Beware of the small print when you sign a deal with the devil is one of the lessons Marvel Comic's Johnny Blaze learns in Ghost Rider, a DVD released very shortly after the movie's theatrical release. The fact Ghost Rider was directed by the same guy who did the dreadful Daredevil might have been enough to keep butts out of theatre seats but as a DVD Ghost Rider is lots of fun, looks pretty cool, has some willingly funny moments, some cool special effects, great moments, but it is still too long.
Ghost Rider is pretty faithful to its Marvel Comics origins so do not go looking for profound characterization, subtle story telling (you know Johnny is in love with Roxanne because he carves their initials in a tree; you know Johnny's dad smokes too much because he lights up and coughs and falls asleep with a pack of Marlboros in his hand; you know the devil is the devil because when he walks by light bulbs explode) and so on. The approach here is fairly simple: a cool character, Johnny Blaze, played by a bit too old for the part Nicholas Cage, an easy to follow plot, ugly baddies, and lots of really cool looking CGI scenes. If you are looking for a cinematic oeuvre, pass. If you are looking for some sit back, relax, don't think too hard entertainment the Ghost Rider DVD will provide that.
Plot wise, Ghost Rider is pretty simple. Johnny Blaze signs a pact with the devil to save his old man but doesn't really get the meaning of the contract. Johnny's dad dies anyways and Blaze's soul belongs to the devil. The devil, Peter Fonda, is also pretty clear that anything that gets between him and Johnny, like Johnny's girlfriend, would meet a terrible end so Johnny Blaze leaves his girlfriend behind and becomes a loner and unkillable carnival motorcycle stunt driver complete with Ozzy Ozbourne soundtrack when he is at the track and The Carpenters soundtrack in his private life.
Years later, Blaze is a successful death defying stunt man. Meanwhile the devil's son, appropriately named Blackheart --where do they get these names?-- is out looking for a contract a cowboy, Sam Elliott as the Caretaker, refused to hand over to Mephistopheles. If Blackheart and his evil looking cohorts get the contract it is the end of the world as we know it. The devil calls on Johnny to fulfill his contract so Blaze becomes a flaming cadaver at night, the Ghost Rider, to battle Blackheart and other baddies. This is where the movie gets kind of long.
Some of the CGI effects in the Johnny Blaze DVD are cheezily bad and badly directed, such as Johnny's first transformation into the Ghost Rider, and Blackheart's cohorts look like they were drafted from a C list of horror movie characters with the lack of talent to boot. Other CGI effects are pretty cool though some are just there to justify the budget. It also seems that Nicholas Cage took his acting cue from Eva Mendes in his last scene with Peter Fonda. This is what a good director is supposed to avoid; the director here is Mark Stephen Johnson.
Still, Ghost Rider is fun. Not a classic mind you but good teenage boy testosterone fun without the boobies. It is an interesting mix of superhero, Evil Knievel, and horror movies that works.