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Ghost Rider is a 2007 superhero film written and directed by Mark Steven Johnson. Based on the Marvel Comics character of the same name, the film stars Nicolas Cage as Johnny Blaze, a stunt motorcyclist who morphs into the demon vigilante Ghost Rider.

Plot

In the American Old West, Mephistopheles (Peter Fonda) sends his bounty hunter of the damned, the Ghost Rider, to retrieve a contract for a thousand corrupt souls from the town of San Venganza. Because such a large amount of souls would cause Hell on Earth, the Rider refuses to give the contract and escapes Mephistopheles, later to hide the contract and himself.

A century and a half later, Mephistopheles reaches out to seventeen-year-old stunt motorcycle rider Johnny Blaze (Matt Long/Nicolas Cage), offering to cure his father's lung cancer in exchange for Johnny's soul. Johnny inadvertently 'signs' the contract when a drop of his blood lands on it after it was pricked by Mephistopheles before Johnny could refuse. The next morning Johnny awakes to discover that his father's cancer is cured, but his father dies that same day in a motorcycle crash. Johnny accuses Mephistopheles of causing his father's death, but Mephistopheles considers their contract fulfilled. Years later, Johnny has become a stunt rider famous for surviving disastrous feats.

Before a particularly dangerous new stunt, Johnny meets his childhood sweetheart Roxanne (Raquel Alessi/Eva Mendes), now a journalist, and makes a dinner date with her that evening. During the same time, Blackheart (Wes Bentley), Mephistopheles' son, comes to Earth to find the lost contract and use its power to overcome his father. To ensure himself allies, he enlists the fallen angels known as the Hidden, a trio of demon spirits who represent three of the four elements — the water-demon Wallow (Daniel Frederiksen), the earth-demon Gressil (Laurence Breuls), and the air-demon Abigor (Mathew Wilkinson). In response, Mephistopheles makes Johnny the new Ghost Rider, offering Johnny his soul in return for defeating Blackheart. While in Ghost Rider form, his head is a skull with fire round it, and his motorcycle is transformed into a fire-emitting shape fuelled not by earthly gasoline but by hellfire, going far faster than any natural motorcycle, and never crashing: in one shot a policeman's handheld radar speed gun aimed at him reads 198 mph and still increasing; where it goes, it leaves a burnt trail of damage in the road; it can go up and down vertical sides of buildings, and on and under water; it can come back to him on command; when day comes, it and he revert to their natural forms. Mephistopheles also gives Johnny the 'Penance Stare', an ability to sear the pain felt by all whom a person has harmed into the wrongdoer's soul.

Johnny rides away; his passage burns the road and makes nearby windows blow out. Police chase him, but he is too fast, and he and his motorcycle are bulletproof in that form. Johnny goes to where the contract was once buried, but the area has been built over and the graves have been moved. He confronts Blackheart at a railroad station on the site and kills Gressil while the others escape. On his way out of the station he uses his Penance Stare on a mugger, leaving the man catatonic; the mugger's victim gets away.

The next day, Johnny wakes in a cemetery chapel, where he meets a man called the Caretaker (Sam Elliott), who seems to know all the history of the Ghost Rider. When he arrives home, Johnny finds Roxanne and tries to explain his situation, but she doesn't believe him. The police arrive and take Johnny into custody for his connection to the damage done to the city and the deaths caused by Blackheart. He transforms into Ghost Rider in the cell and escapes to track down Blackheart. He fights and kills Abigor, in full view of Roxanne and much of the police force. Observing the scene after obtaining the location of the contract, Blackheart realizes that Roxanne is Johnny's weakness.

