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The Spirit

Action & Adventure and Mystery & Suspense movie directed by Frank Miller

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2 ½ Stars: Technically Amazing But the Messy Screenplay Just Fumbles Everything Else!

  • May 7, 2009

After the huge cinematic success of the adaptations of "Sin City" and "300", comic book writer Frank Miller (also wrote the graphic novel "The Dark Knight Returns") was given a blank check to make ANY movie he wanted. Miller wasn't exactly given enough credit for his involvement in the directorial duties of "Sin City". This caused Robert Rodriguez to resign from the DGA when the Guild refused to give Miller credit as co-director. Miller made the layouts and breakdowns for the graphic novels from which both films were HUGELY based on and therefore made the storyboards in a sense--it would be right for him to have some recognition I would think. Well, Miller now directs and writes this adaptation of the comic strip by Will Eisner. My memory of the strip is very blurry and so with this review, I cannot judge this film as to how faithful it would be to the source material. I can still however, say just how good a film it is or how it is in the entertainment value. 

                  Gabriel Macht stars as "The Spirit" in "The Spirit."

A gunned down cop gets resurrected as an impeccably dressed vigilante (with a red tie) called the "Spirit" (Gabriel Macht) who protects the crime-laden streets of Central City. He shadows the underworld to stop evil-doers and haunted by the memory of his old flame, Sands Saref (Eva Mendez) who suddenly returns in search of a mythological treasure. A mad genius called the "Octopus" (Samuel L. Jackson) and his aide, Silken Floss (Scarlett Johansson) are also wreaking havoc in the streets of this dark city in search for the blood of Herakles that they believe is the missing key to immortality. The Spirit becomes ensnared in the web of deceit and manipulations by Saref that puts him right in the middle…

                Silken Floss (Scarlett Johansson) and The Octopus (Samuel L. Jackson), and Pathos (Louis Lombardi) in "The Spirit."

                           Paz Vega as "Plaster of Paris" in "The Spirit."

               The Spirit (Gabriel Macht), Morgenstern (Stana Katic) and Dolan (Dan Lauria) in "The Spirit."

Frank Miller brought the comic book "Daredevil" to new heights. Miller also created the groundbreaking graphic novel "The Dark Knight Returns". He made the "noir-ish" comic series "Sin City" and even co-wrote the script for Robocop 2. One wouldn't be hard-pressed to be curious as to how he would fare as director. Well, "The Spirit" displays that noir-like comic book feel through and through, with its use of monochromatic color hues and shadowy atmosphere. The film does look fantastic and stylish. The CGI-laden set designs does have that "mimicry" of a comic book page. Its cinematography (by Bill Pope) is quite inventive and looks very nifty, and does bring out potentially iconic sequences of comic book heroism in its screenplay. The film is an aural and visual feast for the audience, the problem with the film isn't a shortage on style, it has tremendous problems with discipline.

When making a comic-like experience, one should remember that the goal is to bring the comic book to life. Making it a fantasy made real with material we can relate to. Well, "The Spirit" tries to go a different way; it tries to make the cinematic experience a comic book; drenching the screenplay in a comic book tone. While this may not be a bad thing, there is such a thing as overdoing a good thing. The plot in "The Spirit" is pretty simple, but the execution is just too overcooked. Miller has a good eye for visuals and therefore his characters have to be different. In a way they are, but the dialogue is just so flat-full of comedic undertones and bizarre behavior driven by ludicrous performances by its cast. Think "Dick Tracy" on steroids and "Sin City" on morphine and you'll have an idea just how it plays out its directorial sensibility. 

               Scarlett Johansson in "The Spirit."

The "Octopus" proves a very heavy-handed villain with his eye-bulging, overly exaggerated quips. There is one scene where Jackson and Johansson dresses up like Nazis to reveal Octopus' evil plot--the dressing up thing proved totally unnecessary. Saref's little scene when she "xeroxes" her bottom is totally pointless except as an exercise on sensuality and large derrieres. I suppose this is all an exercise in comic book fun and style, but it didn't really work for me. However, I do welcome the scantily-clad attire as displayed with the likes of Scarlett Johansson, Sarah Paulson, Eva Mendez, Jaime King (Sin City) who plays the voluptuous Lorelei, and the awesome outrageous sensuality of Paz Vega as "Plaster of Paris" (seriously!). The voluptuous women are a great distraction amid all the messy screenplay. 

                 Louis Lombardi as Phobos in "The Spirit."

The action in "The Spirit" does retain the "fist-first" comic book attitude and tone. Some are cool, while some are outrageously bizarre. It does not have any emotional stakes nor any feelings of intensity, instead it tries to mix in some comedic one-liners that it sours the pace and feel of the action sequences. It fails to connect with any kind of impact except for its visual flair.

