Speechless. I'm absolutely speechless. I've been struck dumb by this film, and not just in the sense that I’m mute. I feel like I've been hit in the head with a sledgehammer of stupidity, numbing my tongue and knocking out the ability to thinking clearly and conjugated verbs properly. This movie is unequivocally, unarguably awful. Ghost Rider, the comic, is not particularly good either, as evidenced by the fact that Marvel has been unable to keep a successful regular series up and running, so I suppose the utter incompetence with which the film is made makes it an accurate adaptation, though a complete and utter failure as a movie.
Where to start? To say that Ghost Rider is by the numbers would be to imply that anyone involved in this film could count, something that I've seen no evidence of. The script is credited to director Mark Steven Johnson, who comic fans will remember from ruining Daredevil, but it certainly seems like the sort of thing that was written by a committee, designed to be clearly understood by the lowest common denominator. Apparently, the focus group known "Mark Steven Johnson" believes that the lowest common denominator has trouble reading the menu at Denny's without a waitress standing by explaining what Hollandaise sauce is, so everything in the script is purely expository. From the very beginning, Sam Elliot starts narrating the story, and from there, things degenerate to the point where the characters may as well be reading the slug lines, loudly voicing INT. NIGHT. GHOST RIDER'S LOFT at the start of every scene. Nicholas Cage, a comic fan so devout he's apparently lost all perspective, plays motorcycle daredevil Johnny Blaze. Blaze sells his soul to Peter Fonda, not for the LSD and lid of bad weed I would have guessed he'd be selling, but rather to cure his father from cancer. Mephistopheles, as one might expect, obeys the letter of the bargain if not the spirit, and Blaze's father dies in an accident anyway. Blaze, on the other hand, is now cursed with the ability to turn into a white-trash tattoo, all flaming skull and motorcycle, once night falls. With these new powers, he battles evil. I don't really understand why it's in the devil's interests to have someone on Earth fighting evil, but thinking about that too much is like trying to figure out why black-rimmed glasses and a forelock kept Lois Lane in the dark for several decades.
After that, a bunch of other crap happens in a very linear, obvious fashion. I'd relay it to you, but the bland, sterile text of my description would probably be so close to the actual painfully predictable and boring script that I might get sued for plagiarism. Cage is a talented actor, but he's skipped the phase of his career where he makes good films with strong, subtle performances and gone straight to Pacino's cocaine years. Peter Fonda inherited nothing from his father, it would seem, other than a hawkish, Roman nose, and Eva Mendez, shockingly, displays the most subtlety in a cast full of inflamed, boorish performances. The worst display, however, comes not from notorious over-actor Cage, but rather from American Beauty’s Wes Bentley. As the demon Blackheart, his particular brand of evil involves a lot of cackling, widening his eyes threateningly, and much of the same sort of ill-defined malevolence that motivated Iago in Othello or, more apt considering the maturity level of this film, COBRA in G.I. Joe. Cage and writer/director Johnson are clearly so giddy at the concept of a Ghost Rider movie they're like ravers on a lungful of nitrous: dizzy, retarded, and nauseous. Which, with the addition of muteness, is exactly how I felt leaving the theatre.