Johnny goes for advice to the Caretaker, who tells him of his predecessor, Carter Slade, a Texas Ranger known as a man of honor before his greed became a reason for him to be sentenced to death. Slade made a deal with Mephistopheles to break free; in return, Slade became the Ghost Rider who hid the contract of San Venganza. The Caretaker then warns Johnny to stay away from those whom Blackheart and the fallen angels can use against him. Johnny then returns home to find that Blackheart already has Roxanne. During their resulting fight, Johnny finds that his Penance Stare has no effect on Blackheart, who has no (human) soul. Blackheart threatens to kill Roxanne if Johnny does not deliver the contract to him.

Johnny returns to the Caretaker to obtain the contract. Johnny guesses that the contract is buried in one of the graves. He picks up a shovel and starts to dig. The Caretakes snatches the shovel and breaks it, revealing the contract hidden in its hollow handle. Though reminded of the consequences, Johnny asks the Caretaker to trust him. The Caretaker then reveals that he is Carter Slade, having held on to his last bit of power in expectation of this moment. He speculates that Johnny has God on his side because he made his deal with Mephistopheles because of love rather than greed or desperation, and shows Johnny the way to San Venganza. They ride together into the desert, both in Ghost Rider form; Slade is riding a supernatural horse which can keep up with Johnny's motorcycle. They stop a short distance from the town, where Slade gives Johnny his pump-action shotgun and the warning to "stick to the shadows" before fading away.

After killing Wallow, Johnny gives the contract to Blackheart. He quickly transforms into Ghost Rider in an effort to subdue Blackheart, but dawn comes and he is rendered powerless, but his power returns when he crawls into dark shadows. Blackheart uses the contract to absorb the thousand souls into his body, taking the name "Legion". He attempts to kill Johnny, but is distracted when Roxanne uses Johnny's shotgun (which Johnny discarded when it went empty) to separate them. After she fails to destroy Legion, Johnny takes the gun and moves into shadows. This allows him to transform to Ghost Rider form; the shotgun transforms into a supernatural weapon which blasts hellfire (perhaps an ability given to it when Slade was made into a Ghost Rider), and Johnny uses it to blast Legion apart. Legion re-forms, but Johnny moves in and uses his Penance Stare, made effective by the thousand souls inhabiting Legion's body, to render him catatonic. Johnny turns away from Roxanne, ashamed of his monstrous appearance; but she approaches him.

Mephistopheles appears and gives Johnny his soul, offering to terminate the burden of Ghost Rider. Johnny refuses, saying that he will use his power against Mephistopheles, against all harm that comes to the innocent and avenge for his father. Infuriated of being robbed of the power, Mephistopheles vows to make Johnny pay, to which Johnny in response recites his favorite saying: "You can't live in fear". Mephistopheles then disappears, and Blackheart's body dissipates with him. As Roxanne strokes Johnny's bare skull, he reverts to human form and the flesh and skin and hair of his head reappears. Johnny and Roxanne share words and a kiss at a tree marked to symbolize their relationship, whereupon Johnny rides into the sunset. Slade's voice then acts as narrator to close the film.

Cast

Actor Role
Nicolas Cage Johnny Blaze / Ghost Rider
Eva Mendes Roxanne Simpson
Brett Cullen Barton Blaze
Wes Bentley Blackheart / Legion
Sam Elliott Carter Slade / Phantom Rider
Peter Fonda Mephistopheles
Donal Logue Mack
Matt Long Young Johnny Blaze
Raquel Alessi Young Roxanne Simpson
Daniel Frederiksen Wallow
Laurence Breuls Gressil
Mathew Wilkinson Abigor


Production

In May 2000 at the Cannes Film Festivalmarker, Marvel Comics announced an agreement with Crystal Sky Entertainment to film Ghost Rider with actor Jon Voight attached as a producer. Production was scheduled to start in early 2001 with a budget of $75 million, with actor Johnny Depp expressing interest in the lead role.

In July 2000 Stax of IGN reviewed a draft script for Ghost Rider written by David Goyer. The script version is set in Louisianamarker. Stax felt that the revision was convoluted; he suggested that Goyer rewrite the plot and develop the characters.

