The Spirit

2008

Lionsgate Entertainment

Directed and Written for the screen by Frank Miller

Produced by Michael Uslan

I’d have probably been able to swallow this version THE SPIRIT a lot more if Frank Miller hadn’t come out with interviews where he claimed that Will Eisner himself would have approved of this movie.  Y’know, if you’re going to do your own version of a classic character like The Spirit then say so.  But this incarnation of The Spirit is so far from Will Eisner’s character that it qualifies as an original character in its own right.  Here’s what I thought of it in a nutshell:

GOOD:  I actually found myself liking Gabriel Macht a lot in his role as Denny Colt/The Spirit.  I really liked the physicality he brought to the role as he throws himself into the fight scenes with a sort of the-hell-with-it abandon.  And he’s just fun to watch.  And I got the feeling just from his performance that he actually read some of the original Will Eisner Spirit strips.  He’s an okay actor that got caught between a bad script and and an even worst director.

BAD: Scarlett Johansson.  Much as I love The Scarlett (and I have since “Ghost World”) her role as Silken Floss in this one was thankless.

GOOD: The digital photography/sets/lighting.  Say what you want about Frank Miller but he’s proven he’s expert at using this technology in motion pictures and despite all else, THE SPIRIT looks damn good.

BAD:  The unnecessary vulgarity and over-the-top violence was most certainly not needed in this movie.  As most of you who have read my reviews in the past know; I don’t condemn a movie for language and violence.  If the movie warrants it.  THE SPIRIT doesn’t.  I personally found the first fight between The Octopus and The Spirit in extremely poor taste as its ten minutes of them literally wallowing in a mud pit.  And then I saw The Octopus cram a toilet seat on The Spirit’s head and holler: “Hey, toilets are funny!”  Maybe if you’re ten years old, sure.  But when I saw that toilet bowl being crammed on The Spirit’s head I knew what Frank Miller really meant for them to be crawling around in.

GOOD: Eva Mendes.  Any movie that gives me a gratuitous nude butt shot of Eva Mendes is okay in my book.

BAD: The laughable voiceovers we get from time to time.  “The City….she is my mother….she provides whatever I need…” Frank, you didn’t invent that style despite what you fans tell you and you can’t do it well.  So stop it, awreddy.

GOOD: Samuel L. Jackson.  Now hold on, hold on…Sam did exactly what he was hired to do.  Sam was hired to act absolutely Off-The-Wall and that’s what he did here.  And let’s be honest here…Sam Jackson’s performances usually start just this side of Off-The-Wall and go off from there.  He did a great job of playing a villain more at home on an episode of the 1960’s “Batman” TV show right along with The Scarlett and Louis Lombardi as sidekick and henchmen, respectively.

BAD: Paz Vega as Plaster of Paris.  What was up with her?

GOOD:  The backstory between the young Denny Colt (Johnny Simmons) and Sand Saref (Seychelle Gabriel)

BAD: Just about every scene between The Spirit (Gabriel Macht) Dr. Ellen Dolan (Sarah Paulson) and Commissioner Dolan (Dan Lauria)

And what I think is totally unforgivable: during the closing credits we don’t even get to see Will Eisner’s artwork…instead we’ve shoved Frank Miller storyboards for the movie in our face.  And there is no mention of where we as viewers can purchase Will Eisner’s SPIRIT Kitchen Sink collections.

Let’s get down to where the rubber meets the road, okay?  THE SPIRIT has nothing to do with Will Eisner and everything to do with Frank Miller.  If you worship at Frank Miller’s alter and think he created comics and was the first to introduce film techniques and film noir into comics then you’re going to orgasm over this movie.  If you know and respect your comic history like the rest of us then you can look upon THE SPIRIT as a film curiosity and go on to other more worthy films.

103 minutes

Rated R: Definitely not a kid’s movie due to language, some really brutal violence and a brief rear nude shot of Eva Mendes.

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3 comments

  1. I agree w/ most of what’s said here. However, having seen Macht as Harvey Spector on Suits and also because he’s a fellow Bronx boy, I’m going to say he’s more than an okay actor. He’s pretty good. This movie gives him NOTHING to work with. Hell, it gives no one anything to work with, but it gives Frank Miller a boner so…

    1. Yeah, I watched it for free. Borrowed a friend’s DVD as I’d heard enough about the money to know that I didn’t want to pay for it but I was curious to see just how bad it was. And it’s such a goddamn shame. I’ve been a fan of Will Eisner and The Spirit since the 70’s when Warren published THE SPIRIT magazine. I still have ‘em all.

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