Even way back during my comic-collecting days, I never really crossed paths with Ghost Rider (I've read exactly one issue), and I only decided that I like Nicolas Cage after all about a year ago - so I wasn't exactly waiting for this film (and what a lengthy wait it turned out to be) with baited breath. You know what, though? I really enjoyed this movie. OK, the first half hour is a little slow and boring, but once the actual Ghost Riding starts, the action makes up for the deficiencies in the storyline. I can't say the whole flaming skull thing looks like it could even possibly be real, but it's still a flaming skull, and that is, by definition, pretty darn cool. And we all know that you can't really go wrong with demon fighting.
If you know nothing about Ghost Rider, here's all you really need to know. As a teenager, Johnny Blaze (Nicolas Cage) sold his soul to the devil (but not for greedy or selfish reasons) - only to be totally screwed over by the evil-doer. Knowing that old Mephistopheles (Peter Fonda) could show up at any time to enforce his end of the deal, Blaze leaves the love of his life behind and heads out to lead a life of relative isolation. Following in his father's footsteps, he becomes a famous motorcycle daredevil, continually upping the danger ante in an effort to prove to himself that he, not Mephistopheles, is responsible for his success. Life goes on until the day he jumps the length of a football field (goalpost to goalpost, which would actually be 20 yards further than the 100 yards described in the film). As fate would have it, Blaze's death-defying jump actually pales in importance to two other things that happen: this is the day that Blaze's young sweetheart, Roxanne (Eva Mendes), suddenly comes back into his life, and it is also the day that Mephistopheles decides to show up and put his reluctant bounty hunter to work for the first time. Turning into a flaming skeleton consumed with the overwhelming need to punish evil-doers doesn't do much for romance, especially when it happens every night. Ghost Rider's targets aren't exactly easy to kill, either, because they are a group of demons led by Mephistopheles' rebellious son Blackheart (Wes Bentley). Father and son are both after the old contract for a thousand exceedingly corrupt souls a former Ghost Rider hid away from the devil's evil clutches.
Once Blaze transforms into Ghost Rider, some heavy CGI work is used to tell most of the rest of the story. None of the special effects will make your jaw drop open, but it's all pretty effective for the most part. That whole romance thing butts in from time to time to take away from all of the demonic action, but even the plot's predictability in this regard does little to take away from the overall entertainment factor. You especially have to love Ghost Rider's trademark finishing move, the Penance Stare.
I know the reaction to Ghost Rider has been a little on the mixed side, but I for one am glad to hear that there are plans for a sequel in the works. In terms of plot and characterization, this film does leave itself open to various levels of criticism, but Ghost Rider is a great character that could easily sustain a franchise of films.