Ghost Rider (DVD)
Directed by Mark Steven Johnson
Distributed by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
His curse not only became his power, but it has also become an addition to my ongoing headache. You see, I am seemingly trapped in a time warp! It's groundhog month for me -- February 2007 to be exact. Or, as I lovingly refer to it, The Twenty-eight Days of Suck. In that one month we were treated to such sub-par Hollywood drivel as The Number 23 (review here), The Messengers (review here), Hannibal Rising (review here), and of course the film you're currently reading about. Now that almost all of the above are out on DVD, I've had to sit through them each again to bring you their respective reviews. I cannot help but feel as if I am suffering from something like a scorching case of big studio induced herpes. Their flare up via home entertainment exists only to irritate me further. Yet for all of its shortcomings, and holy shit are their more than a few, Ghost Rider proved to be the most entertaining of this sorry bunch. That's not saying a hell of a lot, but at least it was never boring. That is until another ten plus minutes of exposition was slapped on to it as a means to enhance my viewing pleasure. YAY EXTENDED EDITION! What have I ever done to deserve this?
Ghost Rider tells the story of Johnny Blaze (Long), a then teenage stunt bike racer who makes a deal with the devil to save his dad's life. Of course the horned-one is not the kind of guy that's to be trusted, and Blaze eventually ends up on the short end of the stick. Yep, despite their contract Johnny's dad bites it and junior is now indebted to Mephistopheles as a result. That devil, I tell ya! Ever the prankster! Fast forward a few years and little Johnny is now all grown up and doing pretty well for himself even though he now mysteriously inhabits the body of a man in his forties (Cage). With his soul still on the chopping block Blaze isn't enjoying his celebrity at all, for he knows one day he'll have to pay the piper.
That day is here.
When an ancient bounty once again becomes up-for-grabs, the Devil (Fonda) returns to cash-in on our hero and turns Blaze into his own personal hitman, the ghost rider. From there all manner of comic book themed mayhem ensues and the game is afoot. How does it all pan out?
Let me just say, I am a HUGE Ghost Rider fan. The character is just too cool for words. I mean come on, black leather, chains, spikes, a flaming skull and a badass motorcycle, what's not to like? There's no denying Ghost Rider kicks ass every second that he is onscreen and he looks amazing!
BUT -- I am also a HUGE Blackheart fan. According to the comic books Blackheart, Ghost Rider's nemesis in this flick, was a giant black skinned demon that resembled The Predator to a certain degree. A big budget celluloid clash between old bonehead and an uber-demon?! Sign me up! Wait ... what's this? Blackheart's appearance has been changed for the movie? Gone is the aforementioned ebony clawed hell-spawn and in his place -- a dude who looks like he got lost on his way to the set of The Covenant (review here). Could it get any more depressing? Well, yes. I guess it could always be worse.
Speaking of worse ...
The film's biggest flaw is also happens to be its saving grace -- Nicolas Cage. Apparently you never know which Nic Cage is going to show up when he's cast in a film. His talent level ranges from excellent (Raising Arizona) to god-awful (The Wicker Man review here). In Ghost Rider he's so incredibly bad that he's completely watchable and dare I say it -- enjoyable. That's quite a feat. Kind of like being the heaviest person with anorexia.
So let's tackle the big question here -- what makes up the extra footage? Honestly, a whole lot of nothing. Just a bit more exposition here and there mixed with a tad more action. In fact, I watched Ghost Rider with the same person I saw it with in theatres, and they couldn't even tell what if anything was added. At least the commentary tracks, of which there are two, will point out the new goodies for ya.
Of the two tracks (one with writer/director, Mark Steven Johnson and visual effects supervisor, Kevin Mack and the other with producer, Gary Foster), Johnson and Mack's was the most engaging and lively. It's apparent that there's a lot of affection for the Ghost Rider character to be had all around and listening to these two guys just makes you long for their movie to have been better. You'll want to root for them. You'll want to love this movie as much as they do. However, good taste and common sense will prevail over their combined hyperbole.
The second of this two-disc set is where you will find the meat of the supplemental material. Things kick off with three featurettes -- Spirit of Vengeance, Spirit of Adventure, and Spirit of Execution, with a combined run time of around an hour and twenty minutes. Not too shabby but exactly the type of behind-the-scenes stuff you would expect. From there we get a peak at about four minutes of animatics that give viewers some quick looks at some of the beginnings of Ghost Rider's key sequences, and finally the extra as a fan I wanted to see most of all -- Sin and Salvation: 40 Years of Ghost Rider Comic Book History! This is it folks, the fanboy mother lode! Here we get to follow the Rider from his beginnings as a dude in a white cowboy suit to his current identity, Danny Ketch, with the former Rider Johnny Blaze at his side. Clocking in at about forty-five minutes, everything we could have wanted to learn is explored in detail with Ghost Rider's artists and writers both past and current. This is a feature that should be included with all comic-to-film-to-DVD releases. It's a nostalgic blast, baby!
In the end Ghost Rider is one of the best worst movies I've seen all year, and this DVD release is certainly well stocked. Comic purists will most likely want to wretch at some of the liberties taken, but folks who don't care about lore and are looking for a superhero with some horror heritage to get behind could certainly do worse. Worth a watch if only to see Cage chew the scenery like a hungry Asian at the Coney Island Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest.
Audio commentary with writer/director, Mark Steven Johnson and visual effects supervisor, Kevin Mack
Audio commentary with producer, Gary Foster
Spirit of Vengeance featurette
Spirit of Adventure featurette
Spirit of Execution featurette
Sin and Salvation: 40 Years of Ghost Rider Comic Book History
3 out of 5
4 out of 5
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