It’s not that director Mark Steven Johnson is a bad filmmaker. He is simply lazy. Truth be told, I never read the comic this film is based off of, but I doubt that the material is anywhere near as cold and unaffectionate as this film is. It is Johnson’s worst film, only because in Daredevil at least he shows care in dealing with the tragedy that that particular superhero has to go through. But Ghost Rider’s story is a sadder one and definitely a more tragic one than that of Daredevil. I mean really, what’s worse, blinness and your girlfriend getting killed, or eternal responsibility to fight off monsters that are trying to put Hell on Earth. I’d take the former any day. Especially since the latter turns the damned superhero into a burning skeleton that looks like something not even his own mother would love, even if she was blind.
So it’s a real shame that Johnson doesn’t tap into that emotion any deeper than by simplytreating it as an observation of the character. Unlike in Daredevil, the audience never becomes a part of the story, and simply looks on in anticipation of the next joke, or the next action sequence involving a bad guy too ugly and conveniently stupid to imagine. Couple that with average acting and dialogue that ranges from boring to horrendous (this is apparent during the more serious parts of the screenplay), you have yourself a film that, while endlessly watchable, can only be described as effortlessly empty.
The material the film is based on has potential to be compelling and artsy if adapted to the screen in the right way. But this is Mark Steven Johnson, not Kurt Wimmer. Johnson’s unexciting, meandering camerawork is so dependent on pre-established Ron Howard-cliches that getting bored is easier than I anticipated — I am watching a comic book film after all. The imagery in the film is also questionable. While cinematographer Russell Boyd (who is one of the best in the game) tries to bring something more sinister to saome of the scenes (Blacheart’s entrance is memorable), he is let down by the ‘good enough I guess’ attitude of production designer of Kirk Petruccelli, whose next project is, God help us, an Ang Lee-less The Incredible Hulk. Still, I’m not ready to say this is a bad-looking film, it is in fact better than both Daredevil and Simon Birch, but when gloss is there without the accompaniment of any substance, it isn’t really worth it.
I can’t recommend this film on any basis whatsoever, unless all you want is a night at the movies that won’t make you think too much. Just be advised that in addition to that, it also won’tchange you, affect you, or satisfy you in any way. That is of course if Eva Mendes’s cleavage is good enough to do all of those at once.