Monday, February 19, 2007

At Least It's Not "DareDevil": Ghost Rider

In life, there are generally two types of people:

People who've never seen "DareDevil"

And people who have about three days to live.

For those of you who are capable of living long, healthy lives with people who love you, allow me to explain the basics of Ben Affleck's curse upon the world.

"DareDevil" was a testament to all that is wrong in filmmaking.

Bad direction made great actors such as Jennifer Garner, Colin Farrell and Michael Clarke Duncan appear to suck wind on screen.

Bad special effects increased the likelihood of cataracs for all who bore witness.

Bad writing literally peeled the paint of the walls in a dozen movie theaters around the world.

Ben Affleck

As I only have several hours to live, I'll make this post mean something.

Recently, as you may have guessed from the title, I saw "Ghost Rider." Shortly afterwards I realized how much better it was than "DareDevil."

Now, I know what you're thinking. I compound fracture covered in salt and ants would be better than that film, so how can it be a good litmus test?

Well, it can't, but it sure serves as a warning to any who dare take a comicbook hero to the silver screen.

So let's move along to Nicky Cage's latest romp.

For those of you who are uninitiated with the Ghost Rider franchise, Johnny Blaze (yup...that's his real name, folks. Blaze. Don't ya just love the intrepid minds of comic lore?) is a stunt motorcycle rider who made a deal with the Devil (actually Mephistopheles, a name which will ring true to all you literate folk)

One day, when some really metrozexual demons decide to get all uppity in the land of the living, the Devil comes to collect.

Johnny Blaze becomes Hell's bounty hunter, a skeletal chopper jockey with the fashion sense of an S&M patron.

But we haven't even gotten to the strange part.

Woven into this Persian Rug of a film is a love story that barely makes sense without the demonic overtones (and highschool drama club undertones). Eva Mendes (arguablly the most attractive woman in this article) flows from scene to scene in figure hugging outfits that never fit her character or the visual flare of the movie. She speaks with a lisp that should be endearing but comes off as too dim to pass on TV (she plays a reporter, enunciation is pretty damn important)

What fails in the film...well, besides A the idea that Eva would go after old Nicky after he stood her up--in the rain--after asking her to run away from home with him. It's just not plausable for any woman scorned to fall back into those greasy, lanky arms.

Actually, I misspoke. Nick is JACKED in this movie. If you thought he bulked up for "Con Air", you gotta check him out here. As a man very confident in my heterosexuality, I can say he is looking as ripped as can be (for Mr. Cage, anyways. Ah-nuld he is NOT)

The biggest issue with this film is the villains. Let's start with deal maker Mephistopheles (Peter Fonda from "Escape From L.A."). He's about the best thing this story has going for it. Save his pointless diatribes about spirit and souls and purpose, he really does make a passable demon.

His lessers, however, do not. Wes Bentley (the "life is too beautiful for me" kid from "American Beauty") is Blackheart, the most effeminate demon ever to polish the silver screen (yes, that includes Elizabeth Hurley in "Bedazzled"). His lines sink faster than the Titanic, and each carries a very disturbing vocalization that sounds as though Wes is gurgling the soul of some American Idol reject.

His compatriots are just as laughable. The Elemental Demons barely speak, and when they do you'll have to laugh to avoid cringing. The dialogue may be the worst of any comic book movie I've seen (save "DareDevil")

What fun there is to be had comes from the tongue-in-cheek acknowledgements the film makes. I mean, we're talking about a flaming skeleton on a possessed chopper who whips a chain around and burns people's souls. When he's flamin', Ghost Rider sounds very nasally (ironic, seeing as he has no nose) and it really takes away from what could be a terrifying image.

The other attempts at greatness come from Sam Elliot (the cowboy from every western you've EVER seen). He comes on screen and breathes life into the movie without ever making a bold move. He plays the Master, teaching the young apprentice the ways of the Ghost Rider. He does this by being a smarmy, mustached cowboy, just as he always is.

I liked this movie despite its flaws, and you might too. I can't forgive some of the design choices, and the speeches are as bad as in any movie you'll see, but you can't go into a comic book movie asking for much.

Just that its better than "DareDevil."

This movie gets six Flamin' Flaming Skulls out of ten.

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