Cage has a storied history of trying to star in his very own superhero movie. First, there was Burton’s ill-fated ‘Superman Lives’ reboot. The details are certainly out there and many have thorough descriptions, but the language tends to be that of Mordor which I will not utter here. Soon after came rumors of Cage landing the role of the Scarecrow in Batman Triumphant, Joel Schumacher’s failed pipe dream to resurrect his stock with DC fans. Later, Cage was offered Green Goblin in Raimi’s 2002 Spider-man and even expressed interest in playing Tony Stark. But it wasn’t until 2007 when Cage finally got his wish, this time as the demonic anti-hero Johnny Blaze. Blaze, whose soul belongs to Satan himself, moonlights as a daredevil by day while using his hellish powers to thwart sinners by night.
Cleverly hidden from the viewer until credits roll is the involvement of one, Mark Steven Johnson, Ghost Rider’s writer and director. Previously Johnson was best known to comics fans for making Daredevil the laughing stock that it is today. To be fair, I myself assumed Johnson was driven out of Hollywood completely with pitchforks and torches, so there was no way his attachment could have unfairly biased my experience. On the other hand, I did have occasional flashes of blind Affleck and Jon Favreau mustard gags. So that’s probably a wash.
Holy schnikes is this a terrible script. I’ve seen plenty of terrible scripts, and apparently so has Johnson since his adaptation swallows up the worst cliches and then sharts them all over a span of 110 minutes. Ask A Ninja has a now immortal takedown of Dead Man’s Chest — but really, any of those ‘Pirates’ sequels — flagging Disney for trying to tackle too many things at once. Ghost Rider tries tackling all the things ever, and it fails spectacularly at every one. Really, why even bother with a plot synopsis since you’ve seen this movie already? Eva Mendes’ Roxanne is here for your unrequited love interest. Donal Logue can get you your laughs as Johnny Blaze’s manager/best bud. Sam Elliott adds gravitaaas. A skilled screenwriter might be able to balance revenge, romance and comedy, but Johnson is not a skilled screenwriter.
All that said, bad scripts are great for one thing: making every actor involved look like a giant idiot. Sam Elliott, whose voice alone could strip the paint off a Corvette with its soothing sandiness, loafs about some church graveyard, diggin’ holes and spoutin’ ambiguities as Johnny Blaze’s stupid mentor. Even Peter Fonda is a serious jag as the villain Mephistopheles; apparently the devil likes sporting canes and black tarps in excess. Why is Fonda even in this, you ask? Probably because he’s best known for riding on a motorcycle in another movie made forty years ago. Of course that’s stupid logic, but case in friggin point.
Cage and his motocross washboard abs really try their best here. His inconsistent Southern drawl and candy bean obsession combine for a solid effort considering what he’s been given, but part of me feels if Nic Cage himself can’t sell the screams of a man slowly starting on fire, then nobody can:
Really, this is almost a tragedy for Cage, considering all the man wanted was to be a hero. Instead, he got to fight Seneca Crane and record motion capture work for a flaming skull straight out of a Final Fantasy VII cutscene.
As promised, I’ll return later this week. AND WITH A VENGEANCE.
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