"The Spirit" is a visual marvel and truly is a technical achievement in CGI-generated environments and style. Unfortunately, the lack of discipline in its direction and the tasteless dialogue makes the film a huge mess. Miller steadily drives his performers to the erroneous track and gives in to comedic characterization that proved annoying. Maybe he was aiming for a surreal, noir-like comedy but it all feels too superficial and ineptly executed. It is Miller's first directorial assignment, and I forgive him for his mistakes. Remember, a comic book adaptation works when its characters have even the smallest impression of reality and emotion on them.

RENT IT! [2 ½ Stars] extra half star because of "Plaster of Paris".


Poster Jaime King Paz vega deadly dance by Plaster of Paris Ellen with the Spirit

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June 20, 2009
I didn't think it was poorly written, but definetely wordy with scenes that went on a little long. Long on style a little short in it's substance. I liked The Spirit.
June 22, 2009
Yeh, the film's incohesiveness definitely got to me. A lot of stylish unnecessary scenes. It can be fun to watch, but I guess it wasn't for me.
May 07, 2009
I still swear I will see it one day because of the tiny head on the hopping foot!
May 08, 2009
Sadly, that little bit of weirdness was the highlight of the film. And before you get all excited about it, the scene only lasts about a minute.
May 09, 2009
that hopping foot is one amusing element! It should be adapted in advertising LOL!
May 10, 2009
One whole minute of a tiny head attached to a hopping foot sounds like alot to me. If you watch the ads for the DVD release of SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE 75 % of what they show is taken from the end title credits where the cast is singing and dancing.
May 07, 2009
This movie's just not going to get much love, I'd say. Too, bad too. I'd hoped that if and when Frank Miller decided to take on directing films, that he'd at least experience a marginal ammount of success. Doesn't seem like that's going to happen. Before this film was released and every critic tore it to smithereens, there were rumors that Miller might direct the Daredevil sequel. Now, having seen his storytelling abilities as director, I hope that isn't going to happen. DD deserves more respect than Miller showed Eisner's pulpy anti-hero.
May 07, 2009
They're going to try a DAREDEVIL sequel. I guess that would probably be without Ben Afleck, right?
May 07, 2009
They're going to do a DAREDEVIL sequel? I guess that would probably be without Ben Affelck, right?
May 09, 2009
I hope so.
More The Spirit reviews
review by . May 05, 2010
Spirit, some people hear it, some people fear it. Spirit, some people just won't go near it!
Yes, that obscure late 80's rap song for the movie Ghostbusters TWO, summed up this movie to the public in the most accurate way possible.  Coming out at the tail end of the year when Marley and Me came out in theaters-people were much more interested in seeing the cute dog movie then the comicbook hero one.  The Spirit looked like Frank Miller's comic book movie Sin City and while The Spirit does have fans, it's not a well known book like X Men or  Batman.  …
Quick Tip by . October 11, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
The graphic novel that inspired this film is still one of my favorites in the genre. The film was a colossal disappointment from beginning to end. Visually quite lovely, but it's beauty isn't even skin deep- shallow, choppy, confusing, poorly written, a waste of time and money.
Quick Tip by . June 10, 2010
Poor movie, script was mediocure, Sin City is the movie to watch. The Spirit was corny and drawn out.
Quick Tip by . May 03, 2010
Cheeky and hammy adaption of the comic book hero. Fun for sure but it's nothing thats really going to stick with you.
review by . May 17, 2009
The Octopus: "I had you beat, just like eggs."   The Spirit: "The hell you did!"     Short Attention Span Summary (SASS):     1. Cop (Gabriel Macht) dies, but returns to fight crime in Central City for another day (and another, and so on)   2. Ridiculously campy bad guy "The Octopus" (Samuel L. Jackson) claims to have eight of everything, except maybe free range chicken eggs.   3. Criminal seductress Sand Saref (Eva Mendes) hates …
review by . May 27, 2009
Writers have it tough in the film business. According to a few books I've read, they rank just below the Producer in terms of importance in getting the film made. That would be impressive if it weren't for the fact that Producers rank somewhere near the bottom. Directors often say they'll toss a script (and the Writer's ego) while making their movie.    To the writers rescue comes Frank Miller. He brings with him his movie The Spirit, which he created as both writer and director. …
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About this movie


Studio: Lions Gate Home Ent. Release Date: 04/14/2009 Run time: 108 minutes Rating: Pg13
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Director: Frank Miller
Genre: Action, Mystery, Adventure
DVD Release Date: April 14, 2009
Runtime: 108 minutes
Studio: Lions Gate
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