Revenge of the Ugly Puppy Syndrome

Fire up your motorcycle, because Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance is the Greatest Movie EVER!

Click on the movie poster or the title above to download our review of the film, featuring Daryl Surat of AnimeWorldOrder and Rachel Pandich, author of Aspire.

Review in a Nutshell:  This movie is enjoyably terrible, and the review strays into some surprisingly intellectual territory.  We are all shameless Nicolas Cage apologists. Do not believe our lies.

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10 Responses

  1. There is no such thing as “Nicolas Cage apologists.” To see the greatness of Cage is to achieve personal enlightenment.

  2. Another note. The Castle at the start of the movie that Moraux visited the monks was the Castle that Dracula (Vlad Tepes of Vallachia) lived in and he was one of the possible people evil jumped into in the animated part.

    Also the reason why this movie is a reboot is that the first one was a cross between the Johny Blaze and Dan Ketch Ghost Riders. In the original Mephisto tricked JB to sign over his soul and become his agent and unknowingly a prison for Zarathos.

    I liked this and had watched it recently and while I liked it and thought it was good, as a comic collector who used to read Ghost Rider books I think they did a poor job showing characters and their abilities. I didn’t even realize that Blackout was Blackout until you said so because he has no decay abilities and Mr Roarke called him “Decay”. The way Blackout’s abilities work during the final chase scene the whole convoy should have been in darkness until he died.

    Also Ghost Rider burns with Hellfire not regular fire so it is not supposed to burn him and his clothes/bike when he changes. In fact initially it was only his head that burned and the rest of him looked fine until one day he had to remove his leathers and then a companion looked at him and his whole skeleton burned. I think when they skipped ahead to the point where he was totally on fire was a big mistake in the movies.

    To try and accept these differences I have started to use the “parallel worlds” argument as both DC and Marvel have been doing that in recent years. It doesn’t always help.

    In short IMHO this was a movie that they did allot very right and a few key things very wrong.

  3. Er, why doesn’t it always help? Your primary failures of the film are “Blackout can’t actually do that stuff [in the comics]” and “hellfire doesn’t work that way [in the comics],” even though we are given explicit declarative statements in this film of “this is how it works here” such that you don’t have to pull from knowledge from other media. But if you don’t want that guy to be Blackout…he doesn’t really have to be. It’s not like they ever call him anything but “Carrigan” in the movie itself.

    And did I read you right? “The fire’s not supposed to burn his bike”? I don’t think I’ve ever once seen a picture of Ghost Rider on his bike where the bike is NOT on fire. The main property of fire I know about is “fire burns stuff.” To have fire that does NOT burn stuff as a superpower would elicit “so he’s even weaker than…an ordinary lighter?” All explanations of Ghost Rider’s powers I’ve read in comics (and now, Marvel.com) state his fire, though mystical in origin, will indeed burn what it contacts.

    Still, if that’s as drastic a deviation from the comics as you say such that you list it as a key thing done very wrong, I’ll accept it. It’s just more interesting visually. That’s also why the movies “skip ahead” to the point where Ghost Rider is completely on fire. Having a freaky messed up head but a perfectly ordinary human body does not easily result in particularly compelling creature designs. I learned that from Basketcase 3.

    I’m also fine with what we noted was the key distinction for continuity-minded folk who prefer this be a reboot than a sequel. The notion that people seeking redemption because deep down they actually made deals with the devil of their own volition is a stronger character journey than people who got defrauded. Being tricked brings up follow-up questions like “how is that a binding contract?” or if you’re Jack Chick (who beats Marvel and DC as far as retaining rights and ownership of work performed by others without giving credit) “the blood shed by Jesus on the cross invalidates any blood on the devil’s contracts, so why don’t they just accept Jesus as their savior?”

    (A deleted alternate opening to this film saw Johnny Blaze attempting to seek redemption in a cathedral to no avail, as the control the Ghost Rider has over him is too great.)

