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THE SPIRIT (2008) *1/2 DVD review by SEBASTIAN

Posted on April 17th, 2009
Posted on April 17th, 2009


Simply put this movie is not a winner.

It was never a good idea. Writer/director Frank Miller should stick with his own ideas. In this case Mr. Miller, who is one of my favorite comic book writers, attempts to adapt Will Eisner’s classic superhero tale, “The Spirit”. He would be better off working with Robert Rodriguez on the second “Sin City” movie. When I first read about this project, I wondered why Miller was doing it. I figured at best he would try to break some new ground artistically. Worst case we would end up with a Sin City clone that doesn’t feel like Sin City. Tragically we ended up with the latter, and I’m here to tell you: Frank Miller cannot direct a film by himself to save his life.

The story follows a slain police officer (Gabriel Macht) who finds himself mysteriously resurrected and endowed with equally mysterious superhuman powers. Deciding he can better fight the forces of evil as a masked avenger he assumes the role of The Spirit, a protector of the weak and helper to the police. His nemesis is a psychotic who goes by the name of The Octopus (Samuel L. Jackson), and engages in very strange criminal activities. The two tangle often under the most ludicrous and contrived of circumstances. The Spirit also encounters many different femme fatales, one of whom, Lorelei Rox (Jamie King) seems to be the very essence of death itself. He finds himself facing the lost love of his life in thief Sand Seref (Eva Mendes), and wonders whether she is beyond redemption or not.

The acting is honestly abysmal, as is the direction of a rather silly script. Although I must say, if the casting had been a little better they might have been able to get somewhere with the whole ridiculous thing. Only Sam Jackson seems to be aware that he is in yet another B effort. He hams it up rather well at times. At other times he looks and sounds completely stupid, but then again so do most of the characters at times.

The film lacks focus and character and the whole thing comes off looking like a surreal, yet ultra-violet and mean “Looney Toons” cartoon. There are moments where actors don’t hit their marks and the miss the whole beat of the script (what little competent script moments there are). Scarlett Johansson actually performs the best here, hamming it up with ease. That should tell you something right there.

There are total absurdities that come up and never get answered. I’m not one who has to have everything explained to me, but give me a break! This movie pushes credibility, even in the comic book genre, well past its breaking point. There is a scene in which a sexy sword wielding siren is hired to slice and dice our bound hero, and he gets out of the fix by speaking to her in her native Spanish (untranslated!!). Apparently the two go way back. I think that line of thinking sums up the way most of the plot and script play out. Sad, I know.

The only thing that is really enjoyable about the enterprise here is the level of production on display. The visual spectacle is impressive and admittedly sometimes very retro and two dimensional (I guess that’s a good thing since it WAS on paper first). My favorite scenes were the ones that featured Lorelei. The look and feel were very spectral and haunting. Interesting conceptually as well. Too bad they let the ideas fizzle out.

They could have made this about 45 minute long, cut out all the dialog and replaced the languid score and had a winner. Instead we have to see Mr. Miller prove to everyone that he really should stick with comic books. Except when he works with filmmakers like Rodriguez. This was a bad day for comic book fans. Let’s see “Sin City 2” or “Hard Boiled” instead.

1 and ½ stars of 5

Trailer below…

-Sebastian

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