I’ve fallen in love with Nicolas Cage lately. His past three major motion pictures have all been delightfully bad pieces of cinema. First there was The Wicker Man, a hilariously misguided remake of the 1973 classic featuring Cage running around slugging women in a bear suit. Curiously, that film also featured Cage lighting on fire… Hmm. Then there was Ghost Rider, our, current subject. And following that was Next, a film in which Cage plays a psychic who can see two minutes into the future. The point is, Cage has provided me a lot of enjoyment in recent months. I think the best part about him is that he is most definitely playing “Nic Cage” in every film. The way he gesticulates and fumbles over words and generally looks perplexed while on screen seem to be classic trademarks. Move over Humphrey Bogart.
In Ghost Rider, however, Cage isn’t alone in his goofiness. He almost acquits himself with the help of Eva Mendes who plays emotions like “nervous” by wringing her hands and Wes Bentley who… well, we’ll get to him in time. Ghost Rider is a MARVEL comic character created back in 1972. I remember him because he looked cool and that’s about it. The same goes for this film. But despite the silly pseudo-religion of the source material, Ghost Rider really lives and dies on the campiness of its plot and the actor’s delivery. In fact, I’m tired of reading reviews in which actors are excused for giving terrible performances because the “dialogue was written poorly.” These guys are getting paid millions of dollars, I feel like the onus to make things sound believable is theirs. I mean, isn’t that what actors do? Anyway, none of the actors in Ghost Rider manage to accomplish this feat.
The DVD begins, but first I have to sit through three (!) screens telling me that the interviews and commentary are for entertainment purposes only and don’t represent the views of Sony blah blah blah. I am told this three times: once in English, once in French, and once in Spanish. Damn you globalization!!!
Anyway, the movie opens with a prologue conspicuously narrated by Sam Elliot who tells about legends and how sometimes they’re true. So there we go, the entire film is predicated on a cliché from the Wild West. Elliot the Narrator next informs us of the film’s MacGuffin: a contract for the souls in the town of San… San… San Viganza? I have no idea how the town is actually pronounced (it means Saint Vengeance), much less spelled, so for consistency let’s just call it San Gonzo. Anyway, San Gonzo is full of evil, evil people who have managed to escape their damnation in Hell. The original Ghost Rider (who can best be described as a flaming cowboy… hehe) is given a contract by the Devil to retrieve these souls. This is the infamous Contract of San Gonzo and you’ll be hearing a lot about it for the next hour and a half. Anyway, the evil contained in this contract was so powerful that the Ghost Rider (GR) refused to give it to the devil and instead ran away and hid it somewhere. Of course that was all just legend right? “Well, the thing about legends is… sometimes… they’re true.” Thanks Sam Elliot!
And it’s off to the credits! These consist of names of people flying at the screen while a CGI motorcycle rides through CGI hell.
Cut to a carnival and prepare yourself for “The amazing blazing stunt cycle spectacular!” We meet our hero, a young Johnny Blaze and his dad, Barton Blaze, as they ride through a ring of fire on their motorcycles. Watching in the stands is Johnny’s girlfriend, Roxie, who is having a hey old time looking afraid and excited for her beau. Johnny does a bit of showing off and almost flips his bike. His dad chides him: “Hot shot… think you’re gonna’ live forever.” And there’s blatant irony number one, gotta catch em all!
Barton Blaze, however, probably won’t be living forever as he smokes cigarettes like a fiend. As we all know, smoking cigarettes in movies in the twenty-first century means you are going to die of lung cancer, but to make the point extra clear the film has Barton start hacking up a lung for thirty seconds before reaching for yet another cigarette! Now that’s what I call brand loyalty! Or a very, very serious addiction. Anyway, despite his own poor choices, Barton continues berating Johnny for showing off: “Think she’s gonna stand by you when you’re in a wheel chair?” He adds that if you make a choice without thinking, you ain’t making the choice, the choice is making you. And with great power comes great responsibility. And Kal-el, my son… etc. We catch our first look at Grace which is not a person but instead yet another motorcycle. Grace is a chopper painted with orange and purple flames. Johnny eyes her enviously, but Barton tells his son that he’s not man enough for Grace.
Well, maybe not, but he has a damn hot girlfriend, Roxie, who shows up and asks if Johnny can come play with her. I giggle every time someone says Roxie, of course, because that’s the same name as the female lead in Eegah! which means I keep expecting GR to do battle with Richard Kiel. Whatever, it’s my life. Johnny and Roxie run off to a meadow on a hill somewhere and he scratches their initials in a tree. I’m not going to keep track of the cliché count, but needless to say, add +1. I guess Johnny never was much one for creativity. We find out, however, that Roxie is leaving town. Her dad doesn’t think Johnny’s good enough for her, he’s just a phase. And so he’s moving??? Jeez, that seems like a bit of an overreaction. Our two lovebirds, however, decide to run away together. They’ll meet at noon tomorrow at the same spot. And does anyone reading this think that plan has any chance of working out?
Johnny comes home late that night after what I assume to be a lot of great teen sex. Barton has passed out looking at a scrapbook of his son. Johnny rummages through the garbage and discovers a note saying that his dad’s cancer has spread and why the hell is he not in the hospital? As a result, Johnny throws away Barton’s pack of cigarettes. The phrase “too little, too late” comes to mind.
