Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance or Spirit of Comedy?

Ghost Rider, starring Nicolas Cage, is in theaters now. (Courtesy of Columbia Pictures)

By JASPER CHANG
Asst. Sports Co-Editor
Published: February 20, 2012

“The Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance,” which premieres on Feb. 17, is a film about Johnny Blaze (Nicolas Cage), a stunt motorcyclist who made a deal with the devil, known as Mephisto, to save his father. As a consequence for making a deal with Mephisto, Johnny Blaze becomes the Ghost Rider. The Ghost Rider is the devil’s bounty hunter, a human being bound to the powerful demon known as Zarathos.

The Ghost Rider is what some comic fans would call one of Marvel’s darkest superheroes. He is a demon from hell, the spirit of vengeance who punishes the wicked. His powers were never meant to save anyone. Overall, he is the last person you would want to see eye to eye, for his penance stare will make you relive all your past evil deeds. But there is a human element to the Ghost Rider that allows readers to relate to him and that is Johnny Blaze. Johnny’s actions humanize the Ghost Rider. He is a troubled man with a difficult past, living in the present bonded to a demon. Well, not all of us are actually bonded to a demon but metaphorically speaking, we do have our own demons.

That is the Ghost Rider in the comics, but the Ghost Rider in the film is a different character.  Instead of a dark, troubled spirit of vengeance we see in the comics, the film presents the Ghost Rider as a funny, deranged spirit of comedy. “The Ghost Rider” moves in an eccentric, yet malevolent way that makes you laugh but also cringe at the same time.  Most actions the Ghost Rider makes are bizarre and awkward. For instance, when he grabs a henchman by the collar, he laughs manically, tightens his grip of the henchman, and then just stares at the henchman for a brief period of time before resuming what he did before. I was first struck with fear, but came to laugh at the awkward moment.

Many of the funny, awkward moments are caused by Cage’s role. The Johnny Blaze in the film does not resonate with the Johnny Blaze in the comics. Only in certain instances do the two meet on the same level and those are the best scenes in the film. Cage played Johnny Blaze very well according to the script. Cage certainly gave the film an entertainment value that the general audience can relate to.

The defining aspects to the entire film are character presentation and action scenes. The way the Ghost Rider looks makes the film well worth watching. If the Ghost Rider were real in this plane of existence, he would look exactly as he did in the movie. When Johnny Blaze transforms into the Ghost Rider, his leather jacket begins to boil and bubble as if trying to contain the brimming fire exuding from the skeleton body. The air around his fiery head is scorched black. One of the primary weapons of the Ghost Rider is his chains, which he infuses with blazing temperatures to incinerate anything that the chains touch. In addition, any mode of transportation the Ghost Rider utilizes becomes infused with fire. The Ghost Rider speaks very little in the film, but I can guarantee that when he speaks, he is a “badass. Every action scene in the film is epic. The Ghost Rider in the comics truly comes out in the action scenes. Midway through the film, the Ghost Rider takes control of a giant machine, embedding it with his power. Fire spits out at every direction.  It looks as if hell had brought its own creation onto Earth.

The film has up and down moments. Some of the dialogue and actions will reveal the dark element of the Ghost Rider and others will depict the Ghost Rider in a comical and funny, psychotic manner. The movie embodies a mixture of epic actions and wacky humor. Check out “The Ghost Rider” and make your own judgments. For those who do not read “Ghost Rider” comics, you’ll have a blast watching the film. To Marvel comic and Ghost Rider fans, it’ll be an interesting experience with a dash of disappointment.

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