Left for dead

Ghost Rider Starring Nicolas Cage, Eva Mendes and Sam Elliott. Directed by Mark Steven Johnson.
Rated 1.0

Here’s an idea: Let’s get a cool actor (how about Nicolas Cage?), dress him up in leather, put him on a motorcycle … and set his head on fire. Will he still be cool then?

Yes. He will—even with a bad hair-piece—but the movie will likely be a burning pile of nonsensical crap.

Thus is Ghost Rider, another in the growing line of Marvel comics-turned-feature films. The thing is, it actually has some good actors—Cage and Sam Elliott, specifically. But director/screenwriter Mark Steven Johnson, who had a hand in two other Marvel movies—Daredevil and Elektra—gives them cheeseball dialogue ("He may have my soul, but he doesn’t have my spirit!"), even by comic-book standards. And what could have been some kick-ass action scenes with flames and skeletons and motorcycle stunts are reduced to downright mediocre, and at times laughable, with amateurish special effects.

The movie starts out in fast-forward. Johnny Blaze, a motorcycling carnie, finds out his dad has cancer and sells his soul to the devil for his cure. Of course, he should’ve known better than to trust the devil (played blandly by Peter Fonda; get it—Easy Rider/Ghost Rider?), and everything goes to hell.

Johnny ends up ditching his girlfriend, Roxanne, and making it big doing crazy cycle stunts to packed arenas (cue cliché time-warp scene of fading young Johnny’s face into older Cage’s). The plot unfolds, with Cage reuniting with Roxanne (played by Eva Mendes, who is unfortunately reduced to cute cleavage). He is then called on by the devil to track down his son, Blackhawk, who wants to unleash hell on Earth.

The scenes with Blackhawk and his henchmen are so horrendously bad—think nerdy guys trying to look scary in trench coats and growling at the camera. To top it off, these scenes don’t fit at all with the mood of the rest of the movie.

Cage is one of the only good things about the film, and when he transforms into a flaming skeleton riding a blazing bike, it should have been cool. In fact, they apparently X-rayed Cage’s head so his real skull could play his alter ego. But the production value is so bad it’s as if they were created by a bunch of (poorly) trained monkeys. Or maybe Johnson is just that bad.