Johnny, upset, goes to work on the bikes but is interrupted by the Devil played by Peter Fonda. Now, I know that fan boys will point out that Fonda’s character isn’t really the Devil, but rather a demon who just lets Johnny think he’s the Devil. But considering how fast and loose this film plays with the great chain of being (now there’s a pun the movie could’ve used later) I don’t feel much of a need to properly orient Fonda’s character in the comic book version of Hell. Anyway, the Devil makes everything really cold when he approaches (seems a bit contrary, doesn’t it?). This is of course the archetypal Miltonian Satan: you know, slick, sexy, well-spoken. Kind of like Michael Bay plus the well-spoken part. The Devil informs Johnny that he runs the “greatest show on Earth” and he’d like Johnny to join him. Johnny declines, but the Devil offers to cure Barton’s cancer for Johnny’s services. Johnny randomly turns away as lightning flashes revealing the shadow of the Devil to be a deformed, cloven hoofed demon thing. Why Johnny looks away at this moment I can’t say, but even more inexplicable is how the lightning, which struck outside the tent, somehow created the Devil’s shadow on the inside of the tent wall. Anyway, Johnny tells the Devil to name his price. The devil looks around for a second or two and apparently doesn’t see anything of much value in the bike shop so instead he just opts for Johnny’s soul. The Devil hands Johnny a soul scroll and Johnny cuts himself on it before even reading the contract. The Devil says that’ll do. Wow, again, what rules exactly are in place for this whole system of evil?
Johnny wakes up the next morning and Barton is miraculously (wink wink) healed! He tells Johnny he has big plans for a new stunt involving helicopters, but Johnny replies that he’s running away that day with Roxie. Dad looks his son over and then gives him the keys to Grace. So I guess Johnny has become a man by deciding to run away from home, something most of us attempt when we’re six years old. Johnny starts to leave meanwhile his dad goes to perform his stunts. Well wouldn’t you know it Barton crashes and dies. I mean seriously, I didn’t see this coming at all. I mean, most male protagonists in superhero movies have their father’s survive, don’t they? Johnny runs over to the accident and the actor makes the sounds of crying without actually shedding tears. Johnny of course suspects the Devil of foul play. No, the Devil? Foul play? You gotta be kidding me.
Johnny drives off when suddenly he crashes his bike at, get this, a CROSSROADS!!! Dun Dun DUUUUN! Sadly, this is probably one of the film’s more subtle moments. The Devil appears. Johnny gets up and takes about five seconds to point at the devil and say… “YOU!” Apparently that’s Johnny’s shtick as he does this throughout the film. The Devil tells Johnny to forget about friends, family, and love and as he says each thing we get a flashback of Johnny with his dad and one with Roxie, scenes we saw all of five minutes ago. I guess you have to remember to forget after all. Funnily, the film never established Johnny as having any friends so for that flashback we just see Johnny walking through a crowd. A lone wolf if there ever was one. After this run-in with the Devil, Johnny drives off and passes the tree where Roxie diligently waits for him. He slows down, just to get her hopes up I guess, and then peels off. Smooth.
Cue present day. Johnny is now being played by Nicolas Cage and the film hopes we forget that Nic Cage looks nothing like the actor who was playing Johnny two seconds ago. Grown-up Johnny opines: “You can’t live in fear.” Meanwhile Ozzy Osbourne’s “Crazy Train” plays on the soundtrack, but the movie can’t really wait for the song to build up to the chorus so they hamfistedly edit half the song out. Johnny, you see, is now a pro-stuntman, and quite famous at that, and he’s now about to jump over a bunch of semis. He does so, but totally biffs the landing in a pretty realistic crash, especially compared to the goofy depiction of Barton’s wreck. Of course, the crash doesn’t really gel with the theory that the Devil is keeping an eye on Johnny to make sure he survives. As it turns out, the crash looks so realistic because it actually happened during filming and the director thought it looked cool so he put it in the film, plot be damned. Johnny survives the incident unscathed.
Feeling sporty after that “cool” crash sequence the director treats us to a Lucas wipe ™ as we cut to Johnny’s tour bus. Johnny is accompanied by his manager, Mack, played by Donald Logue. Logue has already contributed to this site thanks to his fine work as the-only-racist-in-South-Carolina in The Patriot. Mack is playing a motorcycle video game but he crashes and blood splatters everywhere. Not to ruin anything for you, but this is kind of the digital age equivalent of a character playing chess back when movies were, you know, good. Except now, instead of chess, it’s MOTOCROSS 3000 or something like that. And we all know what happens to characters that play a game of chess in movies, right?
Mack asks Johnny how he thinks he survived the wreck. Johnny says he’s just lucky to which Mack wittily replies “I’ve got a hunting dog with one eye and no nuts named Lucky.” Mm, yes, good counterpoint Madck. Way to use your associative skills. Mack thinks Johnny has an angel watching over him… OR IS IT SOMETHING ELSE????
Well apparently it is something else as we cut to a cool effects shot where it rains fire and brimstone in the middle of the desert and emerging from the mess is none other than the son of the devil himself named Blackheart who might more aptly have been named Blueface, but whatever. He’s played by master of emo(tion) Wes Bentley who you may recall as Kevin Spacey’s drug dealing, plastic bag filming next door neighbor in American Beauty.
Little known fact that Jay Leno actually auditioned for the role of Blackheart.
