Supernatural crash and burn
Nicholas Cage doesn't need to convince us that he looks good in leather - he proved that in David Lynch's Wild at Heart some 17 years ago. But he's trying to prove how well he's ageing. He gets the leathers out again and sets himself on fire in Ghost Rider, a popcorn action movie based on a supernatural character from Marvel Comics.
Johnny Blaze is a motorcycle stuntman by day and a skeleton biker with a fiery skull by night. He got his nighttime job as an arsonist working for the devil when he was young - so young that he believed in the demon Mephistopheles (played by an evil-looking Peter Fonda) and traded his soul for the life of his biker-partner dad.
The demon leaves his new servant alone for many years, during which Blaze leaves his childhood sweetheart Roxanne (Eva Mendes) for good, becomes the world's most famous biker and gets addicted to jelly beans and Carpenters' music.
Then one day, Mephistopheles' son Blackheart (Wes Bentley) appears and demands that his demon father give him a magical contract allowing him to rule the world.
The demon calls for Blaze's service to get rid of his rebel son, who is aided by a couple of vengeful spirits.
Written and directed by Mark Steven Johnson, the film works like a comic book, offering plenty of colourful visuals but very little logic or coherency. Despite being the first instalment of a potential comic book film series, it feels like the 100th.
The action sequences, which mostly involve setting bad guys on fire or whipping them with a flaming iron chain, are hardly exciting compared to the X-Men series.
Ironically, the film works well before its stars show up. Matt Long, who plays the young Blaze, is as cool as Tom Cruise in Top Gun. And the charming girl who plays the young Roxanne can at least act with her clothes fully buttoned, unlike Mendes whose acting talents are underused.
As for Cage, he plays his guilt-ridden and tortured character so intensely that he spends the film looking constipated. In the end, the character just collapses under Cage's ambitions. You can't play a comic book character as if he were Hamlet. It just isn't worth the effort.
VERDICT: WAIT FOR DVD