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January 23, 2012
 

Movie Mondays: The Spirit

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Written by: AHudson
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Title: The Spirit
Director: Frank Miller
Writers: Frank Miller (created by Will Eisner)
Distributed By: Lionsgate
Starring: Gabriel Macht, Samuel L. Jackson, Eva Mendes, Scarlett Johansson, and Sarah Paulson
Release Date: December 25th, 2008
Rating: PG-13

The Spirit (Gabriel Macht) is a brooding, vengeful, yet well liked vigilante who has regenerative health and can’t die. He’s on the trail of The Octopus (Samuel L. Jackson), who’s also seemingly invincible and is creating an elixir that would make him live forever like a god (and wants to rule the world for the lulz). However, The Octopus accidentally gets his crate swapped with Sand Saref’s (Eva Mendes) crate, which has the golden fleece. How I can even describe that much of the plot is a miracle beyond my comprehension.

Frank Miller has been getting a lot of flack lately. People have been saying he’s gone crazy and lost his touch with storytelling. Now, I tend to give creators the benefit of the doubt and ignored the Frank Miller haters. Sure, I disagree with what he says, and the recent work of his I have read hasn’t been up to par with his classics. But everybody has a bad moment from time to time. However, after watching The Spirit, I have to say that it was the final nail in the coffin for me.

 

The real reason you saw this film.

Where do I even begin to tell you what I disliked about this film? I guess the obvious starting point would be the plot. Or rather, the lack of plot. Yes, I suppose you could argue that there’s a plot with The Spirit and Sand Saref, or even The Spirit versus The Octopus. But simplicity aside, everything went completely over my head. I’m pretty good at keeping up with a plot. I’m one of those people who can pop in and out of a living room and piece a film together with no difficulty. But even I couldn’t understand what the hell was going on. It was a dizzying spiral of one scene after another without any kind of build up or plot we could follow. And most of the dialog was either terrible humor or everyone rambling about the plot with me trying to desperately understand what it was about.

DC unveils Wonder Woman's newest change.

Speaking of the dialog, the acting was terrible. Like most awful films, it’s a question of whether it’s the script/director’s fault or the actors’ faults. This time, it feels like the actors were reading the scripts and saying to themselves, “I don’t know what the fuck is going on, I don’t know what Frank wants me to do, so you know what? Screw it.” Here’s the breakdown of some of the actors and characters.

Gabriel Macht/The Spirit: Basically Dirty Harry rather than The Spirit. But then again, none of the characters are similar to their source. It should also be noted that he spends time talking to himself or a cat.

Samuel L. Jackson/The Octopus: Actually probably my favorite character. Not because he’s similar to the comic book version (pretty much the opposite). But because he’s a troll throughout the movie and does everything for the lulz.

A black Nazi. Now I have seen everything.

Eva Mendes/Sand Saref: Women. One day they hire someone to kill you with a sword. The next day they tell you how much they love you.

Scarlett Johansson/Silken Floss: Probably Johansson’s worse performance ever. The Octopus’s henchman who always has a very tired voice.

Sarah Paulson/Ellen Dolan: Reminds me of how great Nana Visitor captured Ellen’s essence in the TV film. Paulson, however, captures the essence of a very uptight woman.

But I get it. Not every film is going to have much of a plot or terrific acting. And I can enjoy a film that goes for the eye candy. But The Spirit is not a visual treat. Rather, it’s a poor mismatch of cinematic technique strung together without much thought or care. The close ups and stylings are cool…for the first minute. The rest is Miller trying too hard to prove that he’s a director. I’d rather have him only do plain shots and tell the story, rather than try too hard to make the shots interesting. My brother described it best as “a bad parody of Sin City.” That’s what the cinematics felt like.

It's also a bad parody of The Dark Knight Returns.

It’s hard to really describe how bad this is. Other than it feels like one of those weird dreams where the colors are dull and everyone in that dream understands the plot except you. And I have to say, this is the worst comic book film I have ever seen. Here’s the difference between films such as Howard the Duck and Teenage Mutant Turtles III compared to The Spirit. Those films at least have a story. And if someone said they liked those films, I’d understand, because they do have some redeeming qualities. The Spirit has no redeeming quality. Except for maybe Eva Mendes’s ass, but I won’t even give the film kudos for that.

Sand Saref stole J Lo's wardrobe.

The problem isn’t that this The Spirit is a grittier version of the comic book. The problem is that The Spirit is a shittier version of the comic book.

Andrew Hudson
ahudson@comicattack.net
@Hudsonian

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