Sunday, June 17, 2007

Ghost Rider

We watched Ghost Rider with Nicolas Cage last Friday. I like Nicolas Cage, but this movie... I spent waay too much time muttering, "What?!" "Oh that's ridiculous!" "How idiotic!" "Don't they know anything about the angelic conflict?"

In defense I suppose some would say, "It's just a comic book, for crying out loud. No one takes those seriously. Everyone expects them to be ridiculous. After all look at the Ghostrider guy -- he walks around in jeans and boots and a leather jacket and gloves but his head is a burning skull. Not only that, when he drives his motorcycle down the street, he generates such heat and power that he leaves a trail of ash and burning wreckage and for some reason the wind of his passage overturns cars. Yet his clothes don't burn. So you can't expect anything in it to be serious, realistic or to make sense."

Well, certainly those expectations were met!

Still, it bugs me for that very reason that the devil is so often the subject of comic book type stories. Do we assume from that that the devil is not to be taken seriously? An adversary fit only for ridiculously unrealistic comic book material? There aren't people who can spin webs with their hands, after all, nor men of steel who can fly, nor women who can turn themselves invisible. So... the logical conclusion is that there's no devil, either.

The thing is, in all the superhero flicks, the people are often acting more or less like people, struggling with issues that can be considered serious -- crime, tyranny, assault, murder, general nastiness, the desire to destroy. True, the villains are all exaggerations of reality (though I think perhaps Saddam Hussein could give a typical comic book villain a run for his money) but the motivations that drive them find their roots in human greed, cruelty, power lust and sin. And always they are opposed by a hero, a man of integrity and power who can stand up to the villain, defeat him and save the world. Cliche those may be, but they are important truths of life. Because we all desire a savior and if we believe in Jesus we can be liberated. Not only from sin, but from the darkness of the devil's world system.

I guess my problem is, if you're going to put the devil in, and call him that, the character should have some remote connection to the real thing. If you're going to create someone who is really nothing like the devil, you should call him something else. Of course in the way the Ghost Rider story is set up, that'd be a bit difficult.

Still, some people will learn all they know about the devil from movies and comic books. This one says that he's a wimpy, smarmy, wildly inconsistent guy in a priest coat with red eyes who lives in hell and can "steal" souls by, apparently, getting unsuspecting good people to sign a contract with him. Now they are his, and totally at his mercy. He gives them great powers so they can go out and round up evil people and bring them to him for... well, I don't know why. Power? Punishment? It wasn't clear. Maybe it didn't matter. Maybe the only thing that mattered was watching Nicolas Cage get a flaming head and ride his motorcycle... Which admittedly was entertaining. I liked his chain whip as well...

The worst of it, though, is that God really has no place in the movie. There is some lip service, but in the end it's the people who are strong and good of heart. They are the ones who will fight and defeat the devil. In their own strength or even, far worse, in the strength of the powers they've acquired from the devil. I think that's probably what bothered me about it the most. That I'm supposed to admire that and find it a clever turn around when I only found it nauseating.

So. I don't recommend the movie, though as I said, Nicolas Cage was entertaining, and there were some funny bits in it. And of course when the old cowboy type ghostrider appears on his horse, that was very cool. But the theology? Straight from the mind of the devil himself who, as his first line of defense, would like everyone to believe that he doesn't exist except in comic books. And nothing could be further from the truth.