Blackheart invades a Hells Angels’ biker bar (haha, get it?) If you don’t, one of the biker’s stops Blackheart and says “Angels only.” Now do you get it??? Please get it!!! Sorry, that was the screenwriter talking. Anyway, Blackheart responds by… wait for it… I mean you know something badass and demonic is about to happen to this biker guy right?… Blackheart is going to show us just how evil and powerful he is by… by… POKING THE BIKER GUY. Yup. That’s actually Blackheart’s superpower: he pokes people to death. Now, in Blackheart’s defense, the poke does cause the victim to immediately decompose and turn to ash, but in terms of making, I don’t know, an ACTION movie, you’d think they would have come up with something with a bit more pizzazz. As we’ll see though, poking is just par for the course in terms of superhero powers in this movie.
Johnny meanwhile goes back to his garage with Mack who tries to be funny. Johnny, we learn, doesn’t have a lock for his lift. This sadly becomes a repeated plot point. Anyway, Johnny’s apartment is a mess. Piles of books lie around serving as make-shift motorcycle kick stands. Johnny makes him a martini glass of jelly beans and begins watching a monkey do karate on TV. I’m describing all these details just to demonstrate how inane this scene is, by the way. Finally we learn that Johnny is to be performing a new, super duper stunt on the anniversary of his father’s death. Mack is concerned.
“Do you believe people get second chances?” Johnny asks Mack. Maybe he’s talking about his acting career. But frankly after making The Wicker Man, Ghost Rider, and Next back-to-back I’d say your chance are used up. “If someone makes a mistake, a big mistake, do you think that they should have to pay for it the rest of their lives?” In the case of this movie, yes. Johnny is looking to turn a negative into a positive, that “I can have a second chance too.” Why, that’s the mantra of this whole website!
Johnny promises to take out the cars. He turns on a cartoon about a skeleton. Hahahaha. Little does he know! Well, it’s a good thing this movie keeps reminding me it’s about a guy who turns into a flaming skeleton. For a while I was wondering just what I was doing watching this. Actually…
Back at the Hell’s Angels Top Hat Bar and Grill the cute blonde bartender hides behind her bar. She doesn’t see anything but then makes the mistake of standing up and get’s poked to death for her trouble: “I knew you were here,” Blackheart tells her as she withers to dust, “I could smell your fear.” Great, so now we know Blackheart’s two powers are poking people to death and a sense of smell on par with that of a dog.
Blackheart’s henchmen demons show up. Each one corresponds to an element: earth, air, and water. They also have a habit of picking up the conversation wherever the last one left off. Maybe they’re triplets or something. Anyway, we’re reminded that Blackheart’s plan is to get the Contract of San Gonzo (you didn’t forget about that old thing, did you?) There’s just one problem: he doesn’t know where it is. Zoiks!
Outside the biker bar the Devil proper arrives and summons his son to have a little heart to blackheart. We learn a couple things. First, Blackheart is immune to the Devil’s powers while on Earth because Blackheart hasn’t fallen while the Devil has. If this makes any theological sense to you, congratulations. Second we learn that while the Devil may not be able to stop Blackheart, his Ghost Rider can. The mention of GR really ticks off Blackheart who enunciates: “If you had given ME what was rightfully MINE…” I wouldn’t have to bulge my eyes out on every other word! Blackheart tells the Devil to go ahead, “send the Ghost Rider. I’ll bury him and then I’ll bury you, father.” And that’s what happens when you don’t buy your son the latest GI Joe for Christmas.
Cut to a football stadium as Johnny is about to make his jump. In the green room, Johnny chugs coffee straight out of the pot: XTREME! Mack tries to talk Johnny out of the jump, but once again Johnny informs us that “You can’t live in fear.”
As Johnny makes his way to the ramp he’s intercepted by reporters, because, you know, this is really big news. Johnny blows them all off until a seductively disembodied voice says, “Not even for an old friend?” Ooh, and I wonder who this could be. Roxie, who just managed to piss off every other reporter there trying to get an interview. Well, as we’re about to say, the interview they would’ve gotten ain’t worth much. Roxie asks Johnny why he has a cane to which he replies “I need the support” and then he laughs at his own joke. Dear Johnny: stick to flying through the air on motorcycles. Throughout the interview Johnny basically just asks Roxie personal questions. Roxie reacts by nervously looking at her producers. Quite the professional reporter, Roxie. So professional that she mistakenly believes jumping from field goal to field goal is three hundred feet when really it’s three hundred sixty. Idiot. I really miss the young Roxie. Anyway, the interview thankfully ends. Roxie leaves and refuses to watch Johnny jump probably because she thinks he’s a complete dick for giving her such a terrible interview.
In his defense, he probably suffered serious head trauma from all those bike wrecks.
We find out that Johnny won’t just be jumping the length of a football field, he’ll also be jumping over a bunch of Blackhawk helicopters, a throwback to his dad’s idea I guess. Oh wait, it’s DEFINITELY a throwback to his dad’s idea because the movie treats to a flashback of Barton Blaze telling his son about a new stunt involving helicopters. Just in case you didn’t recognize Barton Blaze in the flashback or something from the scene you saw fifteen minutes ago, Johnny then turns to Mack and explains the helicopters are there “cuz my dad thought it’d be cool.” Apparently the producers of this film were worried that its main audience would have a memory retention of about five minutes. Or else they realized just how forgettable most of this movie is. Mack tries to ratchet up the tension by talking about NO2 and calling it “Noz” and how Johnny has to hit it at the right time and all I can think about is the Fast and the Furious. Johnny meanwhile just thinks about Roxie… sigh.
