Episode 190: 18 Hours of Angels Singing and Craziness

Overthinking It PodcastMatthew Wrather, Peter Fenzel, and John Perich explore the diagetic phantasmagoric cosmology of Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance.

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Further Reading

John Guillory, Poetic Authority: Spenser, Milton, and Literary History

Manicheeism on Wikipedia

Existentialism on Wikipedia

Schopenhauer on Wikipedia

Study Guide to Goethe’s Faust, parts 1 and 2

Allegory vs. Symbolism, by Dr. Tim Shonk of Eastern Illinois University

“Nicholas Cage Losing His Sh*t,” by Harry Hanraham (warning: foul language)

6 Comments on “Episode 190: 18 Hours of Angels Singing and Craziness”

  1. cat #

    To Pete: Thank you for soldiering through the podcast. I hope your voice and corresponding pharyngeal parts improve soon. Drink lots of fluids and may you be blessed with many lozenges.

    I will say that you made this film seem a lot more interesting than it probably was.

     
    • fenzel #

      Thanks, cat! I’m feeling a bit better, but still not quite at 100% on the ol’ pipes.

      If you were to see this movie, the thing most likely to make you think it is uninteresting would be the elements of it that are repulsive, awkward, or bonkers. If you wanted likeable characters or a story tha makes sense, you might get turned off. All that might actively dull your interest. But I don’t think you would leave it thinking it was dull or lacked “stuff.”

       
  2. Leigh #

    I figured this was a summer blockbuster that was so dumb it had to be released 3 months early. But Pete makes it sound like an avant garde philosophical study, which explores spiritual duality by focusing on inanimate background objects. Definitely worth a rental!

     
    • fenzel #

      The movie is a lot of things, but it definitely isn’t dumb – except in terms of marketing strategy.

      The movie definitely should not have been PG-13, and considering how many people are burned alive and rot into corpses in front of your eyes, the rating is absurd. However, there is only one curse word. The rating most likely forced them to make some very strange, acrobatic compromises.

      There is also virtually nothing sexual. The female lead is cute, but not really attractive, and Nic Cage looks doughy, sick and unhappy for most of the movie, when he’s not being crazy. The other main characters are either children, seniors, or priests. Titillation is absent.

      This works very well for what the movie is, and I find it refreshing and honest, but it’s not what the PG-13 Ghost Rider Sequel that would open in the summer would have to be.

      If you wanted to make a PG-13 superhero movie to lure in teenagers, you really should have calmed this down a bit and added more conventional stimulative elements.

      Of course, add those things and take away what makes Spirit of Vengeance interesting, and you have Jonah Hex, so, well, I’m glad they didn’t do it, even if there is something dumb about the tension between the movie and its marketing and rating.

      For the movie they made, they should have marketed it as darker, more intense, and more extreme than the original — that in the first movie you saw where Ghost Rider comes from, but this time, you see Ghost Rider in full force – we’re talking blazing guitar riffs, people being torn apart with red-hot chains, really a lot more of what the flaming skull is all about – it’s all very metal and badass.

      I strongly suspect there will be a very different, unrated DVD, and that I will purchase it.

      And yes, I see a lot of philosophical complexity in the movie. I’m not sure everyone would, unprompted. I go into movies looking to overthink them, and not everybody does. But the person I saw it with also thought it was amazing and bizarre. We were wowed and applauded at the end. Though I wouldn’t give it a totally unreservedly positive review for everybody.

       
  3. Gab #

    Was Johnny Blaze’s original motivation for making his deal with the Devil ever re-presented here? For however bad the first one was, the motivation behind his decision at least had potential for character and story development, and it was left open enough to be continued in any subsequent films. So did they just drop that completely?

    Also, from what you say about the story, I hear the potential for a lot of common literary tropes, such as the kid that tames the beast. And I wonder how comparable the priest you spoke of is to the one in Ladyhawke- does he have some mistake in his past that he’s trying to make up for by looking for this child?

     
    • fenzel #

      “Was Johnny Blaze’s original motivation for making his deal with the Devil ever re-presented here?”

      Yes, they discuss it twice, with two different justifications — it’s semi-Miltonic, like when he presents the creation of the universe in multiple ways.

      The first time, they talk about Johnny Blaze making his deal to save his father’s life, but being lied to. This is presented in an interlude short video.

      The second time, they talk about Johnny Blaze making his deal not for his dad’s sake, but to spare himself the pain of watching his father suffer or the emotional difficulty of letting him go. This is mentioned in a rather intimate confession scene, which Johnny does in preparation for having his curse lifted.

      So in that sense, there is a character journey — one Johnny going from out of control and “tricked” into being Ghost Rider, to confessing and being cleansed of it, to taking on the mantle again voluntarily — indeed, demanding it. It’s a rather subdued arc in the story, but it’s there.

      “And I wonder how comparable the priest you spoke of is to the one in Ladyhawke- does he have some mistake in his past that he’s trying to make up for by looking for this child?”

      Idris Elba’s priest is an interesting character. The truth behind him is that is religious order is pretty messed-up. He’s still a pretty decent guy, but he kind of lives in shoulder-shrugging denial of the fact that the rest of the people he lives and works with are crazy fanatics. This is probably why he keeps a hidden wine cellar and drinks so heavily.

      In the story, it’s debatable how much Idris Elba’s character knows about the likelihood of his order killing the boy rather than protecting him when he brings the boy to them. He definitely seems against the idea of killing him, but it seems as if he is at least somewhat aware of how savage his colleagues can be (led by amply-tattooed Christopher Lambert) and is somewhat heavy hearted to bring people to them.

      I don’t think it’s like Ladyhawke. He’s a little more like Tommy Lee Jones in The Fugitive — he compartmentalizes his job because he couldn’t really handle the full moral reality of what he has to deal with if he took it all on himself.