I could pretend this is all part of some build up to Halloween, but instead it’s a reaction to this statement: trailers SUCK! We all know what it’s like to hear about a film in production we really want to see, followed months later by the first teaser, and then finally the big jizz-inducing trailer. When Ghost Rider underwent his new millennium comic book make-over I was hooked on his Hellblazer-esque adventures as he threw rogue demons back to Hell as he rode the lonely road to damnation, so when the film was announced, teaser leaked and trailer aired during 2006, I was giddy as a paedophile at a park. So how disappointed was I to discover the film was a steaming pile of Batman & Robin after a promising ad campaign? VERY, that’s how much. I don’t know if this is a relatively new thing I was too young and optimistic to notice until then or whether it’s always been this way, but what I do know is that Ghost Rider was the first time the penny dropped at how marketing really works to sell shit like it’s toothpaste, leaving you short changed and with a vile taste in your mouth. With Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance now threatening cinema screen with a 2012 release (isn’t it enough we might be facing an apocalypse next year without this to further dampen our spirits?), I figured it was time again to tongue the wretched turd stains on my teeth left by its’ predecessor. Taste buds at the ready…
Part 1: I Asked for ‘Mephisto’, not Matlock!
Since the time before there was time (historians track this to approximately -0 BC) the Devil has been too lazy to follow up on the chaos he created on earth, requiring every generation to spawn a Ghost Rider; a spirit bounty hunter who collects the souls of the damned indebted to Satan. Question: Does this mean that the Ghost Riders have a finite lifespan of one lifetime, and if so does that mean that you could be a frail 97 years old and still be acting as a toothless loan-shark to those mean enough to deal with Satan? Apparently so, which is why no one in the Marvel universe ages in order to prevent us from seeing an OAP squaring up against a cult of occultists, resulting in his face greeting the back of his throat via the medium of fist. Back in the all-or-nothin’ days of the ‘ol west there was one such Ghost Rider charged with collecting a bounty of 1000 “evil” souls from Scumsville or Bastard Town, or Shitpit – someplace unpleasant -, but upon retrieving them decided that 1000 was too much power for the Devil himself to have it. Uh hu… So the Devil, or more specifically the Marvel devil Mephisto, who has taken the mortal guise of an old codger in a suit rather than some bad-ass monster, has been harvesting soul since man crawled out of his cave tens of thousands of years ago, yet apparently 1000 souls in one sitting would make him too powerful and more likely to…what? – he’s already the literal incarnation of evil with the ability to live eternal, turn people into demon slaves, damn souls for an eternity of suffering, and allow a film like Love Actually and Green Lantern to get made, and yet this ONE CONTRACT will somehow make things worse. I don’t buy it.
Yee Old Ghost Rider: I’ve sucked the souls from hundreds of thousands of innocent people to fulfil my end of the bargain, but if I allow you to have these 1000 evil, corrupt, damnable souls from those who deserve the torment then…erm, what’s my point again?
Mephisto: That it doesn’t matter when you learn a moral lesson; so long as it’s learnt then you’ll always be marginally superior to the devil you were morally bankrupt enough to strike a deal with in the first place?
Yee Old Ghost Rider: I’ll trade you my soul to have that in writing.
Mephisto: Deal! Now let me just find a pen…HEY, get back here!
Yee Old Ghost Rider takes the contract out from under Mephistos’ nose and flees into exile, never expecting to be found by a demon god with omnipotence.
Yee Old Ghost Rider: [Fading into the distance] Suck my balls!
Mephisto may be the personification of evil, but at least he never welshed on a deal. This has already caused me to rethink my pre-held ideas on who the real morally bankrupt villain of the piece is. Leap forward a generation or two where young Jonny Blaze and his father work as motorcycle stunt men at a carnival. Jonny, like a certain Human Torch, is quite the hot-head (oh hoho me-oh-my) who uses near fatal collisions and flirtations with debilitating spinal injuries to woo the heart of his lady love Roxanne. His dad can read his like a book – if he could read that is.
Blaze Sr.: Damn it Jonny, I see what you were doing in there. When are you gonna quit fuckin’ around *hacking cough*.
Jonny: I weren’t doin’ nothin’ pa.
