Flaming skulls! Here? the first of this year? slew of superhero movies and what a pleasure to report that writer/director Mark Steven Johnson has learned from the mistakes of his dreary, boring big screen version of DARDEVIL from a few years ago. He? dug deep into the lucky bag of third-rate Marvel superheroes and come up with Johnny Blaze, GHOST RIDER and created a lively, spectacular superhero film which follows what should be the first (and only!) rule of these types of film: Make It Fun.

Because despite the fact it stars a hero whose body transforms into a blazing skeleton and who battles the Devil and his minions as a matter of course, GHOST RIDER is shot through with dry, wry humour and the whole movie has a loose, tongue-in-cheek approach that certain Caped Crusaders and Men in Steel could benefit from in their next cinematic outings. Much of this is surely down to the casting of Nicholas Cage as Blaze/GHOST RIDER. Clearly too old to play this sort of character, Cage has fascinating jet-black hair but diverts attention from the fact that he? in his forties by giving Blaze an irreverent charm, much of it shot through with that edge-of-insanity that informs most of his performances. There? a cheeky chemistry between him and Eve (? just can? do up the buttons of my shirts!? Mendes as his exasperated would-be girlfriend/TV reporter and when you?e got the original Easy Rider Peter Fonda playing the bad guy, you just know you?e in for a larger than life romp.

So here? the story. When his stunt-cyclist father is injured Johnny Blaze finds himself selling his soul to the Devil. Years later the Devil comes to collect and Johnny finds himself possessed by a curse which turns his motorbike into a flaming monstrosity and his head into a blazing skull. As the Ghost Rider he tears across the countryside bringing evil-doers to their knees by exposing them to all their accumulated sins, whilst simultaneously fighting off a quarter of Devilish emissaries with supernatural abilities of their own. It takes a little while for the Ghost Rider to appear but when he does the film?r?omes alight. In these days it? easy to become blas?bout CGI and special effects but the work on display here is really quite extraordinary. When the Ghost Rider roars down the street, shop windows explode, alarms sound, cars flip through the air and a blazing tyre trail churns up asphalt and leaves the road burning in his wake. In battle he throws balls of fire from his skeletal hand and uses a length of chain as a fiery weapon. The most incredible sequence in the movie is the extended chase through the city, the Police in hot pursuit. Ghost Rider rides up onto the stanchions of a bridge before plunging into the water?n

Cage clearly loves this character. Blaze has none of the angst and hand-wringing of Bruce Wayne or Peter Parker. Blaze, despite the leathers and the hard man act, loves nothing more than to listen to the Carpenters and munch on jelly beans. Once he? turned back from Ghost Rider into Blaze he? given to spouting cheesy James Bond one liners: ? feel like my skull? on fire?he says in what could be mistaken for hangover mode.

The story doesn? usually matter a jot in movies like this and so it is here. It? all something to do with Ghost Rider catching up with a previous Devil? errand boy who disappeared years before with one final Devil? contract unfulfilled. After a spectacular battle with the Devil the scene is very clearly set for the inevitable sequel.

Delayed for months, it? amazing that GHOST RIDER is as good as it is. It? done great business at the US Box office and if Johnson is able to turn in a superhero flick as good as this, I? rather looking forward not only to the next GHOST RIDER film but also to anything else in the genre he may turn his hand to. Flame on!! Sorry, wrong superhero moviez/p>]]>

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