    I once knew a guy who REALLY hated the 2000-era Justice League cartoon for reasons such as “nth metal doesn’t REALLY negate magic” or “Captain Marvel would never fight Superman over that because he has the Wisdom of Solomon” (never mind that the ONLY thing that results whenever Superman and Captain Marvel are in a comic together is they fight each other). I didn’t think those criticisms were fair because the so-called “failures” were for not meeting criteria that the work never set out to abide by in the first place.

  4. Hello Paul and guys, long time listener and a big fan. This is the first time I have ever felt the need to write in though and its just to correct some misinformation about Gary Freidrich.

    Let me just lay my cards on the table first of all, I think the situation with Freidrich is disgusting and the notion that as a 70 year old bankrupt with medical problems he would have to not only pay Marvel a fine but give up his only income is just phenomenally awful. I am on Friedrich’s side, I think he owns the moral argument here and it would have been nice for him to get a co-creator credit and some money.

    But legally he doesn’t have a leg to stand on and Marvel are not quite the big bad coporation that they’re made out to be on this podcast.

    First of all Marvel didn’t just decide to randomly pick on Freidrich, he actually sued them first. He decided that he had rights as a co-creator for Ghost Rider and deserved a share of the profits, Marvel counter sued which is a standard response to any such case. The aim of the counter-sue basically is to try and have ammunition to force a settlement since the majority of litigation ends in settlement. That’s not evil from Marvel that’s just what everyone does. In an initial judge’s hearing, and much to everyone’s surprise,Mavel won on all points including the fine, the ruling that he has to give up the sale of Ghost Rider items where he appears as co-creator and the admonition that he is no longer the co-creator. The first two make sense, the third, however, is frankly mystifying as Freidrich undoubtedly is the co-creator.

    Lets look at those first two points quickly, the fine and the “giving up his livelihood.” Freidrich’s livelihood consisted of selling Ghost Rider artwork and merchandise signed by himself. Now Freidrich is not an artist, he’s a writer and so what he was selling was another artist’s art with his signature on it. That is blatantly massively illegal, just no legal defense at all but Marvel has let this slide for years because its small potatoes and no threat to their trademark.

    (Actually technically it is a threat to their trademark but its part of artist’s alley which is a whole trademark grey area anyway. Suffice it to say if what most people in artist’s alley are doing is a grey area what Freidrich was doing was not.)

    So Marvel didn’t thinl, “this guy is violating our IP, we should sue him for all his worth” they were being sued and brought to attention of the court the criminal activities of the person suing them as a defence.

    What happens now is up to Freidrich and his lawyers. Marvel don’t necessarily want to enforce this fine but if Freidrich appeals and the initial ruling stands they might have to. If he drops his case then potentially the whole thing can go away and he might be back where he was. Appeal and of course he may win and gain that money he’s seeking but he almost certainly won’t since he doesn’t have a case and if that happens he’s worse off then before he tried to sue Marvel.

    Do I think that is particularly moral of Marvel? No, but frankly Freidrich just never had a legal case for his claims. The bad guy here in my opinion is the unscrupulous lawyer who convinced Freidrich he had a case in the first place.

    Also it’s not really comparable to Kirby or Moore. Kirby was screwed out of his creations after the fact. He didn’t necessarily enter into a work for hire contract (that’s what the current Kirby estate case claims anyway) since work for hire in the 60’s was different to in the 70’s. He did however sign contracts to the effect that he gave up his rights as a pre-requisite to receiving cheques from Marvel,
    something which was a complete and utter dick move on Marvel’s part. Moore signed a contract which he was lead to believe meant one thing (rights would revert to him after a short time) but actually said something else (they would never revert if watchmen stayed in continuous publication). Now Moore should have lawyered up and read the small print and he actually acknowledges this but again that is an intentional screwjob from D.C. to Moore.

    Freidrich however was in no such position, work for hire and Marvel’s policy regarding it was well established in the mid-70’s and I simply don’t buy the argument that Freidrich didn’t know his creation would be owned wholly and fully by Marvel.

    If you want to know more about it I recommend listening to this episode of House to Astonish.

    http://www.housetoastonish.com/?p=1274

    House to Astonish is a comics podcast hosted by two lawyers so whenever these issues come up they’re really good at clarifying misconceptions and cutting to the core of the case.

