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The Spirit

The Spirit Directed by: Frank Miller

Cast: Gabriel Macht, Samuel L. Jackson, Eva Mendes, Scarlett Johansson

Running Time: 1 hr 50 mins

Rating: PG-13

Plot: The Spirit (Macht) is a masked vigilante in Central City, U.S.A. He must stop his arch nemesis, The Octopus (Jackson), from drinking the blood of Hercules, which offers immortality.

Who’s It For? Though this is a character created by Will Eisner, this film will be enjoyed exclusively by Frank Miller, Frank Miller, Frank Miller, Frank Miller, and Frank Miller.

Expectations: An early fan review on AICN.com said this was worse than John Travolta's suck-tacular scientology opus Battlefield Earth: A Saga of the Year 3000. Then, a user review on IMDB.com said almost the exact opposite. Plus, distributor Lionsgate was rigorously advertising it with cheesy lines like "Catch the Christmas Spirit." Was this out of desperation? It was all very curious.



Gabriel Macht as The Spirit: This unfamiliar actor plays his hero like a very non-super Clark Kent - a goober whose attempted machoness is ruined by his squarenesss. He has no presence at all. This buffoon is overshadowed by all of his co-stars, who prove themselves more interesting than the title character. Miller thinks his tie-wearing crusader is the anti-hero to this new breed of Hollywood's costumed vigilantes. But really, lacking a fatal amount of excitement, fight, and pizazz, The Spirit is no hero at all. Score: 2

Samuel L. Jackson as The Octopus: Apparently Jackson will be in anything, even roles that force him to be a harmless, funless clown. There is some action from Jackson, but it's nothing that wakes or excites a bored audience. If he keeps making these kinds of film choices, he'll eradicate all credibility from his career before he ever makes that Avengers movie. 
Score: 3

Eva Mendes as Sand Saref: Like many people in The Spirit, she has no idea how to deliver lines like "Shut up and bleed," which are seemingly out of her toughness range. Her derriere deserves its own casting credit, as Miller uses it ruthlessly to keep male viewers awake and simultaneously expunge any memories of homoeroticism from his 300. Score: 3

Scarlett Johansson as Silken Floss: In a film so visually busy, why must Johansson be so boring? Her character has the same deadpan expression that put unique spirit into her Ghost World character, but in a sea of bad acting it makes things worse, not special. Score: 2

Talking: The dialogue's crappiness is intentional. But that doesn't necessarily make lines like "I'm gonna kill you all kinds of dead," "I hate egg on my face!" and "Shut up and bleed!" digestible. Also, The Spirit explains his fetish for every orifice of the city, by talking to himself (audience) or through narration. Either way, we aren't listening. Score: 2

Sights: The film uses noir-ish lighting but mixes in heavy usage of dark colors, specifically black and white, black and red. The city is shown with lots of shadows and silhouettes. This style looked better and was accompanied by an actually good story in Sin City. Score: 4

Sounds: The sights do the aesthetic talking in The Spirit - not the sounds. This might explain why I didn't notice any music in the film until the song that played during the credits. Called "Falling In Love Again," it has sexy synths, tempting female vocals and a great melody. It is sung by Christina Aguilera, and it is the film's only redeeming moment. Score: 6


Best Scene: Without saying too much, The Spirit has hands down the best cat-melting scene of the year. Oops.

Ending: As much as it tries to be different, The Spirit ends in a very typical comic book style. There's no point in saying who lives, dies, and gets away. Box office revenues for this film will not agree with the openness of a sequel.

Questions: What's the backstory behind The Octopus? Or Silken Floss? Is the original comic book this stupid?

Rewatchability: None. The movie can barely be considered novelty. Instead, it's the crappy comic book you buy because the cover looks cool.


Sometimes with movies, trust in their makers is imperative. Depending on a film's creator(s) and production value, an audience member must trust that all involved are smart, and are aware of what they're doing. The Spirit is under control in that sense - Miller knows his vision from our perspective. But its uniqueness and peculiarities do not excuse the film from offering fundamental entertainment. Though so vibrant, this film is lifeless and painfully uninteresting, devoid of any remotely enthralling moments. Its action is slim and sparse, ruined by a boring hero and and his annoying nemesis. Like much of everything else, the film's insistent humor will barely amuse anyone who is not Frank Miller.

I had more fun watching the soulless superhero movies (Daredevil, Fantastic Four) that Frank Miller probably hates. Miller's 300 was a disaster, but at least it attempted to entertain it's multiplex audiences. Here, The Spirit isn't even a fun dumb comic book movie with cool colors.

Final Score: 2/10

Box Office Review - December 28, 2008