DVD Review: Ghost Rider

Movie ••½ Picture •••• Sound •••• Extras ••½
A daredevil stunt-rider by day, the Devil's bounty-hunter by night. Hollywood may not have reached the bottom of the comic-book barrel quite yet, but Ghost Rider is pretty close. Although Nicolas Cage has often declared himself a great fan of the character, he comes across as rather disengaged here. Still, writer/director Mark Steven Johnson brings some energy to the film once it gets rolling, and the horror elements make for a nice change from the average comic-book action flick. The plot is ... well, it's something to do with the Devil's son and a missing contract for lost souls, but you'll probably find it best to just sit back and enjoy the motorcycle action, the cowboy backdrop, and a superhero who's got a flaming skull.

A lot of the action takes place in dark alleys and nighttime desert landscapes, but thankfully the transfer is up to the challenge. Blacks are rich and deep, with extremely sharp detail. And the brightly lit scenes fare just as well. Particularly noteworthy is Johnny Blaze's stunt of jumping from one goalpost on a football field to the other, where his brilliant white costume stands out beautifully against the rich red of the ramp.

The soundtrack isn't subtle - but most of us aren't looking for subtlety in a superhero movie anyway. The roaring motorcycle really pumps the subwoofer, and these action scenes are punctuated with strong panning effects. The dynamic range is slightly wider on the DTS track, but the Dolby Digital mix works just fine.

Even the single-disc edition of Ghost Rider manages to cram in a lot of extras. Two 30-minute featurettes include the standard blend of behind-the-scenes footage with all the talent involved patting each other on the back. There's a commentary by Johnson and effects guru Kevin Mack; Johnson is very enthusiastic, and Mack offers some technical insights. Another commentary, by producer Gary Foster, doesn't hold a lot of interest. If you think you can manage to get through both, you'll probably want the two-disc edition, which contains an extended version of the film that's 15 minutes longer than the theatrical cut. It also adds the animatics that the filmmakers used to work out how scenes would be shot and a 45-minute documentary on the comic-book origins of Ghost Rider. [PG-13] English, Dolby Digital and DTS 5.1; French, Dolby Digital 5.1; letterboxed (2.35:1); dual layer.

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