A movie adaptation of something as iconic as Marvel Comics' Ghost Rider character can never really win—not without Christopher Nolan or Sam Raimi at the helm. But in spite of writer/director Mark Steven Johnson's (Daredevil) efforts, Ghost Rider does succeed, in a limited way: It entertains your dorky inner 13-year-old.
In telling the story of Johnny Blaze—a stunt rider who makes a deal with the devil and becomes Ghost Rider, a flaming skeleton who rides around on a bestial motorcycle—there are obstacles aplenty. The casting's at the top of the list: One of the best parts about Ghost Rider is watching Nicolas Cage, as Blaze, swagger around in leather pants while desperately trying not to over-Elvis everything. A grittier portrayal of the besieged Blaze would have been welcome, but smarminess aside, Cage is more palatable than most of the wooden supporting cast, which includes Donal Logue as Blaze's best friend and Eva Mendes as Blaze's girlfriend. Exceptions to the overall casting handicap are Peter Fonda as Mephistopheles and Sam Elliott (listen for the strummed rustic guitar chords) as Ghost Rider's ally the Caretaker. Impossible to miscast, this venerable pair play dire caricatures of themselves, with exceptionally cheesy results.
Despite Johnson's penchant to dumb down and tediously overexplain Ghost Rider's backstory, Ghost Rider's real attraction is its action: We see the soulless flaming skull dispatch demons with the infamous "Penance Stare," battle a helicopter with his fiery chain whip, set ablaze miles of asphalt on his supernatural chopper, and ride across water like a goddamned Jesus lizard. It's this latent inferno of thrills—along with periodic laughable exchanges between Blaze and the Caretaker or Mephistopheles—that make Ghost Rider as entertaining an adaptation of the comic book as one could expect.