Australian Council on Children and the Media

Ghost Rider

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Not recommended under 13, PG to 15 (Viol. Disturbing scenes, Themes.)

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This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for Ghost Rider
  • a review of Ghost Rider completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 15 February 2007.

Overall comments and recommendations

Children under 13 Not recommended due to violence, disturbing scenes and themes.
Children over the age of 13 Parental guidance recommended

About the movie

This section contains details about the movie, including its classification by the Australian Government Classification Board and the associated consumer advice lines.

Name of movie: Ghost Rider
Classification: M
Consumer advice lines: Moderate supernatural violence
Length 110 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

The film opens with young Johnny Blaze (Matt Long) and his father Barton Blaze (Brett Cullen) jumping motorbikes through burning hoops at carnivals. To save his father from dying of lung cancer, Johnny signs his soul over to the devil, Mephistopheles (Peter Fonda), but Mephistopheles cheats Johnny when he causes Barton’s death in stunt which goes wrong. As a result Johnny runs away leaving behind both his carnival life and adolescent sweetheart Roxanne Simpson (Raquel Alessi).

Years later, a much older Johnny Blaze (Nicholas Cage) is a motorbike-riding superstar, cheating death at every corner. Roxanne (Eva Mendes), now a successful news reporter, turns up at one of Johnny’s performances asking for an interview and they renew their relationship. Four anti-heroes, Blackheart (Wes Bentley), the son of Mephistopheles and three fallen angels referred to as ‘the Hidden’ come to earth to recover a contract containing a list of a thousand souls promised to the devil.  Blackheart plans to take over the world and to stop him Mephistopheles gives Johnny the powers of the fabled Ghost Rider. These powers enable Johnny to transform into a fiery skull-faced supernatural bike-riding vigilante by night and return to his mortal self during daylight hours. In exchange for hunting down and destroying Blackheart and his cohorts, Mephistopheles offers to give Johnny his soul back.
With the help of the “Caretaker “(Sam Elliott), the Ghost Rider tracks down and defeats the Hidden one by one, but must face a final showdown

Themesinfo

Children and adolescents may react adversely at different ages to themes of crime, suicide, drug and alcohol dependence, death, serious illness, family breakdown, death or separation from a parent, animal distress or cruelty to animals, children as victims, natural disasters and racism. Occasionally reviews may also signal themes that some parents may simply wish to know about.

Selling one’s soul to the devil; Self destructive behaviour.

Use of violenceinfo

Research shows that children are at risk of learning that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution when violence is glamourised, performed by an attractive hero, successful, has few real life consequences, is set in a comic context and / or is mostly perpetrated by male characters with female victims, or by one race against another.

Repeated exposure to violent content can reinforce the message that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution. Repeated exposure also increases the risks that children will become desensitised to the use of violence in real life or develop an exaggerated view about the prevalence and likelihood of violence in their own world.

Ghost Rider contains superhero style violence, which is nevertheless both intense and brutal, including:
•Mephistopheles deliberately causes Johnny’s father to crash his bike, resulting in his death.
•Blackheart massacres a room full of people by sucking their life force from them. His victims transform into desiccated corpses at his touch.
•Ghost Rider races his bike up a city street, creating a force which causes a car to be thrown through a shop window and a motorcycle policeman to be thrown through the air.
•A mugger stabs Ghost Rider in the back with a knife. The Ghost Rider tells the mugger to “look into my eyes and feel the pain,” after which the mugger fails to the ground in a catatonic state with open wide eyes that appear fiery.
•A demon wraps a chain around the Ghost Rider’s neck and hangs him from a beam.
•A demon crashes a semi trailer head-on into the Ghost Rider, crushing him against the front of a stationary train.
•Ghost Rider transforms a length of chain into a burning whip, which he then lashes around the body of a demon causing the demon to burn like molten lava and then turn to ash.
•A mugger experiences flashbacks of all of the violent crimes he has committed, including stabbing and shootings.
•Johnny is surrounded by dozens of police officers with their guns pointed at him and is shot at close range.
•When he is placed in a prison cell, a dozen inmates attack Johnny punching and kicking him to the ground. He transforms into the Ghost Rider, throwing the inmates off. The scene ends with Johnny walking from the cell with all but one of the inmates left lying unconscious on the floor.     
•The Ghost Rider uses a length of chain to lasso and then drag a helicopter down to a rooftop.
•The Ghost Rider uses a burning chain to create a mini burning tornado, which sucks in one of the demons and incinerates it.
•Blackheart touches Roxanne of the face causing her pain and black lines form on her face.
•A demon pulls the Ghost Rider into a lake and tries to drown him. In turn the Ghost Rider attacks the demon, dissolving him into mist.
•A violent/brutal fight between Blackheart and the Ghost Rider involving the two punching each other and throwing each other around. At one stage the Ghost Rider hurls flames at Blackheart’s face.
•Blackheart hurls Roxanne through the air to land unconscious on the ground.
•After being strangled by Blackheart, the Ghost Rider shoots Blackheart numerous times in the chest and face with a pump action shotgun, at one stage blowing Blackhearts head from his body.
•The Ghost Rider uses his powers to explode Blackheart’s body, blowing his flesh over walls and the floor.
•The Ghost Rider forces Blackheart to look into his eyes. Blackheart, who has now been consumed by a thousand evil souls, has to relive their previous crimes and, as a result, is left lying on the floor in a catatonic state. 

