If you thought it was a bonehead move for Nicolas Cage to star in a superhero movie from the director of Daredevil, you’d be half right.
It is literally that, in that he’s playing Ghost Rider, the skull-headed Marvel Comics character who turns the tables on the Devil after selling his soul to become Old Nick’s motorpsycho errand boy.
Ghost Rider doesn’t work because of the writing. The romance between young Johnny and Roxanne is pure schlock, right down to them carving their initials in an old tree, and it isn’t sufficiently developed when they are reunited. The dialogue is almost uniformly bad, with only Cage and Elliott able to make their cheesy lines work.
On the positive side, even the most jaded critic would be hard-pressed not to enjoy the film when a heavy metal version of “Ghost Riders in the Sky” kicks off act three. It gives the film a much needed and cathartic energy; if only the entire film could have been as involving and enjoyable.
As a comic book adaptation, Ghost Rider is largely faithful to the lore, but it makes one fatal alteration. In the comics, Johnny willingly sells his soul to the devil. In the movie, he essentially gets duped; seriously, even the devil knows that a paper cut doesn’t count! Turning Johnny into a victim of circumstance rather than someone who made a mistake and then has to redeem himself robs the character and the film of depth and integrity. That decision was almost as bad as Blackheart’s dialogue. Almost.