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Review: The Spirit (2008)

The Spirit (2008)

Directed by: Frank Miller

Premise: An adaptation of the Will Eisner comic book. The Spirit (Gabriel Macht), an invincible crime fighter, takes on criminals in his beloved city and reunites with his childhood crush (Eva Mendes).

What Works: There are only a couple of positive things to say about The Spirit. First, Samuel L. Jackson is by far the best thing in the movie as super villain The Octopus. Jackson is over the top and occasionally hilarious, so much so that many parts of The Spirit play like a dark comedy. Second, Scarlett Johansson channels Dyanne Thorne in Ilsa: She Wolf of the S.S. and delivers a very alluring femme fatale.

What Doesn’t: The Spirit is a true disaster of a film. The picture borrows some of the style of Sin City, which was co-directed by Frank Miller, but The Spirit does not demonstrate the same finesse or skill with the filmmaking tools. Part of the craft of adaptation is translating and molding the original source material for a cinematic presentation but screenwriter and director Frank Miller does not seem to understand this, giving the characters dialogue that would have worked in a weekly comic strip but sounds ridiculous on screen. The visuals of The Spirit bear out this problem. The Spirit constantly uses highly stylized sequences but they do not advance the story, and they often cloud what is going on. The picture is a gaudy display of meaningless style and hyperactive editing that makes Speed Racer look like The Blair Witch Project by comparison. Aside from Samuel L. Jackson’s antics and Scarlett Johansson’s one-liners, the rest of the cast is uninspired. Gabriel Macht is very uninteresting to watch as The Spirit. The character has no personality and no passion. Macht is not the right actor for this role; it ought to have been played by someone with a 1940s look that would suit the setting of the film. In general, Eva Mendes’ acting is about as good as her script choices and she can do little with her role except stand around and look pretty, which is about all she is required to do in the film. The picture’s regard for women is rather bothersome and downright sexist. Like Sin City, all the female characters are presented as highly sexual beings but unlike Sin City, The Spirit does not allow them the intelligence, independence, and characterization that marked the females of the former film.

Bottom Line: The Spirit is a disaster of a film. In time it might find an audience that will appreciate its flaws but for now the film is a low note in what has been an otherwise stellar year for comic book adaptations.

Episode: #222 (January 11, 2009)