Without any warning Johnny guns it and jumps the helicopters. He makes it just fine this time: NO2 can do anything, apparently. I hope the Ghost Rider motorcycle has Noz because frankly it seems to be the most powerful stuff on Earth. Johnny then drives out of the stadium to catch up with Roxie. He does so in a matter of minutes, pretty miraculous if you ask me, he must have still had some Noz left in the tank. He pulls up alongside Roxie’s news van and Roxie pretends she doesn’t see Johnny by putting a hand in front of her face, much like I do for most of this movie. Johnny persists in getting her attention and Roxie is clearly just teasing him at this point which, considering Johnny’s highway antics seems dangerous. She finally talks to him and he says; “Howdy… howdyhowdyhowdy [sic],” a line which really gives “How’ditgetburned?” a run for its money in pure silliness. Johnny asks Roxie to dinner, Eye-talian. She says she’ll meet him at eight. Hmm… I seem to remember the last time she and Johnny were supposed meet up at a certain time things didn’t work out so good. I wonder if that’ll happen yet again.
Well wouldn’t you know it that night Roxie is at the restaurant alone drinking lots and lots of wine while thrusting her boobs as high in the air as possible. She then pulls a Magic 8 Ball out of her purse [???] and shakes it. We never find out what the damn thing says, of course, and I have absolutely no idea what to make of this. Next we learn that Johnny is late not because he’s, you know, turned into Ghost Rider or even more likely killed himself in an auto accident, but because he’s talking to himself in the mirror and saying “You can’t live in a fear [we know, Johnny we know]… you deserve a second chance.” Well, yeah Johnny you do get a second chance and you seem to be blowing it by talking to yourself.
Dear Magic 8 Ball, is my career over?
Just as Johnny to about to, you know, stop talking to himself his hand lights on fire, and it ain’t from friction. Roxie meanwhile continues to get trashed and act “antsy.” Johnny goes outside and hears a growling noise… what could it be… why, his motorcycle of course!!! Who started it and put it in an alley I don’t know, but no time to think because it’s transformation time! We hear the Devil laughing. Johnny once again points his finger (maybe he’s trying to develop a long distance poke attack) and says “YOU!” as the Devil approaches from a Texaco gas station. Funny, I always thought he’d be an Exxon man. The Devil informs Johnny that his contract is being called up and he needs to defeat Blackheart. If Johnny succeeds, the Devil will return his soul. The Devil then taps his cane and the motorcycle starts literally burning rubber (hoho). Johnny shotos off down the street blowing up everything he passes. A police office clocks him at 198 miles per hour.
Blackheart is still up to no good, and he and his henchmen are currently investigating a train yard which is in the spot where a cemetery used to be. The guard says they moved the cemetery and that Blackheart should go to Saint Michael’s Church to find out where. As you might expect, the guard gets poked for his trouble.
Johnny crashes his bike and finally transforms into the Ghost Rider. Firs the feet light on fire, then the hands and face while Nic Cage screams in agony/laughter. This whole sequence is interrupted by fireballs filling up the screen. I have to say, there’s something pleasurable about watching Cage’s face slowly burn away. It’s also amusing to note that Ghost Rider has no problem showing Cage get burned alive while The Wicker Man did. All about the context I guess. Anyway, GR has finally formed and out of ABSOLUTELY NOWHERE comes Blackheart accompanied by his goons.
My dreams come true.
Now, I’ve watched this a couple times to try to figure everything out. It seems that Johnny is in a completely random garage and that the demons just showed up by pure chance. What I think really happened is that Johnny’s bike drove him to the train station where the demons were at. Now, how the demons didn’t immediately notice Johnny’s arrival, I don’t know. This amazing ability for Johnny’s bike to triangulate the position on evil people also never comes up again.
Well the demons start the fight fairly well for themselves as they manage to hang GR on a chain. Unfortunately GR just uses the chain as a new weapon. Oops. Dirt demon then runs over Johnny with what I think is a semi (where did that come from?) and says “He ain’t so tough.” Falser words have never been spoken, of course, as Ghost Rider lights on fire yet again and punches dirt demon in the face. Dirt demon stunned, begs for mercy to which GR replies, “Sorry, all out of mercy.” Yeah, and I was all out of mercy for this film about a half hour ago. GR then lights his chain on fire and wraps it around Dirt demon causing him to burn to ash while screaming for Blackheart to help him. Dust to dust indeed, bitch. The rest of the demons then run away. GR whistles (with no lips, nice) and his bike pulls up. He touches it and the bike lights on fire and becomes the bike from hell, basically. So I guess another magic power to our already stellar list: pimp my motorcycle.
But you didn’t forget about Roxie, did you? She’s still at the restaurant now completely wasted. Wow, even I’m not that lame most nights. Well… anyway Roxie the waiter if he thinks she’s pretty and the guy replies “Meh” at which point I’m left to believe that this guy a complete idiot. Not only could he have possibly parlayed Roxie’s question into a possible sexual encounter for himself (yeah, yeah, that’s bad I know) but regardless, telling your patrons that they’re ugly is no way to earn a good tip.
Ghost Rider is scooting around the city and comes across a mugger holding up a fat punk looking chick. He grabs the mugger by the collar and… oh man, this is gonna be good… I mean, he’s about to something awesome right… so he grabs the mugger by the collar and… and… stares into his eyes. WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH THIS MOVIE? Your main villain goes around poking people to death and your hero goes around staring people to death. Eeyargh?!?!? Anyway the mugger stabs him and then dies or whatever.
