Ghost Rider (2007)

Legend has it that in every generation, there’s a Ghost Rider. One man foolish, greedy, or desperate enough to make a deal with the Devil ends up becoming his bounty hunter, a position with fewer perks than he might’ve hoped: at night, in the presence of evil, he becomes the Rider, and must do the Devil’s bidding. Which basically means when it gets dark, he turns into a skeleton, jumps on a motorcycle (or whatever the time period’s appropriate method of transportation might be), catches on fire, and tracks down tainted souls.

To recap: he becomes a skeleton, catches on fire, and rides around on a motorbike. On fire.

The basic premise is a pretty good litmus test for the film as a whole. If you’re already rolling your eyes, you probably won’t like this movie; if, on the other hand, you think that sounds kind of cool, then prepare to be blown away. Forget the painful self-importance of Superman Returns – Ghost Rider is a superhero movie of an entirely different calibre. For one thing, it’s not as long. For another, it’s nowhere near as boring, and doesn’t even bother concerning itself with any kinds of social issues. Ghost Rider takes a couple of scenes to establish its set up, then gets on with it. When Johnny Blaze survives stunt after death-defying stunt, he suspects there’s something nastier than a guardian angel watching over him, and he’s right. Mephistopheles is lurking in the shadows, waiting till it’s time to call in a favour – and the time comes when the Devil’s rebellious son, Blackheart, tries to stage a mutiny. Calling on the assistance of three demonic mates – each of which represents an element; Earth, Air and Water are all present, and it doesn’t take a genius to work out who Fire might be – he sets out to claim a centuries-old contract for the souls of some thousand-odd evildoers that, thanks to the previous Ghost Rider, never got called in. Understandably, the Devil isn’t too keen on this idea, so it’s down to the Rider to stop them.

There’s the obligatory sad back story to set up Blaze as a man with something to prove; the requisite exploitable love interest; and a metric tonne of CGI effects to render the Rider and his opponents – then it’s a NOx-fuelled race to the finish line via a series of set pieces, each cooler than the last. The whole mess is tempered with plenty of humour and silliness; there isn’t much gore or violence, there’s no nudity, and little or no swearing, so obviously the filmmakers are trying to appeal to as broad an audience as possible. Ghost Rider isn’t trying to break new ground: it’s treading firmly in the footsteps of the likes of Blade and Constantine, with the added campiness of some of the dafter Batman sequels, but it’s so fast-paced and fun that it’s hard not to get a bit carried away.

So carried away, in fact, that you want to write silly things like “it’s a NOx-fuelled race to the finish line.” Make no mistake, Ghost Rider is not a clever movie. But it’s an entertaining one, and after all, isn’t that what really matters?

IMDB link


Chris Green said...

Just got back from seeing Ghost Rider, and have to say I was thoroughly unimpressed.

Crossroads-like acting (the TV show, not the Britney movie), coupled with very dodgy CGI work on a par with Volcano. WIth a few wizz-bang explosions and cool stunts (motorbike jumping helicoptors for example) it was clear that it was seriously lacking in substance - much like Fantastic Four.

I hope for your sake that Spiderman 3 doesn't turn into another Marvel-inspired turkey like Ghost Rider has.

Sarah Dobbs said...

If you insist on expecting substance from movies like Fantastic Four and Ghost Rider, you've only got yourself to blame when you're disappointed. :P

Chris Green said...

You'll be telling me these films are not based on real events next! :)