In 2008, Marvel began its cinematic takeover with Iron Man, the first film of the all-powerful MCU and one of the greatest superhero films ever made. Since its release, the MCU has been significant in entertainment and pop culture, grossing billions of dollars along the way. Shortly before Iron Man, however, Marvel films weren’t turning out so hot, though Johnny Blaze might tell you otherwise.
Way back in February of 2007, Nicolas Cage tried his hand at the superhero genre with Ghost Rider, a mess of a film that wears its flaws like a badge of self-deprecating honor. In the supernatural superhero flick, Cage plays Johnny Blaze, a badass motorcycle-riding stuntman who is made famous by surviving numerous crashes that should have rendered him deceased. Blaze has no fear of death though, having sold his soul to Mephistopheles, the Devil, 21 years prior to his fame so that his father’s cancer would be cured. In typical El Diablo fashion however, Mephistopheles sees to it that Blaze’s dad is killed in an accident on the same day that he’s cured. Damn the Devil!
In the present day, Johnny Blaze hopes to rekindle his relationship with sweetheart Roxanne Simpson (Eva Mendes), who he abandoned at the age of 17 after the death of his father. Mephistopheles sabotages his plans though by turning him into the new Ghost Rider and forcing him to defeat Blackheart, his demonic son who has come to Earth alongside three fallen angels who are bonded with the elements of Air, Earth, and Water. What in the actual fuck is going on in this movie?
Throughout the film, Blaze struggles to balance his relationship with his new abilities (a staple of the superhero genre), meets the former Ghost Rider, Carter Slade (played by the devastatingly handsome and manly Sam Elliot), and works as the Devil’s bounty hunter – a far cry from the current state of the MCU.
Make no mistake about it, Ghost Rider is a bad film (though not as bad as its sequel). Like, really bad. However, revisiting the flawed and sloppy superhero flick at a time when films such as (Academy Award-Winning) Suicide Squad and Dawn of Justice have proven to be wildly popular despite their own shit-factor, you’ll find that the story of Johnny Blaze is actually a damn likable diversion that owns its campiness and doesn’t take itself seriously.
Nicolas Cage himself makes the Ghost Rider experience worthwhile, giving one of his trademark over-the-top performances and delivering hammy dialogue with confidence and gusto. Rather than playing Johnny Blaze as a “hard drinking and smoking badass”, Cage decided to give the character more depth (bahahaha), playing him as someone who is trying to avoid his deal with the Devil by whatever means necessary. While the performance isn’t quite as fun as his phenomenal turn in 2006’s The Wicker Man, Johnny Blaze remains in the upper echelon of eccentric modern Cage performances.
As Ghost Rider turns 10, I implore you to revisit this film if only to see how far Marvel has come in the decade since its release. While the film is far (and I do mean “far”) from great, there’s a terrible amount of fun to be had in the adventures of Johnny Blaze. Just take a look for yourself. Let’s ride!