Based on a Marvel character — nope, relax, we’d never heard of it either — Ghost Rider is the latest comic book character to make it to the big screen. While some of the other franchises — particularly Spider-Man and The X-Men —have their nuances and greater themes, Ghost Rider is a little bit more straightforward. This is good v evil in a fairly literal form, long on special effects and short on subtlety.
The titular Ghost Rider is the Devil’s bounty hunter and, right now, it’s stunt rider Johnny Blaze (Nicolas Cage). Some years ago, Johnny made a pact with the Devil (Peter Fonda) to save his father’s life. Now, with the Devil’s own son Blackheart (Wes Bentley) causing chaos and threatening rebellion, the Devil’s claiming his end of the bargain. If Johnny wants his soul back, he must hunt down Blackheart and his fellow rogue demons and whisk them back to Hell. And that’s why, every night, Johnny changes from his mild-mannered, jelly bean-eating, Carpenters-listening self into a leather-clad flaming skeleton on a big motorbike.
However, while he’s forced to do the Devil’s bidding, Johnny’s spirit still shines through and he vows to use his new-found powers — basically flaming metal whip-wielding and an ability to make people feel really bad — to defend the innocent. Rah. There are then some interesting elements to Johnny’s evolution — he sold his soul for love, not greed — but, for all the depth this is supposed to bring, Ghost Rider is still basically a couple of hours of big stunts and bony whooping of ass.
It is a load of old tosh, of course. But, frankly, it rocks. It’s funny, not afraid to laugh at itself and stupidly exciting. The effects are great, the nigh two-hour running time flies by — and it probably deserves an extra mark out of five simply for having a song called Satan’s Penis on the soundtrack.