Blaze Sr.: You think a pretty piece of ass like that gonna love you in a wheel chair? Why, she’d sooner love a negro than a cripple *hacking cough [possibly brought on by karmic cancer]*
Jonny looks ashamed and beaten.
Blaze Sr. (continued): That’s what I thought, so you just go back to your pin-dick little jerk-off fantasies and keep earning me money. I love you son, you fuckin’ faggot.
Fortunately, the red neck hick is capable of dispensing words of wisdom on top of insults and hacking up phlegm, so we can be guilted into believing Jonny is justified in wasting a perfectly solid deal with the devil to save his life from smoking-induced cancer. Roxanne tells him her dad is making her leave town, so Jonny proposes they leave town first together and live as street bums, rather than going with her and mooching off her rich dad. That night Jonny discovers his pa has inoperable lung cancer due to his imbalance of cigarette smoke to fresh air ratio. To clear his head Jonny goes to the garage where he is propositioned by Peter Fonda, the terrible human form taken by Mephisto. Mephisto uses a strategy of acting so poorly that Jonny will be unable to notice the drawbacks of the once in a lifetime offer he extends him. Clearly this tactic works, as Jonny signs the curiously specific contract WRITTEN AND SIGNED IN BLOOD to a MYSTERIOUS STRANGER WHO KNOWS HIS FAMILY MEDICAL HISTORY offering a chance to CURE CANCER for the price of HIS IMMORTAL SOUL. Mephisto disappears in a puff of ‘I can’t believe you fell for that one’, leaving Jonny fucked 8-ways from Sunday. I should take a moment to point out to non nerds (you know, the ones who can play sports and pound vaginas without a second thought) that this is the same devil who broke up Spider-Man’s marriage to Mary Jane just for kicks, so he isn’t really evil as such, more a dick that gets off on emotional turmoil. My kind of anti-God. Jonny awakes to find his dad is “as healthy as a horse”, just like Mephisto promised (and I was hoping he’d actually turn his dad into a horse because…horses don’t get cancer? That’d be one great loophole in the bargain to mess with expectations). He is also marginally less of an arsehole than before, which made the deals’ price worth it alone. He gives Jonny his pride bike/secret lover, wishing him and Roxanne the best in life, then promptly dies in a motorcycle crash. Jonny is so upset he rides off into the desert where Mephisto is waiting.
Mephisto: Never deal with the devil son, for I always outsmart you mortals.
Jonny: How was that outsmarting me? You pushed him off a ramp. If he’d done something stupid and reckless because he still thought he was going to die of cancer, then that would have been true to form. But to push a guy off his bike… I’ve lost a lot of respect for you man.
Mephisto: But I bet you feel all guilty and stuff now and this guilt will define your actions from here out.
Jonny: You’re thinking of Peter Parker.
Mephisto: Look kid, I just want a courier service, so how’s about I give you immortality and we call it a day.
Roxanne waits in the rain as Jonny rides away until he morphs into Nicolas ‘not the bees’ Cage – perhaps signifying time has elapsed, or maybe a another drawback of the deal. Jonny is now a world-wide hick-worshiped daredevil, whose batshit bonkers stunts are made possible by Mephisto watching his back (no doubt regretting selecting Jonny ever since, and feeling like Paris Hiltons’ dad when he permitted her access to his bank account). If back-breaking bike feats weren’t enough for Satan to be worrying about his investments, Jonny is also testing his limits by tempting diabetes through the ingestion of jelly beans on Tom Baker’s Dr Who magnitude, in a poorly devised attempt to make his drawling, monkey-obsessed dullard character appear more appealing to the off-put audience. Out in the desert a dark man with a dark coat and a dark disposition clad in the dark of night (WE GET IT, THIS GUY IS DARK!) materialises in a storm of brimstone and assaults a bar stocked with skinhead dick wads.
Hells Angel: Pretty boy, you came to the wrong place. This here be ‘Angels only.
Blackheart: ‘Angels’, oh how ironic.
Hells Angel: Gah, big words! You got some kind of problem punk?!
Blackheart: As a matter of fact…
He sucks the life from the Hells Angel.
Blackheart (continued): – I do oh come on! Why do I always kill them before I get to say my one-liner? I suck at this!
Yes Blackheart has gone emo; no longer content with being the lovechild of Predator and Sonic the Hedgehog, he’s settled for a long coat and a lot of eyeliner. Honestly, I don’t know which of the two I’d find more terrifying in this situation.
