Written by David Holland
Nicholas Cage has a well documented love of comic books. His stage name borrows from Luke Cage. While filming the movie “Ghost Rider”, he had to cover up his Ghost Rider tattoo. And it is definitely a good thing when your lead actor is passionate about the source material, but then again when your lead actor is Nicholas Cage, well, it’s certainly going to be interesting.
I mean, it’s Nicholas Cage. This is an actor who seems like he will take almost any role offered to him and if you cast him, you know exactly what you are getting: the one character Nicholas Cage plays. This isn’t to say that every Nicholas Cage movie is the same – far from it! The data analysts at FiveThirtyEight have actually graphed the five types of Nicholas Cage movies, along the Rotten Tomatoes score axis and the Domestic Box Office axis. According to this graph, Ghost Rider falls squarely in the “A National Treasure” category (middling Rotten Tomatoes score, but respectable box office numbers). If your movie idea is a bit ridiculous or your script is just okay, throw a Nicholas Cage in and you’ll probably see more success.
That seems to be the strategy that the creators of “Ghost Rider” followed, and you’ll like it if you like watching his movies. Sam Elliott plays Carter Slade, aka the Caretaker, and Elliott is just one of those dependable character actors who makes everything better just by being in something. The movie has cool stunts, cool motorcycles, and that good, old-fashioned, early 2000s CGI. It’s fun and distracting, and Cage brings it some life.
“Ghost Rider” doesn’t seem to know exactly what it wants. It follows in the lighthearted, cartoonish humor of the “Fantastic Four” franchise, which is a weird choice for a movie about a guy who sells his soul to the devil. There isn’t a lot of depth to any of the bad guys, nor to the *contract*, which is such a vague MacGuffin that I had to Google “What is the contract from Ghost Rider?” while watching the movie because I didn’t understand what it would actually do for the bad guys. There is a group of bad guys (demons? fallen angels?), but they all just sort of drift namelessly into the story so that Ghost Rider can defeat them. Blackheart doesn’t seem to have any real purpose other than being the bad guy of this movie. He is opposed to Mephistopheles, but then again so is Ghost Rider somehow. It is all a little convoluted. The biggest issue is definitely the tone one though. At times the movie is horror, at times it is comedy, and at times it is just Nicholas Cage weirdness. And look, I’m not saying there is necessarily anything wrong with Nicholas Cage weirdness, I’m just saying it doesn’t work for this movie.
“Ghost Rider” is entertaining if not the powerful treatment the character deserves. If you’re looking for a compelling Ghost Rider story, may I recommend the character’s arc in Season Four of “Agents of SHIELD”?