Ghost Rider (2007)
By: J.R. McNamara on July 13, 2007  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
DVD
Sony (Australia). Region 4, PAL 2.40:1 (16:9 enhanced). English DD 5.1, Italian DD 5.1. English, English (FHI), Italian, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Norwegian and Swedish Subtitles. 118 minutes
The Movie
Credits
Director: Mark Steven Johnson
Starring: Nicolas Cage, Eva Mendes, Wes Bentley, Sam Elliott, Peter Fonda Screenplay: Mark Steven Johnson
Music: Christopher Young
Tagline: His Curse Will Become His Power
Country: USA
I am a massive fan of the 'comic-movie'. Having read comics for over the past 30 years, I'm interested in any comic to film adaptation, be it a lowbrow comedy like High School Confidential, or a super budgeted blockbuster-y extravaganza like the Spider-man films, I am always interested to see filmmakers takes on characters from my favourite literary art-form. Sometimes they can be super-duper adaptations, like Sin City…and sometimes they can be Judge Dredd: either way, I am always keen to see where the producer's will take a popular (or in some cases unpopular) license.

One thing I never understand though is unnecessary changes. Do some of these filmmakers feel a need to personalize a character for the sake of the audience, or is it for more egotistical reasons that makes them want to feel the character is their own? Ghost Rider is another example of unnecessary changes, but lucky for me most of it worked.

Ghost Rider tells the tale of Johnny Blaze (Matt Long) who, as a youngster, sold his soul to the Devil (Peter Fonda) in exchange for the life his father, a cycle stunt rider who has been diagnosed with lung cancer and is dying. The Devil, of course, cures him, but allows him to die in a motorcycle accident, which causes Johnny to become hellbent on self destruction, including throwing away a relationship with the lovely Roxy (Raquel Alessi). Flash forward to now, and Johnny (now played by Nicolas Cage) is still trying to destroy himself, until he meets up with Roxy (now played by Eva Mendes) again. He tries to re-ignite their love, but is unaware that the Devil's son Blackheart (Wes Bentley) is challenging his father's rule, and that the Devil will soon call upon Johnny to fulfill his contract with him, by becoming his demonic hitman on Earth, which will no doubt play havoc with any potential of a personal life. After a chance meeting with the Caretaker (Sam Elliott), who seems to know more about his curse than he is letting on, Johnny learns how to use the powers of… THE GHOST RIDER!!

My biggest problem with this film was some of the characterizations. Nic Cage as Johnny Blaze was great… never before have I seen an actor play a two dimensional character so well, and his emotions swung from moody to brooding to angst-ridden with ease. Eva Mendes was wonderful as a cleavage that could speak. Seriously, I don't think I heard a single world that came out of her mouth, as her role is a purely visual one!! Wes Bentley as Blackheart… well let's just say that one of comic artist John Romita Jr's most wonderful visual images was adapted into a skinny emo boy, and didn't necessarily feel as oppressive and evil as he was in the comics.

Now though, we get to the performance cream, Peter Fonda as the Devil was inspired, and his longing looks at the motorbike were a grand harking back to his Easy Rider days. I suspect though, that his portrayal of Satan may be quite easy for him, and I suspect he may have been playing himself, as is Sam Elliott's take on the gravelly, tobacco-chewin' Caretaker.

As far as the film itself is concerned, it is a great time, if you don't take it too seriously. Many movies rely on more than the stars abilities and this is one of them. The special effects are nothing short of brilliant! Anyone who goes to a film that features a burning demon riding a hog, who fights with a semi-sentient chain and doesn't have a good time…well, perhaps you should be reading the reviews at Disney's website. This review, as the title says, is for the extended version of the film, and to be quite honest, I couldn't tell what scenes were extra ones! I saw this film at the cinemas, and the extras scenes don't change the film, like say the extended cut of the Daredevil film, but just add to the scenes already there, like the extended cut of the Fantastic Four film.
Video
Spectacular transfer! This film is presented in a clear as crystal 2.40:1 anamorphic widescreen that remains consistently astonishing.
Audio
The audio is presented in 5.1 and really takes advantage of the set up…the bike and cars that roar down the streets of Melbourne really feel like they are driving around you, and every creak of leather and tinkling of chains are as clear as a bell. Top shelf.
Extra Features
To summarize the comic and movie related extras on this disc; I must paraphrase a character from The Simpsons, whose appearance is not unlike my own: best… extras… ever!!

Disc one features 2 commentaries, both of which are interesting looks at the making of and ideas behind this film. The first is performed by director Mark Steven Johnson, and visual effects supervisor Kevin Mack, and the second is by producer Gary Foster. Also on this first disc are trailers for Spider-Man 3 and Stomp the Yard.

The second disc really kicks ass! The first is a series of Ghost Rider animatics, which are quite detailed when you consider they are really for nothing more than blocking out visuals and special effects… surely with this kind of detailed technology for filmmaking, storyboards are soon to be a thing of the past!!

The next features on the disc are a series of Makings of. The first is titled Spirit of Vengeance, which deals with mainly the nuts and bolts of the making of this film, and showcases some of the locations in Melbourne Victoria, where the majority of this film was made. The second is titled Spirit of Adventure, which showcases the stunts of the film, and the last is titled Spirit of Execution, which is all about the post production of the film. All in all these come together to make a complete making of production, and feature interviews with Nicolas Cage, Eva Mendes, Sam Elliot, and many more, and are a complete look at the stuff needed to make a movie.

The next special feature is my favourite. Being a fan of comics to movies, I enjoy when there is a retrospective on the origins of characters, and interviews with comic creators. The Ghost Rider: Sin and Salavation is divided into 4 parts: The 1970s, the 1980s, the 1990s and the 2000s, and features interviews with such comic legends as Roy Thomas, Mike Ploog, J. M. DeMattis, Howard Mackie, Mark Texiera, current editor in chief of Marvel Comics Joe Quesaada, Axel Alonso and computer artist extrordinaire Clayton Crain. Discussing everything from the influence on the character (from a 50s western, to Elvis Presley and Evil Keneval) to the revamping of the character in both the early nineties, and again in the new millennium, these documentaries really give a complete insight into the whole creation of the character.
The Verdict
Don't even bother with the single disc of this film; fans of either the comic or the film MUST buy this two disc edition immediately. While the performances may have been lacking somewhat, every time that flaming skeleton riding a Harley with burning tires comes onto the screen, you tend to forgive and forget.
Movie Score
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