Ghost Rider (film)
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Mark Steven Johnson|
|Written by||Mark Steven Johnson|
|Music by||Christopher Young|
|Edited by||Richard Francis-Bruce Michael Kahn (film editor)|
|Distributed by||Sony Pictures Releasing|
|Box office||$228.7 million|
Ghost Rider is a 2007 American superhero film based on the Marvel Comics character of the same name. The film was written and directed by Mark Steven Johnson, and stars Nicolas Cage as Johnny Blaze / Ghost Rider, with Eva Mendes, Wes Bentley, Sam Elliott, Donal Logue, Matt Long, and Peter Fonda in supporting roles.
Ghost Rider was released on February 16, 2007 in the United States. The film was met with negative reviews from critics, but was a box office success, earning $228.7 million worldwide on a $110 million budget. Ghost Rider was released on DVD, Blu-ray and UMD on June 12, 2007. A sequel, titled Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance, was released on February 17, 2012, with Cage reprising his role.
Over one hundred years ago, the devil Mephistopheles sent his bounty hunter of the damned, the Ghost Rider, to retrieve a document known as the Contract of San Venganza, a list of a thousand corrupt souls. Seeing that the contract would give Mephistopheles the power to unleash hell on Earth, the rider refuses to give him the contract.
In 1986, Mephistopheles reaches out to 17-year-old stunt motorcycle rider Johnny Blaze, offering to cure his father's cancer in exchange for Blaze's soul, an offer he was examining when the paper cuts his finger, a drop of his blood landing on the dotted line. Unwittingly, the deal is sealed. The next morning, Blaze awakes to discover that his father's cancer is cured, but he is killed that same day in a motorcycle stunt in which he falls into the ring of fire through which he jumps. Blaze accuses Mephistopheles of causing his father's death, but Mephistopheles considers their contract to be fulfilled and promises to one day see him again.
21 years later, Blaze has become a famous stunt motorcycle rider known for surviving numerous deadly crashes. Blaze meets his lifelong sweetheart Roxanne Simpson, now a news reporter, whom he abandoned after his father's death. He convinces her to attend a dinner date. Meanwhile, Blackheart, the demonic son of Mephistopheles, comes to Earth, along with three fallen angels who bonded with the elements air, earth, and water. They seek to find the Contract of San Venganza. In response, Mephistopheles makes Blaze the new Ghost Rider and offers to return his soul if he defeats Blackheart, though he is also told he has no choice since he signed a contract with him. Blaze is driven straight to the station on his first ride, where he transforms into the Ghost Rider and kills the earth demon, Gressil. He also saves a young girl from a mugger and incinerates him with the Penance Stare (a power that allows the Ghost Rider to make any evil person experience all the pain they caused on their victims, burning away their very soul). The next day, he meets a man called the Caretaker, who seems to know all about the history of the Ghost Rider. He tells him everything that happened was not a dream and that it will happen again, especially at night when he is near an evil soul.
When he arrives home, Blaze finds Simpson and reveals himself as the devil's bounty hunter. Unconvinced, she walks away in disbelief. After a brief imprisonment for the murders that Blackheart committed, where when the inmates try to beat him up, Blaze transforms into the Ghost Rider and knocks them all out when he does, escapes the jail. The air demon, Abigor, attacks Blaze while Simpson and police watch, and is killed when Blaze traps him in a fiery tornado. They cops open fire on Blaze and he forces them back with a wall of fire to warn them to stay out of his way, before returning to the Caretaker, who tells him of his predecessor, Carter Slade, a Texas Ranger who hid the Contract of San Venganza. Blaze returns home to find that Blackheart has killed his friend Mack and has taken Roxanne captive, threatening to kill her if Blaze does not deliver the contract. Blaze tries to use the Penance Stare on Blackheart, but it does not work as Blackheart has no soul to burn.
Blaze returns to the caretaker, who reveals himself as Carter Slade, and obtains the contract. Slade tells Blaze that he is more powerful and unpredictable than his predecessors since he sold his soul for love as opposed to greed. Slade leads Blaze to San Venganza, then gives Blaze a lever-action shotgun and the advice 'Stick to the shadows' before riding away.