GR drive off in the country side and collapses on the side of the road as dawn approaches. Apparently he’s driven himself to exact graveyard where his father was buried. Johnny awakes the next morning and is given lots of water which he drinks ravenously. He is now the hands of Sam Elliot, the Caretaker. Caretaker asks if Johnny is all right. Johnny says he is, but he feels like his skull is on fire. Caretaker laughs. I do not. Johnny asks if he says something funny and Caretaker says “Ironic.” Well good, at least we’re teaching the kids in the audience what the word irony means. Now someone just needs to teach the screenwriters what the word subtlety means.
Caretaker says that now that the demons have seen GR they’ll be waiting for him, but it seemed like in the previous scene it was pretty damn easy for them to find him in the first place, so I don’t know what the difference will be. Caretaker stitches up Johnny’s arm from where the mugger stabbed him (a major continuity issue in as we’ll see). Johnny finally remembers what happened to him last night and so we once again get flashback to footage we saw five minutes ago but now with Nic Cage narrating it. Caretaker explains that the whole “stare” thing is actually called the penance stare and it’s the Ghost Rider’s most powerful weapon: it basically sends the evildoers soul to hell while his body remains on Earth. Poke of Death, Penance Stare, what’s next, the Handshake of Doom?
Caretaker explains once again the back-story of the original ghost rider who was sent to collect the souls of San Gonzo but instead kept the contract for the souls and hid it somewhere. Of course, the more I think about this, had the original ghost rider just given the contract to the devil Blackheart wouldn’t be out and about reeking so much havoc. So I guess all the innocent deaths are kind of the original ghost rider’s fault? Blackheart and his groupies, Caretaker explains, were angels cast out of heaven by Saint Michael himself (but somehow they’re not fallen? What?) and also Blackheart can’t come on hallowed ground.
Caretaker asks why Johnny made the deal. Johnny says he only got heartache in return.
Cops are investigating the battle between GR and the demon groupies. Everyone who Blackheart killed thus far technically died from sulfur poisoning, we learn. What could be the cause? A chemical attack? Religious nut? We then see why Roxie is such a great reporter as she questions the police: “Sulfur, ever read the old testament? Brimstone.” You go girl!. Brilliant, Roxie, absolutely brilliant. Someone give this woman a raise for completely making shit up off the top of her head which, I admit, this one time just happens to be right. Meanwhile Johnny also shows up and walks around the carnage he cause.
Roxie snags another stellar interview, this time with the woman who Johnny saved from a mugging the night before. She describes the ghost rider garnering a look of disdain from Roxie as she glances at the camera as if to say “Are you kidding me?” Hey, Roxie, you’re the one who just put out a theory about BRIMSTONE. Why are you giving this woman such a hard time? Johnny tries to talk to her but she just calls him a carnie and he agrees, that yeah, he is. It’s actually a nice little moment where Johnny gets a big comeuppance. But of course we have to keep things light so the cameraman interjects “Well that went well.” And so ends the one dramatic moment where I have sympathy for Johnny Blaze.
Johnny returns to his apartment and examines himself, shirtless, in the mirror. He’s ripped, I got to admit, and also no longer seems to have a visible wound from the knife stabbing. Johnny then proceeds to make skeleton faces in the mirror and attempts to scare himself by spinning around and saying “Boogaboogabooga.” I swear, all this guy does is go home and play in front of the mirror. Narcissus much?
Who needs CGI?
Next Johnny proves he can actually read by flipping through a bunch of religious texts to learn about the myth of the Ghost Rider in a scene sadly borrowed from Catwoman. One book tells Johnny that to control his powers all he has to do is concentrate. Of course! Why didn’t I think of that? Johnny does so and balls up his fist. He then says “I’m speaking to the fire element within, give me control of the possessing spirit.” This allows Johnny to shot a fireball. Great, he’s now almost as cool as the Human Torch.
Roxie comes in and we note once again that Johnny never locks his lift. Roxie wants to apologize for calling Johnny a carnie. She asks if something’s burning (HOW’DITGETBURNED???) and Johnny says his neighbor got a new hibachi. He hides all his books while Roxie looks at photos of Johnny and herself. Can this woman button up her shirt, by the way? She then puts the moves on Johnny, which I guess explains the look she’s got going. Wow, this woman is really able to put up with a lot and keep coming back for more. Which she gets, as Johnny tells her that she should go. Roxie then begins to inquisition Johnny about why he won’t put out for her, er, I mean “care about her.”
Johnny finally makes the boneheaded (hahaha) decision to tell Roxie that he is indeed Ghost Rider. Roxie of course doesn’t believe him and goes into to J-Lo as Jenny-on-the-Block mode saying “Way I see it is I’ve got a couple of choices…” and I swear that line and phrasing is directly from Gigli. The choices are to commit Johnny or walk out the door (I thought it was a lift) forever. She goes with the latter, and just after she leaves the cops arrive and arrest Johnny.
At the police station Captain Jack and Officer Aurelias (I’m actually somewhat sure those are there real names) interrogate Johnny in the cliché (add another!) good cop bad cop style. Johnny even points out that what they’re doing is cliché. SO WHY PUT IN A CLICHÉ IF EVERYONE AGREES IT’S STUPID??? The cops show Johnny pictures of Blackheart’s victims. Good cop sits down and offers Johnny a cigarette. He tries to light it but his lighter flips out and Johnny opines “Ok, that was weird.” It’s never mentioned again. Johnny strokes the cops egos by saying he respects the force and wants to be a motorcycle police officer when he retires (eerily linking this movie to The Wicker Man yet again…). The ego stroking doesn’t work, so the cops prep Johnny for stroking of another kind by tossing him n the brig.
