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Digesting the lowest rung of pop culture so you don't have to!
Much to my surprise, I really enjoyed the 2007 superhero flick Ghost Rider. Starring Nicholas Cage (with a horrible Texan accent), the film centers on Johnny Blaze (Cage) who becomes the devil’s bounty hunter in order to track down the demon Blackheart (Wes Bentley). Blaze also reunites with his long-lost love Roxanne (Eva Mendes). He also has a flaming skull.
The plot isn’t really all that revolutionary, and is a bit confusing at parts (Blackheart is searching form some evil scroll that does…something). The thing that fascinates me is how this movie falls into a genre I call “religious fiction”. Basically, the film plays with concepts from a religion (in this case Judeo-Christian) in order to create an imaginative tale. This film gives us a fantastic and interesting mythology, which I became completely invested in as a viewer.
Helping the more fantastical elements of the movie is the humanity of the film. Unlike other superhero movies, Ghost Rider has a slow burn. It builds up to the full introduction of the title character for nearly an hour. In its place, the movie takes the time to really develop our principle characters. Blaze and Roxanne, in particular, are fully realized people and are played in a very low-key manner and not over-the-top (discounting Blaze’s motorcycle stunts). It balances well against the fantasy element, and is the driving factor of what made the film work for me.
Not everything is great however. The movie does get a little convoluted at times. This is especially apparent when the Ghost Rider first appears. It is never fully explained if Johnny Blaze is in control, if he’s possessed by a demon, or both. It disoriented me as a viewer.
The movie also has the problem if introducing too many subplots. While this isn’t necessarily the worst thing that can happen, it becomes an issue when they are not resolved. One in particular would have greatly benefited if it was readdressed in one way, shape, or form before the credits rolled.
In the end, Ghost Rider was a fun, little movie. It had an unassuming western vibe to it which really set this movie apart from other superhero movies of this era. Ghost Rider got universally shredded in the critical reviews – a bit unfairly, I feel. It is not the best movie ever made, but it is well-acted, has a cool high concept, and, most importantly, is wildly entertaining.
Trivia Fact: Apparently, Ghost Rider is one of Craig Ferguson’s favorite movies as discussed on this YouTube clip.