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The Spirit movie review

Posted by Patrick Sauriol on Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Central City has a protector, and he is The Spirit (Gabriel Macht), a mostly-invulnerable masked man with a mysterious past and an uneasy partnership with the police.  The Spirit fights crime, woos women, and tries to pin down his arch-enemy, the crimelord known only as the Octopus (Samuel L. Jackson).  As our story begins, the Octopus has a new scheme that may just make him the most powerful being on Earth, provided it isn’t spoiled by the Spirit or the mysterious and aloof black widow named Sand Saref (Eva Mendes, stealing every scene—even when she’s just photocopied).

There’s a lot to like about The Spirit. Comic book legend Frank Miller, the creator of Batman: Year One and 300 is the writer-director of fellow legend Will Eisner’s creation.  The cast is having a lot of fun with their over-the-top roles, and the story has a certain simple playfulness that’s lacking from most comic book adaptations these days.  Mix all that with the eye-popping visuals the all-green screen shooting makes possible and you’ve got an actual moving comic book on the big screen.

Alas, the film has two things going against it that are far harder to overcome than the Octopus and his femme fatale, Silken Floss (Scarlett Johansson).  One is an ongoing inconsistency in character and tone.  The title character alternately seems completely ignorant of his origins—a true man with no past—and very aware of who he was before adopting his new persona as a masked avenger.  At the same time, Miller seems unsure if he’s making a dark and gritty tale like his own Sin City, or something far more light-hearted and spoofish.  The film trips every time it shifts back and forth between these ideas, and it quickly becomes more annoying than endearing as characters go from affected monologues to breezy, natural dialogue.

This leads right into the bigger, and far more noticeable problem.  Miller has been completely loyal to his mentor’s creation—far too loyal.  He set out to put the story of The Spirit on the big screen, and he succeeeded.  This movie is an absolutely perfect, word-for-word, shot-for-shot 1940s comic book film, in the same way that Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow was a perfect ‘40s movie serial.  The characters, lines, and story of The Spirit are all flawless throwbacks to over half a century ago—and to the type of film audiences haven’t watched in just as many years.  The Greek gods are brought in as a throwaway MacGuffin, and the character motivations are paper-thin at best.

The Spirit is a beautiful film made exclusively for fans of the original Eisner comic strips and books. For everyone else, unfortunately, it’s going to be a tedious example of the kind of story Hollywood stopped telling half a century ago.

Review Score: 68 / 100

-Reviewed by Peter Clines.
DailyRich
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Posts: 3
Posted: 12 years 49 weeks ago

"The Spirit is a beautiful film made exclusively for fans of the original Eisner comic strips and books."

This surprises me, since everything I've seen does absolutely nothing to evoke anything from the Eisner comics.

Quasar
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Posts: 7588
Posted: 12 years 49 weeks ago

I didn't realize this comic was from the '50's. The first trailer looked godawful, but the later ones have gotten me interested.

Faster and faster, a nightmare we ride. Who'll take the reins when the miracle dies? Faster and faster till everything dies. Killing is our way of keeping alive. - Virgin Steele, Blood and Gasoline
mckracken
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Posts: 965
Posted: 12 years 48 weeks ago

I heard to stay away from this one... even for free!! Does anyone else think it odd that The Phantom, The Shadow and The Spirit all were created in roughly the same time period and all the movies sucked?

Quasar
Location:
Posts: 7588
Posted: 12 years 48 weeks ago

I thought it was pretty decent.

Faster and faster, a nightmare we ride. Who'll take the reins when the miracle dies? Faster and faster till everything dies. Killing is our way of keeping alive. - Virgin Steele, Blood and Gasoline