He goes onto slaughter the bar. One bar maid thinks she’s escaped but Blackheart can “smell fear” (FYI it smells like piss and shit, especially during a situation such as this), although personally I think it has more to do with her moving from behind cover before she’s sure he’d left. He summons his minions, Moe, Larry and Curly – three fallen angels with powers over the three elements (fire was on vacation the day of the Holy Wars’ Fall), whom he needs to track down the lost contract of 1000 souls in order to usurp his father Mephisto. With deep links to fatherhood and gripping motivations such as these, it’s hard to believe this film flopped for reasons other than the acting and LACK OF GHOST RIDER. Blackheart knows the contract is believed to be located in a nearby graveyard, meaning that Mephisto must also surely know this, yet it took them this long to decide to check if this all-powerful contract of 1000 game winning souls was within dirt scrabbling distance this whole time. Seriously starting to doubt this family is evil so much as they are work shy and violent, in which case Manchester is surely Hell on earth. Daddy dearest turns up to smack talk with the fruit of his gnarled loins.
Mephisto: What have I told you about searching for relics that will allow you to overthrow me?!
Blackheart: Enough with the theatrics, you can’t harm me on earth because I’ve never fallen from Heaven and somehow this prevents you being anything BUT Peter Fonda in a bad role while here.
Mephisto: And that bloody loophole has me in a bind ever since I asked God to let me have a crack with his sister. However, my Ghost Rider can and will beat you down.
Blackheart: The Rider -the guy who’s never been in a fight or even been made aware of his powers? Crap, what hope does the son of the all-powerful devil have against someone like that?! Oh father, if only you’d given me the Hellfire…
Mephisto:…You’d have not grown up to be a moaning disappointment?
Blackheart: No, I’d have used it by now rather than making audiences wait nearly an hour before they saw me go all Casper: the biker years!
While Blackheart and Mephisto continue to have their little family drama on the lawn, Jonny aggravates further by watching apes, eating jelly beans and listening to the Carpenters, instead of becoming a flammable skull and purging corrupt souls with sharp objects, making us wish we were back with the demons bickering about their family issues.
The following day Jonny is reunited with Roxanne, who has filled out – into a fine reporter that is, ahem. Distracted by boobs, Jonny still manages to leap a gaggle of helicopters across a football field and ask Roxanne on a date. THIS FILM IS SO BORING AND STUPID EVEN I’M FINDING IT HARD TO FIND THE HUMOUR HERE – and Jonny just jumped over 6 helicopters on a dirt bike! Just turn into Ghost Rider already!!! Look, the reason we didn’t need to see Spider-Man every other scene of his movies was because it was the actions of Peter Parker that shaped and moulded his super persona, so you can spend 30 solid minutes of Peter going to class or donating blood because it makes Spider-Man who he is in the greater narrative. In the cast of Ghost Rider, having a man with a demonic parasite sitting around eating jelly beans, watching TV and jumping ramps does not shape his character as the demonic parasite is an apathetic entity that doesn’t act or learn according to Jonnys’ sensibilities or actions . It wastes time and money and only makes me get madder than Red Hulk when asked “where does your moustache go?” So quit trying to make us care about all this and SHOW ME WHAT I CAME TO SEE!
Part 2: It’s Been Nearly an Hour – Can we Please See Ghost Rider!?
Right I’m skipping on because there is only so much of Nick Cage and Eva Mendes being romantically awkward I can take. Mephisto sets Jonny the task of eliminating Blackheart (rather than using one for his more loyal and experienced demonic minions), and at 47 MINUTES into a film titled Ghost Rider we finally get to see the star character. The added bonus is that Jonny Blaze/Nicolas Cage goes through a great deal of pain during the transformation, which is partial justice for the suffering of the audience up to (and unfortunately beyond) this point. Blackheart could really do with a map and a Power Point presentation on earthly graveyards and the finding of them, as he and his motley crew are searching for it in a train yard – close but no cigar Blackfringe. “You’re going down” rasps Ghost Rider not very menacingly, and for his insolence Blackheart attempts to kill him there and then BY HANGING HIM. Educational systems in the underworld must be worse than inner-city public schools if Blackheart thinks HANGING will stop a Skeleton Warrior. As a side note, anyone remember that show which proved to be inspirational to Michael Jackson, but for reasons never made publicly clear?