In the tank Johnny starts flipping out because he’s now surrounded by evil. Hehehe. This is gonna be good. Johnny then flips out meanwhile the other prisoners recognize him as Johnny Blaze and proceed to gang rape him. It’s an odd mix of criminals including a young black teenager and a white guy in a Hawaiin shirt (only the latter of which gets in on the gang rape). If you’d like to make a joke about skull#@$%ing be my guest. I’ve got much better taste than that. Anyway Johnny transforms into Ghost Rider and kicks everyone’s ass and sets off the sprinkler system. He then steals a criminals jackets and magically causes spikes to shoot out of the shoulder pads. GR is about to leave when he points at the black teenager and says “YOU… INNOCENT.” And leaves. Well good, because I was seriously worrying about what that kid’ crimes were, if any.
Cut to a church and you know the Catholics are about to get bitchy. Blackheart is there praying in what I guess is an ironic way: “Forgive me father for I have sinned… I’ve sinned a lot.” Which makes me wonder what the point of God is in this movie. I do know if he were kind and loving god movies like Ghost Rider wouldn’t be getting made.
GR escapes from prison and we get the big chase scene of the film. When GR leaves he does this little chain flip thing and the chain half passes through the metal spikes. I think we’re supposed to believe that the spikes bend out of the way, but it’s clear a CGI gaffe. I mean what, are they supposed to really be rubber spikes or something?
At the church Blackheart interrogates a priest as to where the Contract of San Gonzo is. The priest doesn’t answer and Blackheart then flips out and the whole church gets covered in “evil”. But we cut away and whatever happens is never referenced again. Meanwhile GR escapes and is chased by the entire police force. GR decides to escape by driving off a bridge into the river below. We see him on fire underwater, if that makes sense, but he then somehow drives off on top of the water. What? Whereas most superheroes have pretty well defined powers GR’s just seem to come and go on the spot.
Anyway GR just happens to drive by the church the demons are in and they hear his motorcycle and recognize its RPM I guess. Blackheart sends out Air demon to attack GR. This looks like a tough fight because Air demon can’t be harmed. GR prepares for battle by driving straight up the side of a skyscraper which just happens to be directly across from Roxie’s hotel. And just what are the odds of that?
We’re then treated to a completely pointless battle between GR and a helicopter (Air demon seems to have conveniently made himself scarce). Johnny uses his chain to lasso the helicopter while screaming ‘YEEEEEHAW.” He pulls it down on to the roof (and I hope you appreciate how much strength that requires) and says “You’re pissing me off.” Geez, the one moment where I’m expecting a pun and instead the movie gives me the blandest “badass” line ever! Anyway he let’s the helicopter go and it flies away. The point? I dunno, but it’s all the more stupid because this scene, this single scene, caused the film’s release to be delayed because the director really, really wanted it in the movie. Please mom, can’t I? In fact, he funded it with his own damn money! Well spent, my friend, well spent.
Air demon decides that he’s ready to fight now. GR grabs him but Air demon escapes because, well, he’s made of air. GR tries to whip Air demon with his chain but fails to hit him because, well, he’s air. Finally Air demon clues GR into this fact by giggling and saying “You cannot catch the wind!” He also calls GR a slow learner, which I found amusing. After all, GR is really just an automaton; a midlevel manager for Satan.
But the IQs of the two characters are inexplicably reverse as GR lights his chain on fire and starts whipping it around like a cyclone. Air demon just floats there looking perplexed for a few seconds before saying “Noooo!” and being pulled into the cyclone where he disintegrates. And all of that does make perfect sense.
GR then decides the best thing to do is drive off the side of the skyscraper straight into the police roadblock. It seems like he knows what he’s doing until he smashes into the ground at 200 miles per hour. For just a second I think to myself that maybe GR screwed up and actually killed himself right then and there. But no, GR emerges from the crater he just created and sees Roxie (and about a hundred cops). He walks over to her because ‘twas beauty killed the beast and all that. Of course, being surrounded by so much good he begins to lose his powers and his flame turns blue. Then the bad cop (Capt. Jack) says fire and the cops empty hundreds of rounds into Johnny. This causes the flame to come back on. All right! Who’s the evil cop? I want names people! Someone on that force is evil. GR does a flame wall thing and drives away.
Johnny drives back out to the cemetery where the Caretaker is making firewood. Now that’s living! Johnny then explains that everybody knows that about the Ghost Rider. Everybody. It was on TV. And in the next couple scenes we realize why most superheroes don’t reveal their identities. The police come to interrogate Roxie and say they know Blaze is involved. The cops give her six hours to help them or they go public with everything they got.
Johnny and Caretaker look at the graveyard of Carter Slade a “man of honor who got greedy and found himself on the gallows.” Slade made a deal to save his life and became a ghost rider. Slade, we learn ONCE AGAIN, is that very GR who was sent to get the souls of San Gonzo but instead kept the contract and ran away. Caretaker claims he doesn’t know where the contract is. Johnny realizes that Blackheart will be coming for Roxie and my favorite scene in the movie is about to occur!!!