The following August, Dimension Films joined Crystal Sky to co-finance the film, which would be written by David S. Goyer and directed by Stephen Norrington. In June 2001, actor Nicolas Cage entered talks to be cast into the lead role for Ghost Rider, and by July, had closed a deal with the studio. According to producer Steven Paul, Cage had found out about Depp being a possibility for the role and contacted the director to express his own interest, being an avid Ghost Rider fan.

In the following August, Norrington abandoned the project due to a scheduling conflict, leaving to film the action flick Tick Tock starring Jennifer Lopez. Cage eventually left the project as well. By May 2002, the studio Columbia Pictures sought to acquire rights to the film in turnaround from Dimension Films following the success of Spider-Man. In April 2003, under Columbia Pictures, director Mark Steven Johnson took over the helm for Ghost Rider with Cage returning for the lead role. Both had been drawn by a script written by screenwriter Shane Salerno. Johnson, rewriting Salerno's script, was set to begin production of Ghost Rider in late 2003 or early 2004. With production delayed into October 2003, Cage took a temporary leave of absence to film The Weather Man. Ghost Rider production was slated to tentatively begin in May or June 2004.

Ghost Rider had again been delayed to begin in late 2004, but the lack of a workable script continued to delay production. In January 2005, actor Wes Bentley was cast as the villain Blackheart, having been introduced to Johnson by Colin Farrell, who had worked with the director in Daredevil. Actress Eva Mendes was also cast opposite Cage as Roxanne Simpson. On February 14, 2005, Ghost Rider commenced filming in Australia at the Melbourne Docklands film studios. Then in March 2005, actor Peter Fonda (who starred in Easy Rider) was cast as the villain Mephistopheles. Johnson originally planned to film before an audience at the Telstra Domemarker, but instead opted to create a crowd using computer-generated imagery. The director also chose to film in the motorcycle district of Melbournemarker. By June 2005, principal photography had been completed for Ghost Rider, which was set for a summer 2006 release. In April 2006, the cast and crew performed last-minute reshoots in Vancouvermarker. Ghost Rider was originally scheduled to release on August 4, 2006, but the date was moved three weeks earlier to July 14, 2006. Sony changed the film's release date once more to February 16, 2007 to help relieve the studio's crowded 2006 calendar.

Character portrayal

Instead of a "hard drinking and smoking bad ass" Johnny Blaze, Nicolas Cage decided to give him more depth. "I'm playing him more as someone who... made this deal and he's trying to avoid confronting it, anything he can do to keep it away from him". Cage also explained that Blaze's stunt riding was a form of escape and a way to keep him connected to his deceased father, who taught him to ride. Cage rode a Buell motorcycle for Blaze's stunt cycle, and a heavily customized hardtail chopper named "Grace" which transforms into the "Hell Cycle". The Hell Cycle's wheels, made of pure flames in the comics, were changed to be solid tires covered in flames in order to give the motorcycle more weight onscreen.

Ghost Rider's skull flames were designed to become smaller and blue to display any emotion other than rage. The film's visual effects supervisor, Kevin Mack, and the visual effects team at Sony Pictures Imageworks handled the difficult task of creating computer-generated fire on a shot-by-shot basis. Ghost Rider's voice was manipulated by sound designer Dane Davis, who won an Academy Award for Sound Editing for The Matrix. Davis filtered Cage's line readings through three different kinds of animal growls that were played backwards and covered separate frequencies. Davis then amplified the dialogue through a mechanical volumizer. Director Johnson described the sound as a "deep, demonic, mechanical lion's roar".

Music

In December 2005, musical composer Christopher Young was announced to score Ghost Rider. In addition, Spiderbait, a band that Johnson befriended during filming in Australia, performed a cover of "Ghost Riders in the Sky" for the end credits.

Release

Promotion

In May 2005, Sony Pictures launched the official website for Ghost Rider.