Crossing the river into San Venganza Blaze is ambushed by the water demon Wallow, whom he quickly boils to death. Blaze trades the contract to Blackheart for Simpson. He quickly transforms into Ghost Rider in an effort to subdue Blackheart, but dawn arrives and he is rendered powerless. Blackheart uses the contract to absorb the thousand souls into his body, renaming himself Legion. He attempts to kill Blaze, taunting that the Earth would be his to rule, but is distracted when Simpson uses Blaze's discarded shotgun to separate them. Staying in shadow, Blaze finds he can still become the Ghost Rider, and after trying to kill Blackheart with the shotgun infused with his power, he seizes him and uses the Penance Stare on him, burning all the corrupt souls within Blackheart, just as he had hoped for, and is left with his eyes reduced to glowing cinders.
Mephistopheles appears and returns Blaze his soul, offering to take back the curse of the Ghost Rider. Determined not to make another deal, Blaze declines, saying that he will use his power against him, and against all harm that comes to the innocent. Infuriated for being robbed of the power, Mephistopheles vows to make Blaze pay, but Blaze tells Mephistopheles that he is not afraid. Mephistopheles then disappears, taking Blackheart's dead body with him. Later, Simpson tells Blaze that he got his second chance before sharing a final kiss with him. Blaze then rides away on his motorcycle, turning into the Ghost Rider.
- Nicolas Cage as Johnny Blaze / Ghost Rider, a motorcycle stunt rider, who is tricked into making a deal with the Devil thinking that it will save his father from dying, and is subsequently transformed into a supernatural demonic soul hunter, the Devil's Spirit of Vengeance, the Ghost Rider. As his work for Mephisto continues, he hunts down the demons which have escaped from Hell.
- Matt Long as young Johnny Blaze
- Eva Mendes as Roxanne Simpson, Johnny's childhood love-interest, and current girlfriend who is a news reporter.
- Raquel Alessi as young Roxanne Simpson
- Wes Bentley as Blackheart / Legion, the illegitimate son of Mephisto, who wants to use the Contract of San Venganza in order to unleash Hell on Earth.
- Sam Elliott as Carter Slade / Caretaker / Ghost Rider, a former Ghost Rider, and an ally and mentor to Blaze.
- Donal Logue as Mack, a member of Johnny's team and his own impresario.
- Peter Fonda as Mephistopheles / The Devil, with whom Blaze makes a contractual deal in order to save the latter's father from cancer. Deceivingly, Mephistopheles causes Blaze's father to die the next day in a motorcycling accident. Mephistopheles is in search for his illegitimate son, Blackheart, who seeks to overthrow him. The two race in search of the Contract of San Venganza, a binding note of 1,000 damned souls.
- Brett Cullen as Barton Blaze, Johnny Blaze's deceased father, and former motorcycle stunt rider.
- David Roberts as Captain Jack Dolan, a police captain.
- Laurence Breuls as Gressil, a Fallen Angel with earth-based powers, and one of Blackheart's minions.
- Daniel Frederiksen as Wallow, a Fallen Angel with water-based powers, and one of Blackheart's minions.
- Mathew Wilkinson as Abigor, a Fallen Angel with wind-based powers, and one of Blackheart's minions.
- Rebel Wilson as a girl in the alley
Marvel Studio began development for Ghost Rider as early as 1992 and were in discussions with potential distributors. In 1997 Gale Anne Hurd was listed as producer, with Jonathan Hensleigh attached to write the script. David S. Goyer developed a script and in May 2000 Marvel announced an agreement with Crystal Sky Entertainment to film Ghost Rider with actor Jon Voight attached as a producer. Production was scheduled to start in early 2001 with a budget of $75 million and Johnny Depp expressing interest in the lead role. The following August, Dimension Films joined Crystal Sky to co-finance the film, which would be directed by Stephen Norrington. Producer Avi Arad approached Eric Bana on the possibility of playing Ghost Rider, but opted to cast him in Hulk instead. In June 2001, actor and Ghost Rider fan Nicolas Cage entered talks to be cast into the lead role, after having found out about Depp being a possibility for the role and contacted the director to express his own interest. Norrington would drop out within a few months due his commitment to Tick Tock and Cage eventually left the project as well. By May 2002 Columbia Pictures sought to acquire rights to Ghost Rider in turnaround from Dimension Films following their success with Spider-Man. They brought Shane Salerno to rewrite Goyer's script.