    Other than that a great podcast, I always love it when the Cage makes an appearance.

  5. OK first of all, I want to reiterate that I like this movie, and the examples I gave were me pointing out things that they did wrong as in I can see why a good number of people did not like the movie.

    The comment was just me pounding out a few things off the top of my head and not an in depth analysis.

    Secondly I think this is the old issue of “Is this really a ” insert IP name here “movie”. What I mean about that is this perpetual argument based solely on the opinion of the viewers/fans that keeps happening. When Orson Wells was interviewed later in life about making movies based on other peoples works (books for example) he basically said that the movie was his and always an adaptation of the original concepts and characters, otherwise he would not be needed as a director. On the other hand you have people who are looking for and expecting a live action recreation of the original with as minimal changes from the tenants of the story (which things are the tenants will vary from fan to fan as well, so I am speaking of the ones that are generally accepted by most).

    There are shades of grey in between, but the motion picture industry has a tendency to take the biggest and best points in story arcs and then rewrite them in a patchwork way that creates a plot version of the Uncanny Valley or a Frankenstein’s Monster than creates something of quality.

    A better example I have heard recently was a man talking to a passionate fan of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo/Millennium books and movies. ” Imagine this… the female protagonist is changed to a happy girl with a good home life but is obsessed with Japanese youth culture, sings karaoke, watches anime, does cosplay. She gets a tiny cute Dragon Tattoo on her ankle from Japan. She rides a scooter and lives with happy adoptive parents and learns hacking from her Otaku boyfreind and she just happens to be a genius at it. To save her family home she does security work, then the rest of the movies are about 60 to 75 percent accurate.

    Would you still like it or would you think it was better or worse?”

    When The last relaunch of Battlestar Galactica was launched Edward James Olmos said repeatedly that this was based loosely on the original, was going to have its own style, and if you were looking for the same thing as the original you would be disappointed, and finally that this would have homages to the original but that was it. After that being said in interview after interview the majority of people understood it wasn’t a remake. I believe if more movie and TV creators that are basing their work on well known prior products would say things like this well in advance it would calm the nerd rage when they are paying money expecting x and either getting y or nose tweaking uncanny valley version of x much of that furor would be calmed.

    As I said in my previous post. to try and get over these issues I just use the parallel universe argument and just decide which universe version I like and which I don’t.

    I must also point out that i was a serious comic book collector until about ten years ago when I had to stop for health/financial reasons and in this last decade I stopped buying period, and in that time following the occasional character online through reference sites and forums I have seen more retconning than I did in the 20 years previous in comics.

    For example with Ghost Rider I think you misunderstood my previous post. In the 1970’s when I used to read him when Johnny Blaze transformed, his leathers (pants, boots, jacket, and gloves) would change, but not burn, but take on a more tough biker look, and his head would burn away to a flaming skull that by many bystanders was thought to be a trick helmet. His bike would transform and go ablaze, but not burn as in take damage. They would burn with hellfire which could burn, but did not have to as various people touched him after transformation without burning, if my memory serves me right usually the pure and innocent. You see other than being able to set things on fire purposely, like the trail the bick left tearing down the road, it also could be used to punish the sinners/get vengence only harming the guilty and burning their souls (I guess) and the guiltier the more it burns.

    My point being is that he was assumed to be a humanoid demon with a burning skull until they did the big reveal one storyline and boom, he was all fire under the suit.

    They may have retconned the burning, or like I said think of this as a parallel GR and here he does. It is just an example how a dyed in the wool fan would go, OK… thats just not right.

    And if this was a live action direct conversion of the story he’d be right, but this was a HEAVILY adapted one.

    I am not saying anyone is right or wrong in how they feel or think about movies like this, I am just saying that by now the creators and marketers, and the fans for that sake, should know better and not get so blindsided and angry about this stuff, but they do.