I am SO bored I’m taking about Skeleton Warriors, and I’m not even sure I ever saw a single episode past the pilot. Knew I should have covered Attack of the Clones this rant instead :(. Ghost Rider battles the Fallen Trio, as much as one can against soil, a slight breeze and puddles, eventually killing Earth, the Bringer of Dust, by burning the sin out of him; this pussy begs for mercy after one punch, yet these are the ones Blackheart trust the success of his operation AGAINST SATAN to. The now Trio Two flee with Blackheart instead of gang fucking Ghost Rider before he can become even more learned in his strengths. Ghost Rider whistles (the fuck!?) pretty good for a head with no lips and pimps out his loyal bike into the Hellcycle while Roxanne continues to wait in the restaurant for a date that’ll never arrive – that is unless she wants a date with death, but my calendar is as full as my basements’ wall-mounted shackles so I won’t be able to make it either. Jonny is far too busy purging small time muggers of their higher brain functions to notice anything other than the smell of their charring eyeballs right now, so she’ll be waiting a loooong time.
Next morning Jonny awakes in a random cemetery (hum, I wonder what the likely hood of this being the very same cemetery the emo and his cronies are searching for), with a mouth like charcoal and a beardy-weirdy caretaker lecturing him about his destiny as a Rider. Not the first thing Jonny expected from the morning, seeing as his original plans took part mostly on top and inside of Roxanne, who herself is pretty pissed at having to do all the finger work herself last night after Jonny stood her up. It isn’t hard to track her down, seeing as all the city’s reporters are based along the same stretch of molten tarmac that the Hellcycle tore up last night – choosing to cluster around the same square foot for their coverage over the mile long tire tread. She wants nothing to do with him and storms off. Honestly, stand up a woman once after abandoning her in the rain 20 years earlier the night you planned to elope and you never live it down. Women, this is why I pay for all of my ex-wives to get a sex change. Yawn, once again we sit through a seemingly endless number of scenes of Nicolas Cage doing very little but fumble around awkwardly as Jonny tries and succeeds in convening Roxanne that he ‘s devoted to making it work between them.
Jonny: I know you hate me right now, and with good cause. The only reason I couldn’t make our date was because Satan, who cured my dad’s cancer, showed up wanting me to kill his son because I owe him my sole. I transformed into a skeleton with bad acid reflux and murdered a man made of dirt by igniting his own sins after he drove a truck into me – I would have dived outta the way, but his friend was a puddle who held my foot down. Then as I was heading to the restaurant there was a mugger, and I just couldn’t let him steal that woman’s $20 purse, so I burnt his soul out of his eye balls. I woke up in a cemetery caretakers’ bed and now here we are.
Jonny: I saw the kid from American Beauty too, which rocked. So how was your day?
Roxanne kisses him, because all women love a lying bastard. He tries to transform right there and then, for reasons I cannot fathom – and I hold a degree in fathomability from the University of Snarf. If this had worked, the Rider would either have dry roasted her eyes like marshmallows to get those nasty sins out of her, or he would have made out with her…and that’d be more uncomfortable than that bit in Army of Darkness when Evil Ash makes out with Sheila, and that mother fucker has more rot than Uncle Fester has internet dating rejections. Be Honest, who’d you feel more inclined to make out with: Ash;
Submit your answers to 1313 Mockingbird Lane, Mockingbird Heights, California PO BOX: DRAG-U-LA. Roxanne leaves as the police arrive; they have found the Hellcycles’ charred licence plate amongst the DOZENS OF OTHER LICENCE PLATES at the crime scene and decide this is enough to arrest him for melting peoples’ spirits out of their face holes. They throw him in a cell with the most wretched excuses for mankind they can find, causing Jonny to go all spaz-a-ma-taz and loose more skin than a self-harmer in a razor blade factory — NO: a snake in a blind taxidermists’ – with Parkinson’s –, with the Ghost Rider making short work of the rapist murderers. Done with his murder spree of purification that’d make the Punisher fall to his knees in awe, Ghost Rider exits the station and drives up a sky scraper as Blackheart pesters a priest about the whereabouts of the hidden graveyard. Try anywhere but IN THE CENTRE OF A CITY YOU THICK SHIT! Sensing Ghost Rider is near Blackheart dispatches one of his inept goons to take him on, because that worked a treat last time. Blusters the element of wind holds the upper hand until Ghost Rider realises that if you trap a localised air gust in a fire tornado, you can dissipate it and kill the soul inside…yes, I recall something like this in junior school physics class, shortly before the teacher was fired for crack addiction. Blackheart seems happy his entourage is down another member; considering he’s not even tried to take on the Rider yet with back up (he’s that gaping a pussy), he has no chance now. Ghost Rider is fired at by the police and Roxanne FINALLY realises Jonny was telling the truth…or maybe he lied and said he was the leather clad Skull Master in order to avoid the date – the heart hears what it wants to hear.
