GHOST RIDER crashes, burns, limps forward before ultimately boring the piss out of Harry.
Remember how I said I was looking forward to this?
A long time ago, I took my best friend, RoRo, to go see Kevin Sorbo in KULL THE CONQUEROR. Upon exiting that “experience” – RoRo was quoted as saying, “It was like running up a hill to smell a bucket of shit.”
Yeah. That’s what it was like.
I like Mark Steven Johnson – I watched the film and completely saw what he was attempting. He was making a GHOST RIDER movie for the Junior High set and younger. The film played out like a Video Game where he had a series of opponents that represented Air, Water, Dirt and he was fire. Then he was onto the big baddie of the bunch after clearing these earlier stages. And just like in bad video games, there’s a character, whose sole purpose is to explain shit and take you from stage to stage.
Now in-between these ‘stages’ there’s Nicholas Cage playing Johnny Blaze as an occasional stuntman that likes watching television, something he’ll tell us 4 or 5 times. Oh – and he’s cursed, but like… whatever. Shit like that… happens. It’s cool. He’ll deal.
Oh – and then there’s his ex-16 year old girlfriend grown up to be the talent less vapid Eva Mendes – put into the worst clothes that a body as fine as hers has ever been placed in. You see hints of a voluptuous figure there, but everything looks designed by a reject of Project Runaway. There’s no emotion in her performance. No emotion in anyone’s performance. In fact, I’m convinced the Devil has all their souls, because there was not a soul on screen… not even those CG souls.
If you wanted this film to have Video Game plotting (bad video game plotting) – zero character work and some cool effects from time to time. Then be gone with ya. Seek it out.
But if you just want pain, you won’t need to look into GHOST RIDER’s eyes – you just need to come away thinking about the most striking images the film has to offer. Monkey Kung Fu on the TV. The Demon from CURSE OF THE DEMON, an infinitely better Curse film, on the TV. A scene from Walt Disney’s classic SKELETON DANCE on the TV. And if you get lucky you’ll see trailers for GRINDHOUSE, HOT FUZZ & something else.
But otherwise – it’s a good place to go to meditate on where all of this went wrong.
At no point was any of this taken with an ounce of weight or seriousness.
Imagine at age 16 you found your father asleep in his big overstuffed chair looking at a scrapbook of him and you. Then in a wastebasket you find a letter from a Doctor talking about the advance stage of Cancer your father has and the fact that it’s terminal. Do we get a scene of that young man upset by this? I mean… it is his father, and from the look of things – a good father, a fun father. One that made life exciting and an adventure. Nope – we don’t get a tear. I suppose he’s too tough for that. We wouldn’t want to think he was a weak pussy kid, right?
Ok – then Peter Fonda shows up at your garage, where after discovering your father is about to take a dirt nap, you’ve gone to work on your bike. Now sure… this could be the kid’s way of dealing with stuff… ratcheting the emotions in tight, right? But there’s no emotion on the kid’s face. He’s not working through tears, taking out his aggravation on anything. Then in walks an INFINTELY more talented actor. Peter Fonda is Mephisto in this – and he’s from a totally different film. There’s complexity to what he’s doing. Peter Fonda is in the same realm as only one other actor in the film. They both were making a good GHOST RIDER movie, but I can only believe it is because of what they brought to their characters, not what was given to them.
Now Fonda is acting circles around the kid – as he should. But the rest of this ORIGIN was done with the depth of emotion of accidentally knocking your POM tea glass onto the floor and seeing it shatter. Oh the humanity. Your fine glassware has been destroyed. DAMN YOU SATAN!!!!
Ok… so essentially – boy gets fucked out of his father living, Satan owns his soul… flash forward – perhaps 25 years.
Now think about the character of JOHNNY BLAZE for a bit. For 25 years he’s been a marked man, living on borrowed time. A daredevil that seemingly can’t die. Anticipating at any second that the Boogie Man, Satan was just behind him, sneaking up closer and closer. Perhaps a tap on the shoulder where there is nobody. There in the stands, no, wasn’t him. He travels the world – surviving accidents that can’t have been survived. Proving to himself over and over that on that night, at those crossroads in no man’s land… he had a date with Old Scratch, and some day, he’s gonna get fucked.
