Who’s got the fire extinguisher?

Lisa Miller

Nicolas Cage long sought a superhero role to place his own stamp upon, and found a bizarre one in Johnny Blaze/Ghost Rider. By day he’s a stunt motorcycle rider, but when duty calls, Blaze is transformed into a flaming skeleton riding a tricked-out bike from Hell.

The logistics of the fiery skeleton are unfathomable to mere mortals, since the Ghost Rider fills out Blaze’s clothes nicely and urinates a stream of fire.

The devil he abhors appears in the form of a man named Roarke (Ciaran Hinds), a fellow busily converting the vulnerable to serve his purpose.

In hopes of saving his cancer-stricken dad, Blaze was one of those converts. Years later, we find Blaze hiding out from the world in order to avoid being Satan’s bounty hunter.

Blaze will learn to sympathize with pretty Nadya (Violante Placido), whose son was promised to the devil in exchange for Satan saving her life.

Other than mistakenly signing away her kid, Nadya is the best sort of mum for a reluctant devil child. She repeatedly puts her life on the line to protect the lad from Roarke’s henchmen, and isn’t too shabby with a gun either.

Nadya is protected by an ancient order of monks who shelter the woman and son Danny (Fergus Riordan) in their wine cellar. Golden-eyed Moreau (Idris Elba) rejects his order’s philosophy of nonviolence, eschewing white robes for black leather, and his rosary beads for a semiautomatic. Whether he possesses supernatural powers is unclear, but somehow Moreau finds Johnny Blaze’s Eastern European hideout.

Blaze/Ghost Rider is reluctant to protect the child from the devil until Moreau promises that once the boy is safe, his order will cleanse Blaze of the demon spirit.

Because both have been “touched” by Satan, Blaze is able to “sense” the lad, and makes a beeline to intervene on the boy’s behalf. Along the way, Blaze and Nadya bond due to their membership in Satan’s exclusive soul-selling club.

With its frequently incoherent action and less than compelling plot, this comic-book style movie heavily relies on rote car chases and Ghost Rider’s fiery visage to maintain our interest. However, the premise that Blaze would give up his superpower – thus depriving Nicolas Cage of the superhero he has so longed to play – could hardly seem more farfetched.

Likewise, the pact to trot out a mediocre Marvel character through a series of mediocre films, means that Ghost Rider can’t afford to give up his superpower any more than a financially strapped Cage can afford to give up his super paycheck.

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