Roxie lets herself into Johnny’s apartment because once again “the lift was open.” So are there no doors at all for this place? And jeez, would it kill this guy to lock his lift? He’s got tons of expensive motorcycles up there! Roxie enters the apartment and we all expect her to get poked of course. But instead Mack pops up in what I guess is an attempt at a false scare (he was wearing head phones). You remember Mack, don’t you? He was Johnny’s side kick for the first quarter of the movie who completely disappeared once the script no longer called for comic relief. Roxie and Mack don’t know each other, you recall, but they’re both looking for Johnny. Mack hasn’t heard from him (yeah, well we haven’t hear from you either, Mack). Mack says “Look you’re a nice lady and you’re pretty and all but we were riding the biscuit train on gravy wheels until you showed up so why don’t you just go on back to wherever it is you came from.” Ah, now I remember why I miss Mack so much, that country charmer. At least he didn’t tell her about his dog Lucky. Roxie convinces Mack she’s on his team and Mack then shows her all Johnny’s “weird books,” but based on what I know of Mack, I’d say any book would seem weird to him.
Poke of Death? Psh, I poke myself in the head all the time.
Back at the cemetery, Caretaker is attacked by Blackheart and his one remaining demon, Water boy. Blackheart proceeds to beat the shit out of caretaker and informs: “I have all of my father’s strength and none of his weaknesses” which I guess is the plot’s attempt to explain why he can walk on hallowed ground. We then get a brilliant performance from Wes Bentley as he kicks the caretaker and yells “GIVE IT TO ME! GIVE IT TO ME! GIVE IT TO ME! GIVE IT TO ME!” and if you’re not cracking up picturing this than you take movies way to seriously. Forget howdyhowdy. Forget how’ditgetburned. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you giveittomegiveittomegiveitome. Caretaker says Blackheart is gonna fall, just like your father. Blackheart then curb stomps the caretaker sans curb and then asks him where GR is. Caretaker won’t say, but Blackheart finally puts two and two together and goes after Roxie to draw GR into a trap. This of course is what we knew was going to happen five minutes ago, in a weird moment where the hero, Johnny, is amazingly three steps ahead of the son of the devil. Well, nobody’s perfect.
Johnny still hasn’t arrived at his flat though, and Roxie reads through the books and murmurs “Jesus…” to which Mack responds “Not even close.” Wait, what??? I didn’t know Mack had a nasty side. Ah, but then Mack’s body starts to decay and it turns out that Blackheart had snuck in and done the hokey pokey once again.
Now, I have a theory about this part of the movie and maybe someone can verify. I have a strong hunch that Donald Logue couldn’t really finish shooting this scene for whatever reason. When the shot turns on Mack he is frozen still and then the CGI takes over as “he” crumples to the ground. You’ll also notice how Blackheart just kind of “pops up” once Mack falls out of the way. In short, I’m almost certain that the actor playing Mack wasn’t really there for that shot and that it had to be edited in. We also note that Roxie doesn’t really react in any way indicating that she just watched a guy get turned to dust and Blackheart doesn’t mention Mack’s death any further.
Anyway, Blackheart informs Roxie that “you have his heart, now I’m gonna break it.” Johny finally rushes in and sees “Mack” lying on the floor and says “Oh, Mack.” Now, first of all, how the hell did he recognize that as Mack? There’s just no way. Once again, I’m almost certain the movie realized that they hadn’t resolved the Mack character at all and just pasted this in.
Anyway, Johnny transforms into GR and grabs Blackheart and says “Look into my eyes” and the goth homoeroticism is truly touching. But Blackheart laughs and tells GR that the penance stare won’t work because Blackheart has no soul to burn. Oops. Blackheart then Choke Slams GR into the ground. And yes, choke slam is the word. It’s the exact move the Undertaker used in WWF. Blackheart then makes Johnny get the contract in exchange for Roxie’s life. He eyes Roxie and says “And Johnny… don’t make me wait.” Eww, if poking a person with a finger turns them to dust; I don’t want to know what poking her with something else would do.
Johnny drives off to the cemetery and the Caretaker is still lying on the ground. The Caretaker reveals the contract isn’t buried in the cemetery but is actually hidden in his shovel!!! Oh shit! Johnny opines that the devil may have his soul, but he doesn’t have my spirit.
Caretaker counter-opines that anyone who is willing to sell his soul for love has the power to change the world… he didn’t do it for greed, he did it for love, and that puts God on your side. Uh, actually I have a feeling God would have a problem with selling your soul for pretty much anything. In fact, I’m certain of it.
We then find out (surprise surprise) that the caretaker is Carter Slade, the original Ghost Rider. He transforms and whistles for his Ghost Horse. He and Johnny mount their organic and metal steeds respectively and they take off as cowboy music starts playing. The two CGI ghost riders blaze a trail (haha) across the desert. It’s actually a fun bit of CGI to see the two GR’s riding together. They drive past a lizard and it lights on fire and dies. Hahaha. Really though, it does capture the essence of GR and I liked it.
They arrive at San Gonzo and Slade tells Johnny to stick to the shadows. They then turn off their GR abilities and Slade says “this is the end of the trail for me. I could only change one more time and I saved it for this. God knows I’ve made my share of mistakes. I’ve tried to make things right ever since.” Slade then tips his out and… rides away and vanishes. WHAT????
Hang on. Pause the movie. So what the hell was the point of Slade riding out there with Johnny if he’s not going to help him fight? And why un-transform from GR form if it’s your last chance to be a ghost rider? And further, does this mean GR has limited transformations? Will Johnny eventually run out as well? And why did Slade come in the first place? To show Johnny the way? Do they not have directions? Yeesh. Anyway, Slade gives Johnny a shotgun before he de-materializes.
Meanwhile Blackheart has brought Roxie to San Gonzo and I have to wonder how exactly? Did they take a cab? I mean, Blackheart, it seems, can teleport, but how did Roxie get there, exactly? The town’s out in the middle of the desert!
