Ghost Rider
Review by Bird Boy

I doubt there were many who walked away from watching Ghost Rider completely impressed. The film is full of cliché dialogue (both from the heroes and the villains), plenty of overacting (and quite a few lines under acted by Eva Mendes), the special effects lean towards the hokey side and the Rider’s dialogue when in full skull glory is laughable at times. Still, even with the predictable ending and lame dialogue, I was fully entertained throughout the film, even if I was rolling my eyes at some of the absurd aspects.

For those unfamiliar with the story of Ghost Rider, it follows the character of Johnny Blaze (Nicolas Cage) who strikes a deal with the devil (unknowingly at first) to save his father from cancer. His father is miraculously healed the next day and as Johnny prepares to ride off with his girlfriend, Roxanne (Eva Mendes), he hears in the distance a crash and a scream—his father was in an accident while performing a motorcycle stunt in the local carnival. Blaze runs to his father, but it’s already too late and Blaze quickly realizes the deal he made would be with him for life. Years later, Blaze is still racing bikes and performing ludicrous stunts and when the Devil’s son, Blackheart, arrives to make a Hell on Earth (literally), Blaze transforms into the Ghost Rider, the Devil’s bounty hunter.

The plot is overly simple and follows a lot of previous superhero formulas proven successful: create a relationship between two characters, add in conflict, save the girl at the end of the day and learn that your powers can be used for good. I was actually surprised how much it reminded me of Todd McFarlane’s Spawn character—their characters creations are largely the same, although recently the Spawn character has taken some drastic turns in the comic that drastically set it apart from Ghost Rider. Still, the characters are both (or were, rather) pawns of the Devil and they made their deals out of love.

Despite the films horrendous dialogue, I found it fun in the same way I found Fantastic Four enjoyable—I simply didn’t think too much about it. As much as I hate it when actors say they accept the silliness of the movies there in simply because they are based on comic books, it really applies to Ghost Rider. I’m sure the film could have been twenty times darker and garnered an R rating (perhaps there is an R rated cut somewhere—the director, Mark Steven Johnson, had an R rated cut of Daredevil sitting in the wings of Fox studios before it finally arrived on DVD a few years after the original PG-13 cut was released), but the dialogue…man, it’s just hokey as hell. I never saw this movie in the theater and watching it on DVD, I was actually able to complete Blackheart’s and Ghost Rider’s dialogue before they finished. On top of that, Mendes’s acting goes from horrible to great—I’m not sure what the deal was with the highway scene, but the way she flailed her body around I thought I was going to have to mute her every time her character popped up on screen.

Even with its short comings, Ghost Rider is an enjoyable ride. If you’re a fan of previous Marvel outings and you weren’t bothered by their hokey nature then feel free to pick this title up. Otherwise, it’s worth a Rental at best. The film is fun once, but I doubt many will be up for repeated viewings.

Like a lot of movies of late, Ghost Rider comes in three varieties: widescreen single disc, fullscreen single disc and widescreen two-disc. On top of these three releases is a myriad of store exclusives, ranging from bonus discs to storyboards and art to just a different slip cover. For this review I’ll be covering the fullscreen single disc release, as I was unfortunately unable to secure the two-disc Extended Cut.

Packaged in a standard amaray case with no insert and plain disc art, Ghost Rider comes with easily navigated menus and a few trailers before the film starts. The films full screen transfer looks fine and is clean and clear for the most part—there is some compression in the scenes with the intense reds, but other than that there aren't any blemishes. The real surprise is the audio, which sounds remarkable in both the 5.1 Dolby and 5.1 DTS mixes. There is frequent use of the rear channels and the DTS mix, with just a little bit of extra bass, delivers the better of the two audio tracks. Also included is a 5.1 French mix.

The first of the special features are the two commentaries. On the first commentary are Writer/Director Mark Steven Johnson and Visual Effects Supervisor Kevin Mack. The pair makes for an entertaining track, ranging from the writing and directing process to how difficult it was to create all of the Rider’s flame effects. The other commentary, with producer Gary Foster, repeats a lot of what we hear from Johnson, but does delve into the production side a bit more (as can be expected). Both tracks are lively and worth listening to if you enjoyed the film.

The only other special feature on the single disc release is the making-of documentary “Spirit of Vengeance.” It’s a great look into the film, but as one can expect, you don’t get the full story in this single documentary. In fact, there are two other parts that kind of go hand in hand with this “Vengeance” documentary, “Spirit of Adventure” and “Spirit of Execution”, but are only available on the two-disc Extended Edition of the film.

There are no deleted scenes on the set (the Extended Cut features mainly scenes with extra dialogue, I didn’t really notice that much of a difference between the two films—it’s certainly not as big of a change between the two cuts as Johnson’s Daredevil was). I’m hoping they’re just saving it for another release down the line, as I’m sure there were plenty of darker scenes cut from the film—considering how Johnson went with Daredevil, it’s hard to believe he didn’t go even darker with Ghost Rider.

Overall the single disc release is adequate if you aren’t too thrilled with the film. If you did enjoy the film though, Skip this release and pick up the two-disc Extended Edition—it’s got all the same content as this set does and then some.

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