Returning to the Caretaker, Jonny gets filled in on the remaining details.
Caretaker: There once was a man who outran the devil, taking with him a contract of 1000 souls.
Jonny: 1000 don’t seem a lot, all things considering.
Caretaker: Well it was back then.
Jonny: No it wasn’t – that’d be currency value in dollars. Besides, the Devil’s gotta be around a couple hundred thousand years old, with a species life-time worth of souls in his possession. You’re telling me that 1000 souls from the late 1800s, early 1900s, is worth more than a couple millennia worth of human sins?
Caretaker: Did I mention these were real bad souls?
Jonny: Oh then that makes all the difference…wait a minute, then how did the town economy function? If all these souls were evil enough to draw Mephistos’ attention, then would they really work as a society that could keep a town of 1000 running for any sufficient length of time? What about the banks for a start…
Caretaker: Stop reading too much into it! It’s a film. Just deal, okay! So he sent his loan shark Ghost Rider to collect the bounty, but then he turned and ran to prevent the power of the contract falling into the hands of evil. And I – I mean, ‘he’s’ been running ever since.
Jonny: But if they already signed their souls over to him then why does he even need the contract?
Caretaker: Because Satan is a lawyer and a stickler for bureaucracy. Did you get the subtle hint that I was that Ghost Rider? I can tell it again louder if you didn’t.
Armed with the most evil tool ever developed, Google Maps, Blackheart eventually tracks down the graveyard and beast seven shades of sin out of the Caretaker for his troubles while Jonny is back in the city. Blackheart tracks down Roxanne to Jonny’s apartment and engages Ghost Rider in a brief, albeit non-stimulating scuffle, revealing that as he was never born with a soul he is immune to the Riders Penance Stare (am I geeking hard enough for you there?). He gives the downed Jonny until sunrise to deliver the contract to Bastard Town or Roxanne will die.
Part 3: Everything’s Coming up Milhouse!
The Caretaker reveals that the contract has been hidden in his shovel all these years (the fuck!?) and declares that he’ll ride out with Jonny on his skeletal steed – the Harley of its’ time. I’d rather have had Death’s horse Binky from Discworld, but this is kinda cool… then again, in this lame-ass movie even Milhouse would be classable as a cool addition to the roster.
“Don’t make me sign up to Ghost Rider!” The two Riders ride out on their mounts to Bastard Town. After 10 seconds of sheer awesome, the executives decided that the CGI budget was required to refill the cocaine trough, and things grind to a halt.
Yee Old Ghost Rider: Well, I’ve done all I can here. The rest is up to you
Ghost Rider: We just got here.
Yee Old Ghost Rider: I was only good for one more ride.
Ghost Rider: Couldn’t you have saved it until after we got to the final showdown?
Yee Old Ghost Rider: Cut me some slack. I kept the contract hidden for a century.
Ghost Rider: Like anyone would have looked for a contract owed to Satan in a shovel.
Excuse me for a minute while I take a random inspection of my tool shed.
Nope, nothing in there apart from a script called ‘SW: Episode I – the no-Gungans version’ and some Polaroid’s of Natalie Portman changing out of her leather corset. Worthless! Ghost Rider is so full of shit. Blackheart waits for the Rider to arrive in Bastard Town where he taunts Roxanne, who is perhaps a tad overconfident that nothing can stop Ghost Rider kicking his pasty butt – was she not present during the one-sided battle the demon spawn had in the apartment? I believe she was, seeing as it resulted in her BEING KIDNAPPED and now having this conversation as a result. Drippy, the last remaining elemental, is sent knowingly on a suicide mission to “slow the Rider down.” Me in this situation; I’d be up for none of that and leave, but Puddles MaGee is nothing if not stupidly loyal, which proves that loyalty will only serve to get you boiled alive in the long run. He confronts Blackheart who is holding Roxanne captive.