The following July, the studio presented a Ghost Rider panel at Comic-Con International and screened a teaser for the audience. The teaser, which did not have finalized footage of the film, eventually leaked online. In the same month, Majesco Entertainment Company announced its deal with Marvel to acquire worldwide rights to produce the video game Ghost Rider for the PS2, PSP, and Game Boy Advance consoles.

In December 2005, the studio presented a first glimpse of Ghost Rider in a ten-second footage piece on the official site.

In April 2006, Sideshow Collectibles announced the sale of a Ghost Rider maquette based on the concept art of the film.

The following May, domestic and international teaser trailers for Ghost Rider were launched at Applemarker.

The Ghost Rider was also featured in a commercial for Jackson Hewitt Tax Services in which the character presented his income tax forms to a clerk for processing to receive a quick refund check.

On April 19, 2007, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment confirmed that in America the film will be issued on June 12, 2007 as a single-disc Theatrical Cut DVD, two-disc Extended Cut DVD, Blu-ray Disc, and UMD. Special features on the Extended Cut DVD include two commentary tracks, a comic book history feature, and a making of the film featurette.

Extended Cut version was also release on HD DVD in France on September 7, 2007.

Reception

Ghost Rider was commercially released in the United Statesmarker on February 16, 2007. The film grossed $15,420,123 on its opening day, while earning $45,388,836 for its opening weekend. The film earned $52,022,908 over the four-day President's Day weekend, with a per-theater average of $14,374 in 3,619 theaters. The film's total earnings were $115,802,596 domestically, and a worldwide total of $228,738,393.

Ghost Rider received generally poor reviews from film critics. On Rotten Tomatoes, Ghost Rider has a 27% overall approval out of 122 reviews from critics. The results were mirrored in Metacritic reviews as well, displaying a ranking of 35 out of 100 based on 20 critical reviews. Additionally, Michael Ordoña of the Los Angeles Times and Jeannette Catsoulis of the New York Times expressed disappointment in the movie, with Ordoña citing the "satanic references" and "judgemental" elements of Cage's character, and Catsoulis denoting how Johnny Blaze is "more funny than frightening". Although Eric Alt of the Chicago Tribune praises the computer-generated effects of the film, he also criticizes it, calling it a "clumsy, lifeless outing".

Sequel

On February 9, 2007, Marvel producer Avi Arad announced the development of Ghost Rider 2 at a press event. Peter Fonda has also expressed a desire to return as Mephistopheles. In early December, 2007, Nicolas Cage also has expressed interest to return in the lead role as Ghost Rider. Shortly after, in another interview he went on further to mention that he would enjoy seeing a darker story, adding, "He's not eating jelly beans anymore; he's getting drunk". He also suggested that the film could do with newly created villains.

In a September 2008 interview, Nicolas Cage informed IGN that Columbia have taken meetings to start a sequel. Cage noted conversations about the story, where Ghost Rider may end up in Europe on behalf of the church, having story elements "very much in the zeitgeist, like Da Vinci Code." In February 2009, an online source stated Columbia Pictures had greenlit a sequel to Ghost Rider. Nicolas Cage will reprise the lead role, whilst the studio are in search of writers. On September 23, 2009, it was reported that David S. Goyer signed on to write the script for the sequel. Goyer spoke to MTV about the sequel, stating that the story will pick up eight years after the the events of the first film and that he hopes to start filming by 2010.

References

  1. Stax. " The Stax Report: Script Review of Ghost Rider." IGN. July 6, 2000. Retrieved on April 4, 2009.
  2. 'Ghost Rider' Sequel Finally Making Progress
  3. David Goyer's Shocking 'Ghost Rider 2' News
  4. http://splashpage.mtv.com/2009/11/04/exclusive-david-goyer-says-ghost-rider-2-isnt-a-reboot-takes-place-eight-years-later/
  5. David Goyer Talks Ghost Rider 2


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