  6. Nice to hear another “event” I didn’t have to feel bad on missing out on.

  7. Hello Adam,

    Rachel here, and thanks for bringing up Gary’s case in more detail for anyone that might be curious. Since Paul likes to keep the podcast an hour or less we couldn’t go as in depth as you seem to have wanted us to. Everything you’ve said rings true, including the fact that the third part of the lawsuit (Gary being stripped of his rights as co-creator) makes no sense. Marvel didnt have to go there and, as you pointed out, they have more than enough people in artist alley in any convention they could go after. All in all it was a dick move. A completely legal move but a dick move none the less. There is also the fact that this does open up the possibility for ALL companies to go after people in artist alley if they have prints with said company’s character. Since artist alley is a how most 1) get their names out 2) get started in the industry 3) get work from writers looking to do an independent project, this ruling in this lawsuit is very scary. Especially since the Marvel/Disney partnership.
    Is Marvel evil? No. Did they screw Gary over? Yes. And if the comics community didn’t ralley behind him his livelihood would have been completely gone.

  8. Great stuff as always. Got me really excited to see this movie again after hearing all you’re respective thoughts on it. Bluray on its way. One point I’d like to make was my surprise to see that Lions Gate was not involved with this movie. Do you think that after the critical and financial let down of Punisher Warzone Marvel decided to keep Lions Gate away from its properties. With the involvement of Neveldine and Tailor who are obviously Lions Gate guys, with both Cranks and Gamer films it definitely surprised me to see they were not the studio behind Ghost Rider 2.

    Do you think we would be looking at a different(even better) film if LG were the ones behind it? Will we ever see an R rated Marvel movie again. Maybe if the new Judge Dredd film does well(also Lions Gate) perhaps we could see more variety in the kinds of comic book movie in the future. I certainly hope so.

    Any thoughts on what character from an existing comic book franchise that might suit the R rating?

    Thanks again for the good work and great discussion on my 3nd favourite film of the year. Sorry Cage but The Raid was the Redline of martial art films and I’m a total sucker for The Avengers.

  9. @Angus

    No idea on the Lions Gate stuff but unless they make another Punisher movie I have very high doubts that Marvel will make another R movie. PG-13 movies seem to be a sweet spot for people because they feelike they can take their kids to those. But that is just speculation on my part.

  10. You call it “ugly puppy syndrome” and say that it was a bad movie you still enjoyed on your site, but just listening to your review, it seemed like you thought, that this was a legitimately good movie, with no hint of irony or seeing its flaws what so ever. Mostly because of your discussion at the end where you said that you wanted comic book movies in the future to go in the direction of that movie.

    I partly agree and disagree. I enjoyed the avengers movie, although I see no reason for there to be another one. And I wish marvel would finally try something different with its cash-cow-characters instead making a billion sequels, that are all going to be the same in style and tone.

    But I wonder if comic book movies have matured enough, to a point where a superheromovie can be something else than just a mindless action flick. It seems the approach people take to these properties now is a very shallow one. Its more about getting character-names and minute details from the source material right, than to stop and think: “O.K., why do people love these comics so much? Lets take THAT and make it into a movie.”
    I know for instance Iron-Man comics aren’t Shakespeare, but theres more to at least some runs of iron man, than what came across in the movies.

    And like Daryl said, the saddest thing about this development is that the comic book fans are on board. Whenever a mainly comic book related site reviews a comic book movie, 90% of the time they talk about what they changed from the comics, rather than if the movie is any good – implying that any deviation from the source material makes it automatically inferior. I´d say these new marvel properties are meant to appeal the hadcorefanbase even more so, than the general public. The people who follow a movie for months, and will rush to the theaters the day the movie comes out, for as long as there is a little reference to Thanos, and would otherwise boycott a movie, because they changed the power of callisto or something.

    One last word, about the mixing of live-action and animation.
    Its not that its cheep, its more that its really obvious, and seems uninspired. “Its a comic book movie. So lets remind people by turning the page, or have some of it drawn, like a comic book.” For lack of a better example, it would be like filming a romance movie, in a pink picture frame, with hearts all over it, because its about romance.
    When it comes to visuals I like the 300-approach better, and I know people who love that movie, and have no idea that its based on a comic book.

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