June 7, 2007 - It's tough to figure out how to make a really good comic book movie. You have such a huge fan base already established that can easily become offended, thus labeling the film a big failure. Failures are usually somewhat hard to overcome, but if you are lucky, you might get another chance like Mark Steven Johnson. Some rabid and possibly horrified comic fans that know the name will remember he did the Daredevil adaptation. The interesting thing with Daredevil was that the theatrical release of the film fought hard for the PG-13 rating and it showed, horribly. A few months after the release on DVD, there was a director's cut that arrived. It had a few different angles and secured the solid R rating that a DD film should have received to begin with. It still had its faults, don't get me wrong, but it blatantly showed that it was the version that should have been released.
Well, when it was initially announced that Ghost Rider was in production, every fan was excited. However, when the director was named, fans became a little leery. When the main star, which would be filling the shoes of a beloved Marvel character, Johnny Blaze, was announced, some fans went from being slightly supportive to vehemently against the whole project. I am, of course, referring to Nicolas Cage. Having said that, the interest of the movie went further south than Ghost Rider ever has, but all it took to rekindle the fires of passion for the film was one image of Nicolas Cage as Johnny Blaze astride his bike. From that moment on, fans became as excited about the film as they were for the new Spider-man flick. Over the next few months, names where added to the cast that further sparked the interest of not only fans of GR but casual movie goers as well - Peter Fond, Sam Elliott, Eva Mendez, and Wes Bentley, to name a few.
Then, the movie hit. I will be the first to admit that when I first sat down, my hopes were not that high, mainly due to the treatment of the theatrical rendition of DD. However, once the opening credits began to roll, I was hooked. Of course, I get that way when I see the Marvel banner scrolling through comic book images of the characters and I pinpoint which comic issues I have. Aside from that, and believe me it gets me every time, seeing a western themed Ghost Rider piqued my interest that much more. It's a huge nod to the original conception of Ghost Rider as a pale rider of the old west. This drove the point home that at least they understood where the roots of Ghost Rider resided so that made me happy.
Then came the origin of our main protagonist, Johnny Blaze. Through a quick but well executed origin story, you realize everything about Johnny, the brash young teenager that he was, the loving son, and young man who needed to do what was right. Matt Long does a wonderful job portraying the young Johnny Blaze, and I actually wish he had been in the movie a little longer. Well, things go all kinds of crazy when Johnny's given bad news about a loved one and the appearance of a mysterious man, later referred to as Mephistopheles. Johnny inadvertently makes a deal with Mephisto, as he is so often called, but little did he know that deals with the Devil cost more than you realize. From this point, we flash forward a little to see Johnny now fully grown and a world-renowned stuntman. Everything seems to be going fine, except in the eyes of Johnny himself, until other occurrences begin. After the traditional 30 to 45 minute back-story, we are introduced to Ghost Rider for the first time, and this transformation is probably the one thing every fan can agree on and say they got right. I will not go into too much detail about it, but once you see it, you will be amazed, and maybe even a little frightened.
Ghost Rider delivered in areas that I feared they would flop, but missed the postal service with a few that I assumed they would nail. For instance, the lack of fighting in the film, or rather the simple defeat of a few enemies killed the action for me. On the other hand, I was not really there to see the action of the film; I was there for Ghost Rider on his gloriously cool bike. The overall acting was a bit stale at moments, but the end result made those stale moments soar. Just talking about how well the movie was delivered leaves me with a desire for the sequel. There may not be talks of a sequel just yet, but the movie is being released on DVD June 12, and as an extra bonus, there is going to be an extended cut.
Of course, the standard version of the film will be available as well, but for those that want more, the special two disc extended cut is the to answer your desires. With around nine minutes of extra footage in the film, we can expect a little extra dose of the fabled Penance Stare. There will also be extras thrown on the second disc that, unfortunately, you will not be able to obtain on the standard edition. For instance, Sin and Salvation, a four part Ghost Rider comic book history; Spirit of Vengeance, a two part making of featurette; and three additional making-of features. Moreover, if you spend out the little extra money, you will get a really sweet picture of Ghost Rider blazing the streets on the cover of the DVD as opposed to the standard movie poster treatment. Ghost Rider has not completely removed the comic book movie curse, but it definitely secures itself as one of the ones that made a valiant effort and succeeds where others could have failed. So, come June 12th, prepare yourself for a night with the devil's bounty hunter and enjoy one Hell of a ride.
CCC Project Coordinator