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By Zack Haddad | February 17, 2007

The masses sure seem to love their superhero movies. Why else would the studios keep churning them out? And now that all of the A-list comic book heroes have been made into films, Marvel has decided to give “Ghost Rider” his shot, and while the film is better than the director’s previous endeavors of “Daredevil” or “Elektra,” it is underwhelming in its super-ness. Still, I will go on the record in stating that I did have a bit of fun with this ride.

Johnny Blaze (Nicolas Cage) signed his soul away to Mephisto (Peter Fonda) when he was a teenager to try and save his dad’s life. His dad wound up dying anyway (name a deal with the Devil that ever worked out) and now a grown-up Blaze is a successful stunt rider. That is until Mephisto calls on Blaze to take up the mantel of the Ghost Rider to stop Mephisto’s son, Blackheart (Wes Bentley) from taking over Hell. And that’s it, that is the entire plot of the film. Nicholas Cage delivers some quips, he turns into a flaming skeleton on a motorcycle, beats up a couple lame bad guys and gets the girl. Roll credits. Even though it might not seem like much, it is a fun diversion for 114 minutes, lacking the brooding seriousness of the “Batman” franchise or the disturbing stalker-ness of the latest “Superman” flick..

Now, fun aside, many comic book die-hards (myself included) really don’t want to see their favorite characters put up on the big screen with all of that Hollywood glam, but in recent years so many of the comic book movies have taken themselves way too seriously to point where “Ghost Rider,” in its relaxed state, is a refreshing experience. Does it dip into cheesiness? Yes, but the film has just enough thrills to counter-act the silliness.

Mark Steven Johnson (“Daredevil” and “Elektra”) directed this film, and he did an okay job, considering it can’t be THAT challenging to direct Nicolas Cage in a role that he has supposedly been wanting to play for some time. The spot where the film falters, oddly enough, is in the effects. While some of Cage’s transformations looked cool, the rest of the flaming skull effects were just crap. Then again, how many interesting ways can you animate a skull?

Beyond the skull effects, Eva Mendes as love interest Roxanne lacks true chemistry with Cage. It seems they had to put her in a really low cut top every single shot to make up for her lack of acting. Don’t get me wrong, she is great eye candy, but that is about all she amounts to. And what’s with Blackheart and his minions rocking the terrible costumes with acting to match (just because you wear a trench coat and your voice has reverb doesn’t mean you are scary)? At least Donal Logue wound up being an amazing supporting choice as Blaze’s crew chief and Peter Fonda (the original “Easy Rider”) was a great choice for Mephisto.

As a film on its own, “Ghost Rider” isn’t amazing, but it is definitely a decent popcorn flick. As an entry into the superhero genre, “Ghost Rider” is only a couple notches above the “X-Men: The Last Stand.” Still, go ahead and check out this movie, because it’s fun and, compared to the rest of the theatrical offerings, it’s a ride worth taking.

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