Saturday, August 27, 2011

Ghost Rider Comment for the Action Flick Chick

So, I tried to leave this as a comment on the Action Flick Chick's blog/website/thingy, but it wouldn't let me, kept asking for a password. But it was a lot of writing, so I'm putting it here because...well, because. I don't know. Here it is, what I wrote on the upcoming Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance -

Ghost Rider is the personification of the problem inherent in the desire to be a super hero, to be granted that power. All the colorful tights and rules and noble principles are dressing on the fact that it is the desire to right wrongs by beating the crap out of someone or something. It's that urge of the powerless to be powerful and then to use that power on those who would have otherwise had their way.

It is a desire, essentially, for vengeance. What Ghost Rider does, in a uniquely Silver Age Stan Lee kind of way (by taking what would otherwise be a ridiculous character, a flaming motorcyclist) does is confront that desire by granting it to Johnny Blaze. With Blaze and Ghost Rider more than most you have the villain and the hero as one, so much so that his heroic acts are equally villainous.

The real key to that character is what makes the best Faustian bargains, that the devil doesn't trick Blaze as much as Blaze tricks himself. He wants to save his foster father from cancer, so he dies in a stunt. He wants revenge, he becomes vengeance. While he starts out thinking that he can control the Ghost Rider, the reality is that the more he gives way to vengeance the more he loses control to it. And the thing is, he knows this and yet still finds excuses to succumb to the Rider, willing giving himself over piece by piece to vengeance and the demon within him.

But when they went to adapt the comic in the first film, Cage (who says he's a fan) describe the character as taking 'this curse from the devil and turning it on him.' And of course that's how it ends, with Blaze as Ghost Rider saying that to the Devil in his awkward Elvis pose.

But that's not Ghost Rider, that's Spawn.

Ghost Rider does not have what would normally be considered necessary for a good comic book franchise, a quality rogues gallery of villains. (you could argue that it's not Batman that makes Batman interesting, but the villains he's amassed) Ghost Rider's rivals are d-listers like The Orb, sort of the catch when your hero does not imprison or turn over to the authorities of his rivals but instead places their souls in a state of perpetual torture (again, keeping with the theme, the Penance Stare causes you to torture yourself by bringing to the surface the consequences of your unfettered desires realized). The drama in a Ghost Rider story is rarely against his foes, who for the most part he doesn't just best, but terrorizes, but in the continual struggle between Blaze and the demon within. In that respect, it is a comic book where the hero loses every issue, and every issue that defeat gets a little worse.

So I would say, absolutely a major part of Ghost Rider is the menacing and sometimes comically horrifying ways in which he destroys the people he deems are due his wrath. But the key, the thing that saves Ghost Rider from being a cheesy 70s comic book character capitalizing on the popularity of chopper motorcycles and Eveil Kaneviel, is that internal struggle.

I am encouraged that the monologue in the trailer seems to hint at that, it seems to indicate also that the answer to that is to use the demon against the devil (and in fact, he seems to be fighting the devil once again).

I'm not a purist (and good lord, how horrible would a Ghost Rider movie be fighting The Orb...), but I do think when you translate a character or story through a medium, you have to distil the element of that character and find a way for the medium to explore it. This is essentially what makes Nolan's Batman movies work. They are far from canonical but it takes a core element of Batman, that his own demons are reflected in the villains that he faces, and explores that with the tools of a new medium. I fear that in the case of Ghost Rider they have taken the exact element that works against Ghost Rider, that he's a flaming skeleton on a motorcycle, as the element that they needed to translate into the new medium.

All of this hemming and hawing would matter more if I wasn't going to see it, but I am. But instead of a philosophical conflict between the desire to do the right thing and vengeance and how to tell the difference I'll get fire pee.

Thursday, August 25, 2011


So, a few years ago, Sous Rature and I wrote a Ten Minute Play called Frames. Since then it has been a little trooper of a play, being included in festivals and even winning awards I crowed about here recently.

I have wanted to turn this play into a movie since I graduated college. But that was six years ago and I have not been able to raise enough money to do much of anything, much less make this little film.

I started this a while ago and I don't know why I didn't link anything here, but I created an Indie Go Go page to help fund this film. I don't need a ton of money, I just happen to have none. If you read anything here and thought "Huh" please stop by and donate a few bucks (I know it suggests $100, it's being super optimistic. $5 is fine, wonderful in fact.)

Thanks whoever you are.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

In Defense of Fred

So, I'm supposed to be writing something else right now. Of course that means that I can't get something completely unrelated out of my head so instead I'm going to do this, which furthers nothing and hardly anyone will read...

Of all of the childhood cartoons and entertainment, Scooby Do, Where Are You? gets a large amount of attention. Mostly, of course, it's on the recreational habits of Shaggy and his, lets face it, amazing talking dog. Any talk of Fred is to dismiss him as the square with the ascot and his 'thing' with Daphne.

But it occurs to me that we're being too hard on Fred. I've been thinking about the other clues we have about Fred beyond that ascot and maybe Fred is more of a free spirit that we give him credit for.

First of all, that van that they travel around in, the one with the swirly hippie paint job and giant 'Mystery Machine' painted on the side of it? That's Fred's van. Fred of the ascot and wide collar shirt. Put that together, loafer wearing Fred bought a van and painted it swirly green with flowers and a big bubbly "Mystery Machine" on the side. Not that pothead Shaggy, but Fred.

And on the subject of Shaggy...whose friend is he, anyway? Certainly not Daphne. you don't see many tights wearing, model posing cheerleader types with stoners who talk with their dogs. Sure, could be Thelma, booky chicks have hung out with wastoids before, but to the point where she invites him along on their aimless search across the country looking for mystery? No, Shaggy is clearly Fred's friend. They might even go back long enough that Fred bought a van so his buddy Shaggy could take that dog of his with him when they hung out. Maybe they were chilling in the front yard, feet in their kiddie pool one day when Shaggy suggested covering the thing in green hippie paint.

Not to mention this wild, rudderless trip in the first place. Ascot and loafer wearing people prepare for college, not seek out cranky caretakers in rubber masks.

So what's up? What happened to our man Fred? Is he the Dobbie Gillis to Shaggy's (clear inspiration) Manard G. Krebs? No, Dobbie joined the military and even talked his beatnick friend into going with him. Wally was always talking Eddie out of trouble, not loading him in a van to go looking for it. No, it's clear that in core mentality Fred is closer to Shaggy than the other way around.

No, the answer is clear. Daphne. Daphne is what happened. I imagine if we had picked up the Scooby Doo gang just a little earlier we would have seen a Fred with long hair and t-shirt and jeans not much different than Shaggy. But then he met Daphne who probably said something like, "You know what would look good on you? An ascot. And why don't you get a haircut?"

Now, I want to stop here and make sure I'm not painting Daphne as a ballbuster who has emasculated Fred. She went on the journey with everyone else and doesn't really seemed that bothered by Fred's hippie friend and dog tagging along. Maybe she's even the one who talked her brainy friend into joining them because she'd be able to help. She's on board and contributes.

But it's also clear that she contributes to Fred's fashion choices. Because, dudes, who amongst us hasn't donned something out of character because a pair of fluttering eyelashes suggested we might look good in it? This really isn't out of fealty, but rather because we've perhaps not really taken aesthetics into account as much as comfort. And while we won't admit it because it would make us sound like someone from Jersey Shore, we'd like to look good to the ladies, even if that means that we end up looking like that goofball square in the ascot and loafers driving a hippie van to abandoned amusement parks.

I imagine that there a few times that he'd like to get paired up with his old buddy Shaggy for some Scooby snacks of their own. For old times.