You know, I gotta stop making ultimatums before I see the finished product. Before tonight, I was all set to name 2008 as, “The Year of The Comic Book Super Hero.” The Dark Knight was the best comic book adaptation ever. Hellboy 2 combined a ton of stylized action with Guillermo Del Toro’s unique sense of style. Iron Man resurrected Robert Downey Jr. and kick started a brilliant franchise. The Incredible Hulk was good enough, and Wanted was just plain fun. It was all looking so gravy. Then The Spirit came along. Heh, heh, I’m gonna have to come up with a better, more appropriate title for this year.
The Spirit takes place in Central City, in some weird, screwed up version of the 1950s where the people have cell phones. So, there’s this guy, called The Spirit, who is dead, I think. Well, he is technically dead, but he still manages to jump across the rooftops, beat the crap out of criminals, and seduce the pants off every woman he meets. But, since this is a comic adaptation, there needs to be a villain. The said villain is called The Octopus, so called, because he has eight of everything, which isn’t actually true, but whatever, we’ll role with it. Then there are some girls with connections to The Spirit. There’s his doctor. There’s the old flame. There’s The Octopus’ henchwoman. There’s the… oh, christ, I can’t go on, this shit is bananas! The story is based on a line of comics by Will Eisner, and if this movie is any indication, it’s pretty haphazardly put together.
Gabriel Macht plays The Spirit, and I quite liked him, actually. He’s pretty monotone, keeps one expression for the whole time, and has no chemistry with the females. And he monologues… like, all the time. Dear God, please stop the monologues! But, he’s supposed to be dead, so I bought it. There are three main girls caught up in the mix. Sarah Paulson plays Ellen Dolan, The Spirit’s, uh, physician. Pretty much every scene she is in is ridiculous. She’s bad, let’s leave it at that. Scarlett Johansson plays Silken Floss (yes, that’s her name), The Octopus’ sidekick, who has a really bad habit of explaining the bad guy’s master plan right before the put the hero in a situation where he can escape. Johansson is also really bad. Again, let’s leave it at that. And there’s Eva Mendes, who plays Sand Saref, world class jewel thief and old flame of The Spirit. Her only real contribution to the film is that she shows some skin. Really, the only purpose the women in this movie serve is providing pure, unadulterated eye candy. All you feminists, eat your heart out! And Samuel L. Jackson, as The Octopus, really overacts. In this year’s Scenery Chewing Awards, he takes Best of the Year, Best of the Decade, and Lifetime Achievement. It’s entertaining, to be sure, but come on, Mr. Jackson. What happened to you doing roles in movies like Pulp Fiction, Unbreakable, and Patriot Games. Man, you are a sellout!
So, director Frank Miller is really good at making a good looking film, and that’s about it. Like Sin City and 300, which he created, The Spirit is drenched in style. The two main colors are black and white, which makes the red tint of blood, or the bright glow of gold pretty much jump off the screen and punch you in the face. It’s awesome. But, when it comes to making a story not steeped in cliches, crafting characters we can care about, and coming up with some witty scenarios amid all the bloodshed, he kinda fails. Sure, the movie looks great, but we’ve come to expect that from him. It’s fucking Frank Miller! But he also wrote the script. He comes up with some weird premise involving the blood of Hercules, or something. It’s not really explained. Come to think of it, a lot of things in this movie are not really explained. Like, why the hell is Samuel L. Jackson dressed up like a samurai in this scene? And then, why the hell is he dressed like a Nazi in another scene thirty minutes later? Expect headaches. Miller also took a lot of cues from the movie of Sin City, namely the crazy amount of narration from the hero. But, in Sin City, Robert Rodriguez had the sense to cast actors with some sort of emotion in their voices. Miller made the wise choice to cast a monotone actor as the hero. There are so many things wrong with this, from crap script and casting, to an overbearing use of special effects. Oh, so many problems.
Like I said, The Spirit single handedly ruins 2008’s chances to be a flawless year of comic book adaptations. Granted, most of the other ones were so good, the title will probably stick. But, I still hate this movie. Somewhere, in his grave, Will Eisner is crying.