Saturday, February 03, 2007

The Devil Rides High

The film reinforces two of Hollywood’s obsessions: comic book superheroes and Satan. Both of these two obsessions have translated into money-spinners with movies like Superman, Spiderman, Batman in case of comic books, and The Omen, The Exorcist, End of Days in case of the devil. But when you combine the two, the result is little unpredictable. The example is Keanu Reeves’ Constantine, where comic book hero Constantine struggles to save the world from the clutches of the devil himself.
That’s not all, the film also latches on other Hollywood fetishes, chase movies (Fast and Furious types!) with delicious-looking choppers in abundance and with doses of spy thriller (the Eva Mendes subplot), and enormous helpings of special effects. No, the cocktail is not all together bad, however, it leaves off a fiery taste!
The story here is a necessary evil (no pun intended!). It’s there because you need a story to base a movie on. A 20-something Johnny Blaze makes a pact with Mephistopheles (Peter Fonda), precisely, sells his soul, so that his stuntman biker father is cured of cancer. Something potentially goes wrong and it results into Johnny breaking with his girlfriend Roxanne Simpson.
Cut to the present, Johnny (Nicolas Cage) is a star stuntmen, doing daredevil stunts in his bike, and trying to hide from something potentially evil. His meets Roxanne ((Eva Mendes) again, now a reporter but nothing is like before. Mephistopheles too appears again, not to demand his soul, but to make a deal. Apparently, the arch-devil has his own share of problems. So here’s the deal: Johnny turns into the fabled, fiery Ghost Rider, a supernatural agent of vengeance and justice and defeats the despicable Blackheart, Mephistopheles’s nemesis and son, who plans to displace his father and create a new hell even more terrible than the old one. Then, Johnny’s soul shall be freed and he will live happily ever after with Roxanne. So much for the action!
So, Johnny turns into lather clad Ghost Rider with a blazing skull (that’s why his character is called Johnny Blaze) as his motorcycle transforms into a sleek bomber bike aka the Hellcycle. What next? The hunting of the devil’s son, Blackheart (Wes Bentley), and his sidekicks. This is the film: Ghost Rider getting rid of the devils and saving innocent lives.
And this is what stands out in the entire film: special effects. Scenes of Ghost Rider, he of the large skull head, gunning his chopper through city streets and across the desert in blazing glory are just awesome. So much so that you wait for the night when Johnny turns into his fiery counterpart.
Director/screenwriter Mark Steven Johnson’s (of Daredevil fame) love for comic book character is understandable. But Ghost Rider is not as popular as Superman or X-Men, is it?
Cage as superhero is a trifle difficult to digest. However, he’s fantastic as the skull-faced Ghost Rider. As for Eva Mendes, less we say is better.
The surprise is Peter Fonda (of Easy Rider). The idea that he should play the devil in a motorcycle movie is itself innovative. And the best part of the film is Sam Elliott, perfectly cast as the Old West version of the Ghost Rider. It’s difficult to write off a film like this. It may be mindless, but at the end of the day, it a good fun, fire and frivolities notwithstanding!

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