Material that may scare or disturb children

Under fiveinfo

Children under five are most likely to be frightened by scary visual images, such as monsters, physical transformations.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes, there are some scenes in this movie that could be very scary for, or disturb, children under the age of five, including the following:
•A demonic looking cowboy and horse are engulfed in flames.
•Images of people burning in hell.
•Mephistopheles has red glowing and smoking eyes.
•An evil-looking demonic shadow on a wall.
•Smoke comes from Johnny’s eyes after he is touched by Mephistopheles.
•Blackheart transforms from a handsome man into an evil monster with sharp fangs.
•Johnny crashes his stunt-bike during a stunt and the bike runs over him.
•One of the Hidden appears to be a water demon, and one of his eyes slides off his face.
•At numerous points throughout the film the faces of various human-looking demons transform to reveal more evil faces with sharp teeth.
•When Johnny first transforms into the Ghost Rider his hands and eyes begin to smoke and his feet burst into flames. He loses control of himself, both laughing and screaming while his face explodes and bursts into flames, leaving a burning skull behind. At one point during the film the Ghost Rider’s jaw is unhinged from his face.
•At one point, the Ghost Rider’s motorbike transforms into a living, demon-like "Hell cycle".
•The Caretaker uses a needle and thread to stitch up a long laceration in Johnny’s shoulder.
•When Blackheart releases the thousand evil souls they materialise as black, rotting corpses which invade a screaming Blackheart, entering his body through his chest, or forcing their way in through his mouth.
•In one scene, Blackheart’s flesh, which has been blown from his body is seen living and creeping together to reform his body. 

Aged five to eightinfo

Children aged five to eight will also be frightened by scary visual images and will also be disturbed by depictions of the death of a parent, a child abandoned or separated from parents, children or animals being hurt or threatened and / or natural disasters.

Many children in this age group will also be disturbed by some of the above-mentioned scenes.

Aged eight to thirteeninfo

Children aged eight to thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic threats and dangers, violence or threat of violence and / or stories in which children are hurt or threatened.

Many children in this age group will also be disturbed by some of the above-mentioned scenes.

Over thirteeninfo

Children over the age of thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic physical harm or threats, molestation or sexual assault and / or threats from aliens or the occult.

Children closer to the age of thirteen years may also find some of the above-mentioned images disturbing.

Product placement

The following products are displayed or used in this movie:  

  • “Easy Rider” Harley Davidson motorbike. 

Sexual references

There are some sexual references in this movie, including:

  • When Blackheart kidnaps Roxanne, he tells Johnny “Don’t be late” with gesture and body language inferring that Roxanne may be molested if he is.

Nudity and sexual activity

There is some nudity and sexual activity in this movie, including:

  • In several scenes, women wear tight-fitting clothing with plunging necklines exposing large amounts of cleavage. 
  • Johnny and Roxanne kiss passionately several times

Use of substances

There is some use of substances in this movie, including:

  • Johnny’s father smokes cigarettes and coughs.
  • Johnny’s father is seen asleep in a chair with a half-empty bottle of bourbon and a packet of cigarettes on a table beside him. 
  • Men sit around a table smoking cigarettes and drinking bottles of beer.
  • Roxanne sits alone in a restaurant drinking red wine. It appears that she has consumed the entire bottle by herself to become somewhat drunk in the process, becoming a little unstable, slightly slurring her words and asking the waiter if he thinks she is pretty.  
  • The Caretaker chews tobacco and spits out tobacco juice. 

Coarse language

There is some coarse language in this movie, including:

  • “One eye and no nuts.”
  • “Religious crap.”
  • “O god.”
  • “Piss off.”
  • “You son of a bitch.”
  • “Bullshit.”
  • “Jesus Christ.”

In a nutshell

Ghost Rider is a superhero style, supernatural, action film that targets adolescents and younger adult males. The special effects are impressive and the film contains some quite witty humour but also contains scary images and violence capable of disturbing children.

The message of the film is that good will triumph over evil and that living in fear is a very negative way to live your life.
Values in this movie that parents may wish to reinforce with their children include:

  • turning life’s negatives into positives
  • self sacrifice
  • love
  • loyalty
  • friendship
  • endurance through adversity.   

Parents could also discuss:

  • Johnny’s reckless life-endangering behaviour while riding his motorbike in an effort to impress his girlfriend, and how Johnny’s behaviour could have resulted in serious consequences for both himself and those he loved and cared for.
  • the real life consequences of  drinking alcohol to drown ones sorrows
  • Older adolescents could benefit from a discussion of the premise that it is ok to sell your soul so long as you do it for the right reasons.

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