In April 2003, under Columbia Pictures, director Mark Steven Johnson took over the helm for Ghost Rider with Cage returning for the lead role. Johnson, rewriting Salerno's script, was set to begin production of Ghost Rider in late 2003 or early 2004. but it was delayed to October 2003. Cage took a temporary leave of absence to film The Weather Man. Ghost Rider production was slated to tentatively begin in May or June 2004.
Ghost Rider had again been delayed to begin in late 2004, but the lack of a workable script continued to delay production. In January 2005, actor Wes Bentley was cast as the villain Blackheart, having been introduced to Johnson by Colin Farrell, who had worked with the director in Daredevil. Actress Eva Mendes was also cast opposite Cage as Roxanne Simpson. On February 14, 2005, Ghost Rider commenced filming in Australia at the Melbourne Docklands film studios. Then in March 2005, actor Peter Fonda (who starred in Easy Rider) was cast as the villain Mephistopheles. Johnson originally planned to film before an audience at the Telstra Dome, but instead opted to create a crowd using computer-generated imagery. The director also chose to film in the motorcycle district of Melbourne. By June 2005, principal photography had been completed for Ghost Rider, which was set for a summer 2006 release. In April 2006, the cast and crew performed last-minute reshoots in Vancouver. Ghost Rider was originally scheduled to release on August 4, 2006, but the date was moved three weeks earlier to July 14, 2006. Sony changed the film's release date once more to February 16, 2007 to help relieve the studio's crowded 2006 calendar.
Instead of a "hard drinking and smoking bad ass" Johnny Blaze, Nicolas Cage decided to give him more depth. "I'm playing him more as someone who... made this deal and he's trying to avoid confronting it, anything he can do to keep it away from him". Cage also explained that Blaze's stunt riding was a form of escape and a way to keep him connected to his deceased father, who taught him to ride. Cage rode a Buell motorcycle for Blaze's stunt cycle, and a heavily customized hardtail chopper named "Grace" which transforms into the "Hell Cycle". The Hell Cycle's wheels, made of pure flames in the comics, were changed to be solid tires covered in flames in order to give the motorcycle more weight onscreen.
The film's visual effects supervisor, Kevin Mack, and the visual effects team at Sony Pictures Imageworks handled the difficult task of creating computer-generated fire on a shot-by-shot basis. Ghost Rider's skull flames were designed to become smaller and blue to display any emotion other than rage. Kevin's Team at Imageworks also created computer-generated motorcycles, chains, water, black goo, dementors and buildings. To pull off such effects as the living morph where the hardtail chopper ("Grace") comes alive to become the "Hell Cycle" Sony enlisted teams of animators, models, effects artists, lighters & "Flame" artists. The department supervisors for these teams at Imageworks included Kevin Hudson, Brian Steiner, JD Cowels, Marco Marenghi, Joe Spadaro, Joanie Karnowski, Vincent Serritella & Patrick Witting. Patrick's team bore the brunt of the work as they created the fire using a custom pipeline that automated the set up starting with Maya animated geometry driving Maya Fluids, imported into Houdini and then rendered & composited on top of the live action plates. Patrick and his team set up the fire process and much of the front end automation was set up by Scott Palleiko and Joe Spadaro. The fire was then tweaked and manipulated to look and move believably by Patick's eleven man Houdini effects team. All of this was enabled by effects producers Daniel Kuehn and the Digital Effects Supervisor Kee-Suk 'Ken' Hahn.
