandolin.

Director Mark Steven Johnson filmed Daredevil too, in which he outed himself as a comics fan. Johnson on that movie proved that fandom can be good and bad. You still have to make a movie, whether you know your stuff or not. Like Daredevil, Ghost Rider is packed out with comic book references. Like Daredevil, it has plot holes you could drive through. But in Ghost Rider, you drive through them on a flaming motorcycle.

Like in all movies with the devil, the devil is really cool, but here he's played by Easy Rider Peter Fonda, which is awesome.

Ghost Rider's origin involves a deal with the devil, which never ends well, as any viewer of former Nicolas Cage co-star Jon Lovitz can tell you.

Sam Elliott could have been in this a lot more. He's just so good. Hello? Roadhouse? He plays the Caretaker here, only because there wasn't a Ghost Rider movie 20 years ago for him to be in. He survived the Hulk movie and somehow agreed to do another superhero flick. Maybe because this time he didn't have to shave.

You don't have to know anything about the comic book, because, well, guy with skull on fire riding a motorcycle.

There are parts that aren't very awesome. The punny dialogue hurt me. The effects sometimes looked like a video game. But I dug it. I'm tickled that a 4th-string comic-book superhero is in a live-action movie. I need more of them. They don't have to be excellent. But this one can be forgiven some things, because Donal Logue is funny, Sam Elliott is Sam Elliott, and it's a plain ol' fun action flick with fightin' and motorcycle ridin'.

Now in interviews Nicolas Cage talks about making a She-Hulk movie. Apology accepted.

RevolutionSF senior editor Joe Crowe would like to warn kids and college students out there that catching your body parts on fire will not cause you to ride a motorcycle better.

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