Blackheart: Transform into Ghost Rider and I’ll kill your girlfriend.
Roxanne: Actually, we’re not official yet so if you’d mind keeping that to yourself…
Jonny: If I give you the contract to make you more powerful than Satan, will you let her go?
Blackheart: Bro, if you can’t trust a guy who went behind the Devil’s / father’s back to become an all-powerful force of evil, who can you trust?
Jonny hands him the contract so he can get close enough to land a few Ghost Rider punches. Like before he gets tosses around like an anorexic rag-doll with hereditary spontaneous combustion, and resorts to THROWING DIRT at Blackheart to claw back his dignity – way to make Ghost Rider cool for me again. The sun rises and Ghost Rider transforms back into weak pathetic Jonny. Don’t be swayed by promises of jelly beans and ridiculous hats Jonny, he’s about to read the contra – too late. Blackheart absorbs the 1000 souls, which happens in a borderline plagiaristic way to the transformation of Deacon Frost at the end of Blade (I wish was reviewing Blade right now…NO, that film has no right being on this site for losers!), transforming him into…nothing special. Ghost Rider is so strapped for ideas that the best creature they could think of transforming the DEMON WHO SWALLOWED 1000 EVIL SOULS into is Wes Bentley with black make-up over white make-up with unconvincing red eyes, bad dentistry, a few scabby horns and a slower, more painfully detached method of dialogue delivery.
Behold the woefully bad face of evil in its purest form mortals, but don’t laugh because it hurts his fragile emo feelings.
Roxanne: Let’s go. He got what he wanted.
Jonny: He just became a super-demon, and he already hated life and me especially for being his daddy’s favoured creation to begin with. What the fuck do you think is going to happen now short of the earth becoming Hell with a sunroof? I have to stay and fight him.
Roxanne: Why you?
Jonny: Oh I’m sorry, who was it that didn’t believe in monsters, demons and super humans before today? Now you expect the Avengers to clean up this mess?
Studio Executive: Actually, we lost the bid for The Avengers, but we still have the Spider-Man and Hellboy franchises if that’s any benefit.
Jonny: I’m not being upstaged by Ron Pearlman in my own movie!
If he sticks to the shadows he can still turn into Ghost Rider (fat lot of good that did before Blackheart became a god, yet your optimism in commendable [let him die let him die let him die]), and then maybe, maybe stands a chance of defeat his foe, the new Lord of Nightmares – which is apparently this guy:
Shotguns may not kill Blackheart, although for a super badass demon god he still feels the blasts. However, even being blasted into a million slimy pieces can’t stop him from reforming like an emotional T-1000. Ghost Rider pushes him up against a wall and monologues how he can kill him now he has souls within him for like 10 minutes, then purges the 1000 souls all at once which renders Blackheart comatose. We even get to see some of the souls he purged, including a priest, an old man and a mother and child – so yeah, in the name of the greater good Ghost Rider damned children to an eternity in Hell. Win.
Mephisto: Congratulations Jonny, you successfully carried out the work of the king of all demons.
Jonny: Does that mean I won, but not morally?
Mephisto: Debt fulfilled, I’ll take back the Ghost Rider curse and you can live a happy normal life with my blessing. I really can’t thank you enough young man 😀
Jonny: Rather than returning the power, I’m going to endanger the world by incurring your wrath and keeping it just to fuck with you and your deals that can sometimes work out for the best.
Police Chief Wigham: Oh right. And how are you gonna do that; skeleton power?
Jonny: Don’t forget, I know your weakness Mephisto: an inability to run.
With Jonny standing there being all defiant in his face, Mephisto leaves with Blackheart in a huff instead of, you know, just taking the Jonny’s powers and saving himself long term problems – or worse yet, a sequel. Jonny and Roxanne make out, preferring not to dwell on their firsthand knowledge that there is a Hell and a VERY pissed of demon waiting for them to squander their last remaining decades on earth, ready to personally guide them through perpetual torment in the afterlife. You gotta love a happy ending. I wish I’d watched Skeleton Warriors.