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The Spirit (2009)

1 rating: 4.0
A movie

Moments of startling beauty punctuate the comic-book action flickThe Spirit, written and directed by Frank Miller, the legendary writer/artist behind the reinventions of superheroes like Daredevil and Batman and the creator of the comic books ofSin Cityand300. … see full wiki

1 review about The Spirit (2009)

The Undead Detective

  • Dec 31, 2008
Frank Miller's "The Spirit" is the epitome of a comic book movie, visually striking and perfectly cast, with a plot so over the top and dialogue so silly that it's actually a lot of fun. If you're even considering taking this movie seriously, it's best you skip it and then forget that you've ever heard of it. I listened to the corny lines and I saw the preposterous action sequences, but rather than be critical, I just shrugged it off and allowed myself to enjoy what I was watching. Based on the comic series created by Will Eisner, "The Spirit" is part superhero movie, part film noir, and part detective story with just a little sci-fi thrown in for good measure; they all come together to form a goofy but entertaining product, one so stylized that you can't help but stare at it in total fascination. Like Miller's "Sin City" and "300," it creates a world of its own through amazing computer technology, turning every frame into a living interpretation of a comic book panel.

The setting: A dirty metropolis known as Central City, the kind of place where crime is as normal as self-indulgent voiceover narrations and slinky saxophone solos. Keeping watch from the shadows is the title character (Gabriel Macht), a mask-wearing, cat-loving vigilante who prefers black suits, black hats, and red ties. He started life as a rookie cop named Denny Colt, who was shot to death while on duty. Through a process I won't describe, and for reasons I won't reveal, he was brought back to life and now has the ability to heal very quickly, meaning his body can take a lot of abuse. Most of the abuse is at the hands of his archenemy, a mad scientist known only as The Octopus (Samuel L. Jackson), so named because he supposedly has eight of everything. In an early scene, the two meet at a local trash-polluted bog and beat each other senseless; at one point, The Octopus takes a discarded toilet and smashes it over The Spirit's head. "Oh, come on," The Octopus sneers, "toilets are always funny."

The Octopus' sinister plan: Drink from an ancient vase containing the blood of Heracles (or maybe it's Hercules) and become immortal. Once that happens, he'll begin a campaign to take over the world. Unfortunately, a sultry femme fatale named Sand Saref (Eva Mendes) unknowingly took the crate containing the vase; she believed she had found a different crate, one that contained a very old, very special piece of armor. She and The Octopus must now negotiate a trade.

But The Spirit complicates matters. He and Sand were childhood friends until a family tragedy turned them against each other. As a teenager, she vowed she would leave Central City, become fabulously wealthy, and surround herself with a multitude of shiny things, like diamonds. She was as good as her word; she now has a reputation for marrying rich men, having them killed, and using their money to finance her underground crime empire.

Numerous side characters populate this film, all of which are given personality quirks unique enough for a comic book adaptation. There's the perpetually flustered Commissioner Dolan (Dan Lauria), who relies on The Spirit but doesn't approve of his methods. There's Dolan's daughter, Ellen (Sarah Paulson), a doctor who spends all her time at the hospital waiting for The Spirit; the two have had romantic flings, but his reputation as a womanizer strains their relationship. There's Morgenstern (Stana Katic), a rookie cop who dresses like a leather mistress and brings such youthful enthusiasm to the job. One of the most baffling characters is Lorelei Rox (Jaime King), a luminous phantom who always appears when The Spirit is on the verge of dying; how this came to be is anyone's guess, and so are her reasons for staying so close to The Spirit.

The Octopus also has a number of interesting side characters. His accomplice is Silken Floss (Scarlett Johansson), a scientist with eyelashes so long that they would have been the envy of Tammy Faye Baker. And then there are his cloned henchmen (all played by Louis Lombardi), big, brainless brutes who have Greek and Hispanic names that end with "-os," such as Pathos, Huevos, Logos, Ethos, Rancheros, and Amigos. One of these clones is a freaky genetic accident--a tiny head attached to a bouncing foot.

While The Spirit is about as conventional a character as I expected, The Octopus continually surprised me. Consider the fact that he never wears the same outfit twice; he's the kind of person who wears anything that reflects his given mood. Within the course of this movie, we see him dressed as a scientist, a samurai, and a pseudo-pimp, with an expensive fur collar to boot. There's even a point when he dresses like a Nazi, and this is hilarious given the unbridgeable gap between his race and Hitler's ideology. He also has a tendency to work the topic of eggs into his conversations, which is strange since we never see him eating any. Basically, The Octopus is more comedy relief than he is a villain. I didn't mind a great deal, though; this character is so delightfully overblown that he's probably better suited for humor. He even adds credibility to one of The Spirit's sillier lines: "I'm gonna kill you all kinds of dead." Not too many audiences will appreciate lines like that, and I'm sure most won't appreciate the film as a whole. But if you're in the mood for escapist comic book fun, as I was, then you might want to consider seeing "The Spirit."

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