Blackheart sends Water demon out to slow Johnny down because it’s almost dawn and GR loses his powers in the light. Apparently Johnny has to cross a swamp to get to San Gonzo. Where that came from I don’t know and why Johnny doesn’t use his GR powers to drive on water I also don’t know, but it’s perfect for a fight with a water demon, am I right? Anyway that’s what happens. Water demon jumps out of the muck and says “boo.” We then get an underwater… battle? Which consists of a lot of grunting. Johnny then plays dead before transforming into GR and saying “Surprise” haha, good one Johnny, but do we really have time for jokes right now? He then flames water demon underwater which somehow kills water demon. They clearly didn’t even bother thinking of any elemental logic to for this one.
Anyway Johnny makes it to San Gonzo so the showdown can begin. Equipped with chain and shotgun he approaches Roxie and Blackheart who are just standing there waiting for him. Blackheart tells Johnny if he changes into GR he’ll poke Roxie and kill her. Roxie says do it Johnny. Boy is she brave. Johnny instead pulls out the contract and he and Blackheart make the deal amid close ups on their eyes. Blackheart throws Roxie away and Johnny of course transforms. Brilliant. Unfortuntely GR gets it handed to him by Blackheart who goes for the contract.
GR then introduces a new superpower and let me tell you, if you thought poking and staring and people was awesome, well this is going to blow your mind. GR is now able to pick up flaming clumps of dirt and THORW THEM at Blackheart. Haha! Eat that! He does this several times even hitting Blackheart in the face which I have to admit is pretty hilarious to watch. But hey, that’s what you get your only power is poking people: dirt in your face.
But uh-oh, the sun has come up and GR’s powers diminish. He goes for the shotgun but it’s too late: Blackheart reads from the contract of San Gonzo and transforms by saying “All of you: Come to me!” Then a whole bunch of ghosts fly around and fly into Blackheart’s mouth. The whole thing looks rather unpleasant. Bet that leaves an after taste! Hahahahaha. I am really starting to lose it at this point…
Roxie makes it over to Johnny but it’s too late! Blackheart has absorbed all the souls of San Gonzo! And his new superpower??? Why, his eyes turn red and he looks even uglier than before. He then helpfully informs us: “My name is Leeeeeeegion…. … … for we are … …. MAAAAAAAAAANYYYYYY.”
Now, I understand that this is actually a biblical quote which is great and all, but trust me, when the demons in the Bible delivered this line, they didn’t do it quite like Blackheart does here, which I have described as best as I can. And for that matter, I would like to state for the record that Jesus had way better super power than either of these numb nuts.
Anyway, Roxie wants to leave because she is a total coward, but Johnny knows he’s got to end it. So he starts shooting Blackheart with the shotgun and Roxie runs away. What the hell is the point of being “leeeegion” anyway? Blackheart doesn’t seem any stronger than before. Still bipedal. Still just punches Johnny around. He then says “All of your world, all of your souls, will be miiiiine.” Yeah, and all your base are belong to us. Whatever.
He then takes another blast from the shotgun from Roxie this time which blows off his head (briefly). Roxie of course magically suffers no recoil from the gun whatsoever. Unfortunately, it’s also out of ammo. Johnny commands Roxie to throw him the gun, but rather than immediately doing so she says “It’s out!” At which point Johnny should say “DO WHAT I SAY BITCH, I AM THE GHOST RIDER,” but instead he just repeats himself. Anyway, she finally gives it to him and he sticks it in the shadows and fires causing a explosion which turns Blackheart into something like Venom from Spiderman 3. Blackheart reforms after a bit though. Johnny then says “How does it feel to have all that evil inside of you, all that power, all those souls?” And now we know what GR’s plan is. That’s right: the penance stare. You see, because Blackheart absorbed all those souls the penance stare can now work on him. GR grabs Blackheart by the collar and looks deep into his eyes… We see all the people he killed (including Mack!!! Hooray!) And Blackheart is turned into a shell of his former self. So basically Blackheart was no more powerful after getting the Contract of San Gonzo, in fact it made him considerably weaker. SO this just became one of those plots where the bad guy’s plan was idiotic to begin with. Did Blackheart not think of this at the time?
Roxie approaches GR and tries to touch him but he turns away and says “Monster.” She assumes he’s referring to himself I guess and says “I’m not afraid.” Upon touching his, uh, cheek, he transforms back into Johnny. And who should arrive then but the Devil. The Devil wants to take back the power of the GR so that Johnny can have his life back. Just one problem, Johnny ain’t giving the power back.
Johnny points at the devil, but instead of saying “YOU” like I was expecting he completely changes it up and says “NO” instead. He then waxes poetic about whenever innocent blood is spilled it’ll be the blood of his father and fighting fire and fire and blah blah. Wow, why couldn’t he deliver lines like that when Roxie was interviewing him? But in short, we have yet another bad guy plan which backfires as the devil has created yet another renegade ghost rider (you’d think he learned his lesson the first time Carter Slade stole the Contract of San Gonzo and started this whole mess).
Anyway, Roxie and Johnny are back in the field where they carved their names. Johnny says that he’s leaving and Roxie complains that his choices always keep them apart. All in all, though, Roxie seems pretty okay with this. They kiss one last time and we zoom in on “J&R FOREVER” carved into the tree. No, no, Ghost Rider Forever isn’t until the third sequel, dummies. Anyway, Johnny drives off down the road while the caretaker tells us that “this is how legends are born” and I gotta say, movie, that’s getting a bit ahead of yourself.