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An extended cut of Johnson's comic book adaptation arrives on DVD with a second disc stuffed with documentaries and featurettes. After earning some $225 million dollars internationally during its theatrical run, it's tempting to believe that audiences do want to see even more of Ghost Rider on DVD.
But the film's critical consensus (a paltry 29% on RT's tomatometer), the general reaction from fans and online pundits, and especially the newly-released 2-Disc Extended Cut suggests otherwise: nine minutes of additional footage does not a better movie make. Ironically, the DVD presentation in particular (counting commentaries and extras) only highlights why this movie is just really not very good: while it's not quite the unmitigated disaster some found it to be, in writer-director Mark Steven Johnson's enthusiastic but questionably competent hands Ghost Rider is a generally mediocre addition to the growing canon of big screen comic book adaptations.
Double-crossed by the Devil, Johnny grows up to be an ambitious if not quite successful stuntman: he is more renowned for crashing his bike than safely completing bike jumps. But when Mephistopheles' son Blackheart (Wes Bentley) returns to claim an ancient scroll that might not only threaten humanity but destroy even his father, the dark lord enlists his indentured servant to retrieve the sacred object first.


Before long, Johnny is engaged in a deadly struggle with Blackheart for the scroll, with his girlfriend Roxanne (Eva Mendes), his eternal soul, and the future of mankind caught in the middle. While this common practice should surprise no one, it robbed the film of any true complexity that it may have had - that is, if Johnson's script didn't telegraph every plot point or character development from the get-go. In an early added scene, we see how Johnny's motives for taking Mephistopheles' deal aren't completely pure; while this added texture might have earned it more positive reviews, it fails to counterbalance the otherwise inconsistent tone between Johnny's tormented fate and the look-how-coolness of the special effects and action.
And worst of all, Johnson seems unable to control or even shape the performance given by Nicolas Cage, easily one of the oddest actors to ascend the superstar throne. Cage seems distracted in early scenes, tormented in later ones, and fully accepting of his fate by film's end, but this doesn't feel like any kind of emotional progression - not an intentional one, anyway.
Rather, it's as if Cage was consumed by a hobby or pet project that Johnson dared interrupt: Cage knows his lines and want to be accommodating, but just can't conceal his disinterest in the material.


Eva Mendes, irresistibly charismatic even in fluff like Stuck on You and Hitch, seems stiff, and worse, dumb thanks to an underwritten role as Cage's ten-years-too-young love interest. Wes Bentley, on the other hand, looks and sounds absurd as the featherweight heavy Blackheart; one imagines he looked at the character as a gleeful reprisal of Colin Farrell's Bullseye in Johnson's Daredevil, but the fledgling actor has none of the manic unpredictability that made Farrell that film's secret weapon. Even elder statesman Fonda fails to invigorate his character, the Devil, God's ironic gift to any actor lucky enough to play the wannabe scene stealer; rather than inverting his Easy Rider iconoclast to play Establishment to Cage's Rebel, he comes across as aging talent mining former glories for a fat paycheck.
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