Ghost Rider 31.1: We Are Going to Have to Stop Finding Things Cool

Once again, I’m taking my life in my hands, performing the incredible daredevil feat of getting drunk and talking about terrible non-MCU Marvel movies on the Signal Watch podcast. This time, host Ryan Steans and I take apart the 2007 Nicolas Cage barnburner Ghost Rider, the first movie ever filmed entirely on the side of a guy’s van.

This movie has — 18 second pause — everything, if you like people who drive fast and talk slow. Nicolas Cage plays a mentally-uncertain motorcycle riding daredevil, who sells his soul to the Devil for a bag of magic beans and turns into a flaming-skull CGI desktop screensaver, battling a cadre of mean demons and that one guy who tried to steal a girl’s purse.

So please join us as we discuss Ninja Turtles, haunted electricity, soap opera devils, a strangely non-sexy shirtless dude scene, and — most shocking of all — the terrible truth about Eva Mendes’ feet.

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Swamp Thing 3.14: Mister A

So I believe that this is the moment in Swamp Thing — when the villain tears off his lookalike skinsuit made out of another person’s face, and it turns out to just be a different guy, who sits down quietly and introduces himself — that the real disappointment sets in, and you realize that this movie might not be the rocket sled to adventure that you were hoping for.

“You have heard of, but never seen me,” says the tired old man, settling himself in a chair with a sigh, “so I will introduce myself. My name is Arcane.” And that is literally the only thing that we ever know about him.

Is he a doctor, a dictator or a drug lord? Is he a cult leader? Is he a criminal? Why did they say he was dead? Why are there people who risk their lives for him? Does he have employees, or worshippers? I have dozens of questions about who this character is supposed to be, and none of them are answered in the film in any way. His name is Arcane. The end.

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Swamp Thing 3.13: The Birth of Tragedy

Welcome back to another episode of What Doesn’t Make Sense in the First Twenty-Five Minutes of Swamp Thing, my personal quest to puzzle out what the hell anybody is talking about in this movie.

Just to be clear, I am fully aware that the abyss is gazing also into me. I’m becoming the confusing, nonsensical and poorly-lit creature, muttering biology words in the corner of my crowded laboratory. Someday I will be free of this lab scene, but not today. Not today.

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Swamp Thing 3.12: The Hostiles

And then the island is overrun by malefactors and nogoodniks, emerging from the mud flats. Dr. Alec Holland has just made his amazing scientific breakthrough — like, literally in the last sixty seconds, he made it — and suddenly, this is a base under siege.

I don’t know if you remember all those guards with guns who were scattered around the landscape outside the lab, but every single one of them has either been shot, run away or turned out to be just a cardboard cutout with “guard” written on the front. As far as the main characters are concerned, they are alone on the moon with no outside assistance, surrounded by a tribe of terrible people who are dead set on ruining everybody’s day.

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Swamp Thing 3.11: Interruptus

I suppose I’m just a romantic old fool, really, but I like to see the young people enjoying themselves. They’re standing in a crowded corner of a stifling set in South Carolina, surrounded by nonsensical movie biology and running out of money with every tick of the clock, but right now — just for this moment — Swamp Thing is an appealing movie.

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Swamp Thing 3.9: Sensor and Sensibility

So, let me see if I’ve got this straight.

There’s a guy named Ronnie, who’s one of the security agents guarding Alec Holland’s magical cabinet of wonders, out on the edge of a dismal, dreary swamp. Ronnie’s patrolling one day, when he comes across a large group of armed men, who are messing with one of the sensors. Ronnie thinks that nobody’s seen him yet, but then a big scary man named Ferret pops out of the bushes with a gun.

Ronnie tries to run, but he’s outflanked by other scary men emerging from behind basically every tree in the area. They manage to grab him, and then Ferret murders him with a pocket snake.

So I have a question: What is the sensor sensing?

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Swamp Thing 3.7: The Mysteries of Alessandro

It’s your basic “boy-meets-girl, boy-becomes-cryptid” story, really. A woman walks into a laboratory, and the chemistry experiment begins.

As we’ve discussed, the three steps to getting the audience to like a character is to make a friend, make a joke and make a plot point, and Dr. Alec Holland is about to do all three in record time. The appeal of Swamp Thing is half superhero-action and half romantic drama, so it’s only going to be effective if it can get us to believe in Cable and Alec as a couple, during the limited amount of time before he explodes.

So this meet-cute needs to be practically automatic, establishing that both parties are smart, funny and attractive, and getting them to challenge each other in sparky mini-clashes that are interesting to watch. The time-honored method is to get the characters to stick their hands in a murky water trough, looking for an imaginary animal.

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