Nicolas Cage is a serious comics nerd and has a Ghost Rider tattoo on his arm, which explains why he signed up for this Marvel adaptation. You’d have thought director Mark Steven Johnson’s indifferent work on Daredevil would have made him think twice.
Motorcycle stunt rider Johnny Blaze makes a deal with the Devil to save his dad from cancer. Years later, Mephistopheles comes to collect his dues. Four demons (including Satan’s own son) have escaped from Hell, and Johnny – transformed each night into the Ghost Rider, with a flaming skull for a head – must track them down before they locate a mystical MacGuffin.
The storyline is over-familiar (Constantine ploughed the same furrow), and the execution is feeble. Satan Jr and his cronies are generic bad guys in goth duster coats, and their ability to turn into the elements inspires sniggers (the one that turns into water is, basically, Puddle-Man). As Blaze, Cage cruises along on autopilot, looking dopey or blank. As Ghost Rider, his brain-stabbing one-liners make Mr Freeze from Batman & Robin look like Oscar Wilde. Despite the statutory grizzled, exposition-spouting mentor figure, nothing’s adequately explained – not even the basics, like why Satan wants these guys back, or why Ghost Rider’s head goes all flamey. A limp romantic subplot makes you wish you were watching a Sam Raimi movie instead. Any movie where a flame-wheeled chopper vrooms up skyscrapers will have its moments, but it’s telling that the highlight comes when Johnny puts his feet up to watch a video of a kung fu-fighting chimp.