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Movie Review: Ghost Rider

Ghost Rider
Written and directed by Mark Steven Johnson based on the Marvel comic book

The battle of good and evil, lately, has been pretty lame.  A few months ago, supernatural baddies in The Covenant fought over the acquiring of some nondescript power, throwing some sort of energy balls at each other until some hackneyed plot point intervened.  I don’t think anyone is going to come out in defense of that movie, but I do think that there will be a good many fans of Ghost Rider, even though, again, the reasons behind the battle are still pretty lame.

And should I forgive a movie with no real tangible excuse for its action if it delivers that action in spades?  Well, I have a hard time granting movies that kind of leeway.  And just like Underworld and its sequel, it bothers me when anything non-supernatural is thrown into the mix; like guns or punches.

In Ghost Rider, daredevil motorcylist Johnny Blaze (Nicolas Cage) made a deal with the devil (Peter Fonda) a few years back to save his dad (Brett Cullen) from cancer, only to see the deal was a heinous trick.  The devil, named Mephistopheles here, wants to use Blaze at some future time to help him stave off a coup from his son Blackheart (Wes Bentley), who is looking for the original Ghost Rider contract that will help him rule the world.  Meanwhile, Blaze uses a newfound invicibility to ramp up the danger in some terrifying, record-breaking jumps.

Offering support is friend Mack (Donal Logue) and former teen sweetheart Roxanne Simpson (Eva Mendes), who don’t know his secret, but know something strange is going on.  Blaze doesn’t really understand it himself, that’s why he needs good ol’ Sam Elliott, playing Caretaker, to fill in the gaps.  The devil needs Blaze at the most inopportune time, as he tries to rekindle his romance with Roxanne, and this is where the battling with Blackheart begins.

So, the Ghost Rider has a flaming chain whip, which gets only minimal play; he also has the power to have “guilty” men to feel the pain of those they have hurt.  Occasionally, there’s some nifty things here.  But the motivation of Blackheart is the traditional “rule the world” deal, with no explanation as to how this would be beneficial.  His entrance, much like The Terminator in T2: Judgment Day, shows that he can suck the life out of people with just a touch, but the point in killing a whole bunch of bikers in a Texas bar eluded me (at least the Terminator got some clothes, a gun, and a bike out of the deal).

The movie can occasionally be funny and thrilling, but list me as one who just can’t enjoy the action on a pure level, because the story is lacking.  The motivations for power are unclear.  Yeah, ruling the world sounds great, but what is the bad guy going to get out of it?  He’s already got sweet powers and can apparently take anything he needs, so where does the power trip come from?  And about that action, yeah, there’s some guns and some punches, and I just throw my hands in the air and yell, “You guys are supernatural!  Stop this mortal nonsense!” 


Comment from KW
Time: February 16, 2007, 11:18 am

Well, I totally agree. Action that is spectacular is not nearly as enjoyable on its own as it is when there is a good story behind it all.

The inverse of that is true a bit too….an action movie can have relatively average actual action and still be a great film if there is a truly engaging story there.

Comment from Jonathan Watkins
Time: February 17, 2007, 1:10 am

I agree. Take a movie like the first “Die Hard.” When I think of that film, I don’t remember the action, I remember a great hero, great villain and all of the fleshed out characters around them. Oh, and “Yippe Kaye Motherfucker!” Probably will bite the bullet and see this one; I’m a sucker for comic book movies even if they are bad ones. Hell, I enjoyed “The Fantastic Four” on a pure geek level.

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