Writer-director Mark Steven Johnson is a "king of Marvel comic-to-movie adaptation hack". After ruined such potential franchise beginning DAREDEVIL (2003) and ELEKTRA (2005), in which he wrote the script, he continues to demonstrate the good stuff all the wrong reason in GHOST RIDER, another potential franchise turns into forgettable effort.
Teenaged Johnny Blaze (Matt Long) is blindly agrees to sell his soul to the devil-in-disguise Mephistopheles (Peter Fonda) to save his cancer-stricken father, veteran stunt biker Barton (Brett Cullen). Bad move since Devil isn't trustworthy: Mephistopheles does heals Barton overnight into a whole new man but circumstances unavoidable when he's unexpectedly died during a dangerous stunt. Heartbroken and all guilt-ridden, Johnny's life is entirely hopeless and so he hits the road with his chopper to outrun his destiny, even leaving behind his first love Roxanne Simpson (Raquel Alessi).
Cut to 15 years later, Johnny (now played by Nicolas Cage) is still alive and kicking. Like his late father, he's becoming a world-famous daredevil, accomplishing a series of impossible motorcycle stunts like nobody else and miraculously survived what should be fatal accidents. Apparently the Devil is watching over his shoulder, and it doesn't take long before Mephistopheles reappears and needs Johnny to deal with his rebel son, Blackheart (Wes Bentley), who's planning to take over his father's command with his demon pals (Laurence Breuls, Daniel Frederiksen, Mathew Wilkinson). Because of Johnny had make his deal before with Mephistopheles, there's no escape whatsoever. Soon Mephistopheles unleashes Johnny's inner Ghost Rider, a leather-clad walking skeleton with flaming skull in his head and armed with shotgun and chain. So at night, Johnny becomes the Devil's bounty hunter and by day he's returning into normal form. When Johnny meets the Caretaker (Sam Elliott), the seen-it-all old man who knows so much about ghost riders, hell and such, teaches him what he knows. Johnny must learns how to control and master his newfound powers, rekindle his romance with Roxanne (Eva Mendes) who is now a TV reporter and of course, stopping Blackheart from a world of chaos.
Okay, let's start with the good stuff: The opening credit sequence is flaming cool; the special effects are above-average, particularly on the CG look of Ghost Rider character and its oh-so-cool flaming chopper and the film is no doubt so slickly-packaged it's hard to take your eyes off. The movie also works surprisingly well as a guilty pleasure trip with the sort of B-movie quirkiness.
Nicolas Cage is certainly having great fun switching roles between the confused Johnny Blaze and the rock-steady Ghost Rider, though his character is borderlined between pure cheeseball and semi-serious. There's something about him who likes to point his finger to a certain person like he's making a dance move or how about being a total fool of himself staring at the mirror, making funny faces? Always feisty whenever onscreen, Eva Mendes continues to display herself nothing more than window-dressing distraction: She's one hot babe you just can't take your eyes off her. Her perfectly-contoured dress that emphasized on her pretty buxom is all what matters the most to make out of her performance. Despite such appearances by legendary figures including Peter Fonda and Sam Elliott, they doesn't do much to make their respective roles worth remembering for (though I bet no one said as smokin' cool as Sam Elliott voicing out the words, "San Verganza" like he does). The less said about Wes Bentley's Blackheart the better. Even with all the heavy make-up mascara around his face, he's look more like a laughable fool than a scary encounter.
What makes GHOST RIDER even more disappointing is Mark Steven Johnson's totally dismissed idea of inspired all those Sergio Leone's spaghetti western-style to fit into his picture here. The movie is often resulted into such jokier situation it's so hard to take it seriously, filled with awfully stilted and unintentionally so-funny-it's-bad dialogue expositions as well as rather too lightweight on the other side. It's also a waste to see the studio granted Mark Steven Johnson a hefty $120 million budget but yet he can't figure out how to elaborate the action sequences into satisfying extent. Other than the exciting driving-up-the-side-of-the-skyscraper sequence, the rest is awfully uninspired and pathetic. That of course, if you're the kind of who's easily hooked by mere visual of Ghost Rider riding around the streets by chopper which leaves a streak of flames in his wake.
Originally positioned as potential last summer release, GHOST RIDER is postponed due to Mark Steven Johnson's demand to polish the special effects for the better. Yeah, right.