A couple of years ago it was reported that Nicolas Cage would play the title role in the rebooting of the Superman franchise. He didn’t get the part, the unknown Brandon Routh became the Man of Steel instead, but he didn’t give up on the idea of playing a superhero. He’s a big time comic book aficionado so he lobbied to star in Ghost Rider, Marvel comic’s story about Johnny Blaze, a daredevil motorcyclist who becomes a bounty hunter for the devil, and won the role from Johnny Depp who was originally slated to play the flame-headed vigilante.
Johnny Blaze is a complicated character. He sold his soul not for the usual reasons—power or wealth—but for the love. His father, and motorcycle mentor, was being consumed by cancer and had only days to live when one day the young Blaze was visited by a man who looked very much like Peter Fonda. The Easy Rider star, playing the Devil, offers Blaze a deal: his soul for a cure to his father’s illness. Of course when you deal with the Devil you don’t always get what you bargain for, as Blaze soon discovers.
The trade dooms him to an empty life, void of love and other worldly pleasures. Worse, when confronted with evil Johnny Blaze turns into the fiery Ghost Rider, a skeletal form covered in fire rather than flesh. That kind of thing can make relationships kind of dodgy, even if your love interest is an old flame that reenters your life years after you abandoned her.
I’d like to say that Cage “lights up the screen” or something witty like that and mean something more than his head is on fire for most of the movie, but there is something quite odd about this performance. He seems to be having fun with the part, but the movie has tone problems and most of them stem from Cage’s quirky performance.
Ghost Rider can’t quite make up its mind whether it wants to be a comedy, a romance or a supernatural action flick. It tries to be all three, but when the main character’s most noticeable trait is a flaming skull for a head it’s hard to take any of it seriously. And maybe we’re not meant to take it seriously, but with a better-realized story Ghost Rider may have caught fire.