But there’s none of that. Instead Johnny is just a quirky goofy guy, who’ll occasionally look out a window and mumble something… lightning flash, skull in the reflection. Not that he notices, not that his roadie crew notices. No, that was just for us, ain’t we special – SLAP SLAP SLAP.
Writing scenes like – “Young Johnny Reads official letter from hospital stating his father has terminal cancer” – there’s more to it than that. You can’t just show that and expect it to connect – you’ve got to FEEL this stuff. You can’t just declare, “He’s cursed” – you have to make the character feel cursed by living each day that his father didn’t.
Making Johnny a flippant quirky Spaz on a bike IS NOT THE CHARACTER.
Making cartoon CG creatures where everything moves with the subtlety of the Tasmanian Devil… doesn’t help.
There’s no atmosphere, no emotion, no resonance, no sense of place or time or period. The music isn’t a part of this film, the actors are not living their characters, they’re reading lines. They’re hitting marks. The sets look like sets, not like habitats – places where living is done. It all feels artificial.
Instead of just placing a glimpse of the demon from CURSE OF THE DEMON, fucking watch that movie. It tells you everything about what it is to not believe in shit, be cursed for just a brief time – and try to fight it, find a way out of it.
It reminded me of Helgeland’s God Awful HULK screenplay from years ago… Ain’t It A Fucking Blast Being The HULK? NO, IT ISN’T.
No – It isn’t good to be a servant of Satan. It isn’t neat. And action scenes are not… getting knocked down – then getting up, wielding your flaming chain into “SHAPE OF… a whirling tornado… a lariat…. Etc…”
At nearly every level I found this film immensely unsatisfying.
I wanted to love it. I’m the guy that was giving Mark a shot on this. I was excusing the lacking in the theatrical cut of DAREDEVIL on Tom Rothman… but I believe that man is still at Fox and not an executive on GHOST RIDER.
I suppose I wasn’t there for a PG-13 GHOST RIDER, but it isn’t even that. Being PG-13 doesn’t mean it isn’t scary. Being PG-13 doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt when your father dies. Being PG-13 doesn’t mean it all has to mean nothing. Being PG-13 doesn’t mean two people with history should act like sitcom actors from the 80s.
I just can’t lay this on the rating, the execs, the actors. This one is Mark Steven Johnson. He totally fucked up. There are moments where it looks cool, but that isn’t what this film should have gone for. That’s what plagued the SPAWN movie. Again a supernatural superhero tale that was an empty vapid waste of property and talent. But mind you. SPAWN was much much better than this.
When I left the theater I had a bit of a buzz about getting to see the GHOST RIDER on screen. That is cool. It is. But ya know what. I read something that someone online wrote – where they said something along the lines of “Do you know how lucky we are to see these characters on screen at all?”
Um. No. I grew up with these characters. I fucking love these characters. I’ve got complete runs of these comics, not for investment reasons, but because I fucking can’t wait to sit my kids down and let them discover these characters the way my father let me discover them. To light their imaginations with the possibilities of heroes and villains and endless possibilities.
But ya know what?
We’re not lucky to see our heroes turned into vapid fare. To see villains turned into pointless creations. These characters are not just drawings. They’re stories, mythologies and they’re fucking damn good.
Not all of them are good to me, but the ones I love, I fucking love. And when I am glad that my fiancée wasn’t feeling good enough to go see the movie, and I come home and I’m glad, because I’m fucking embarrassed by the shit I sat through. Embarrassed that all GHOST RIDER became on screen was some fucking cool animation with zero fucking point.
Well… Yeah, I get pissed off, because I do care. Fucking clown shoes man.
It’s not about just making a movie, it’s about making the RIGHT movie. It’s about seriously thinking about the most potential the character has and delivering it.
Oh – and don’t even get me started on the Australian version of Texas. Whew.
From top to bottom it stunk. Except for Sam Elliott and Peter Fonda. As I said – they were in the movie, I wish the others had been in.