The digital version of the hell cycle was modeled in detail by Kevin Hudson and based on the practical prop used in the film, it included animatable skeletal hands that came alive to wrap the gas tank during the supernatural transformation scene. The transformation scene was animated by Max Tyrie and finalized by Joe Spadaro. Each part of the "Grace" geometry had to match up and morph with a piece of geometry on the "Hell Cycle"
The bullet time like scene where Ghost Rider on the "Hell Cycle" jumps from a building cutting to slow motion with the flaming chain was the brainchild of animator Maks Naporowski. Kevin Mack, was looking for what he called "shoe leather" to tie the two scenes together. Maks & Marco came up with this incredible concept that went on to become one of the most impressive scenes in the film & on the trailers.  Ghost Rider's voice was manipulated by sound designer Dane Davis, who won an Academy Award for Sound Editing for The Matrix. Davis filtered Cage's line readings through three different kinds of animal growls that were played backwards and covered separate frequencies. Davis then amplified the dialogue through a mechanical volumizer. Director Johnson described the sound as a "deep, demonic, mechanical lion's roar".
|Ghost Rider: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack|
|Film score by Christopher Young|
|Released||February 13, 2007|
|Genre||Film score, orchestral|
|Christopher Young chronology|
In December 2005, musical composer Christopher Young was announced to score Ghost Rider. In addition, Spiderbait, a band that Johnson befriended during filming in Australia, performed a cover of "Ghost Riders in the Sky" for the end credits.
- Track listing
All tracks written by Christopher Young.
|3.||"Artistry in Death"||4:13|
|4.||"A Thing for Karen Carpenter"||2:01|
|6.||"More Sinister Than Popcorn"||5:40|
|7.||"No Way to Wisdom"||2:15|
|13.||"Serenade to a Daredevil's Devil"||1:53|
|15.||"The West Was Built on Legends"||3:59|
In May 2005, Sony Pictures launched the official website for Ghost Rider.
The following July, the studio presented a Ghost Rider panel at Comic-Con International and screened a teaser for the audience. The teaser, which did not have finalized footage of the film, eventually leaked online. In the same month, Majesco Entertainment Company announced its deal with Marvel to acquire worldwide rights to produce the video game Ghost Rider for the PS2, PSP, and Game Boy Advance consoles.
In December 2005, the studio presented a first glimpse of Ghost Rider in a ten-second footage piece on the official site.
The Ghost Rider was also featured in a commercial for Jackson Hewitt Tax Services in which the character presented his income tax forms to a clerk for processing to receive a quick refund check.
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment released the film on June 12, 2007 as a single-disc Theatrical Cut DVD, two-disc Extended Cut DVD, Blu-ray Disc, and UMD. Special features on the Extended Cut DVD include two commentary tracks, a comic book history feature, and a making of the film featurette.
Ghost Rider was commercially released in the United States on February 16, 2007. The film grossed $15,420,123 on its opening day, while earning $45,388,836 for its opening weekend. The film earned $52,022,908 over the four-day President's Day weekend, with a per-theater average of $US 14,374 in 3,619 theaters. The film's total earnings were $228,738,393 worldwide of which $115,802,596 was from North America.
On Rotten Tomatoes, Ghost Rider has a 27% overall approval out of 138 reviews from critics; the sites critical consensus states: "Ghost Rider is a sour mix of morose, glum histrionics amidst jokey puns and hammy dialogue". Similarly Metacritic gave the film a weighted average score of 35 out of 100 based on reviews from 20 critics.
Michael Ordoña of the Los Angeles Times and Jeannette Catsoulis of the New York Times expressed disappointment in the film. Ordoña cited the "satanic references" and "judgmental" elements of Cage's character, and Catsoulis said Johnny Blaze is "more funny than frightening". Although Eric Alt of the Chicago Tribune praised the computer-generated effects of the film, he also criticized it, calling it a "clumsy, lifeless outing". IGN named the film the worst comic book film of the decade.
A sequel, entitled Spirit of Vengeance, started filming in November 2010 and was released on February 17, 2012. Cage reprised his role as Johnny Blaze and also portrayed Johnny Blaze in his Ghost Rider form. Crank filmmakers Neveldine/Taylor directed the film. The film opened to worse reviews than the first but was a box office success.
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