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The Spirit (2008)


The Spirit has been beaten up from all sides before it even hit theaters or even screened for critics. This comes as little surprise based on the trailers and early footage which would lead most to believe comic book writer Frank Miller on his first solo directorial outing had duplicated what he learned making Sin City with Robert Rodriguez and brought little else to the production. All of this is a spot on observation, but the film isn’t as much a travesty as it is a waste of time. It’s over before you know it and even though empty; at least the pictures are pretty. This is obviously a kind way of saying this movie is no good, but it’s hard to hate this movie too much considering it really was made by an amateur and it looks it.

Acting as if we shouldn’t know, or care, anything in particular about the hero of The Spirit, Frank Miller throws us immediately into the story as one man who can’t be killed goes up against a villain enjoying the same distinction. The Spirit (Gabriel Macht) proclaims himself to be the servant of the ambiguous Central City as The Octopus (Sam Jackson) prepares to destroy it. Surrounded by beautiful women after diamonds, death and only God knows what else he keeps his heart for one, but the heart of the film is nowhere to be found. How does one man kill another if both are immortal? Frank Miller hopes to show us in fight scenes destined to never end, which makes the whole thing all the more unnecessary.

Sam Jackson’s villainous Octopus is a nightmare of words upon words as he changes from wardrobe to wardrobe bouncing between a fur coat, a scientist and even a Nazi general complete with swastika and his faithful assistant Silken Floss played by Scarlett Johansson at his side. If there really could be one point lower than the next, the film’s absolute bottom would come in the all-revealing back-story scene in which the reason The Spirit and The Octopus are immortal is revealed. Jackson banters on in a diatribe that shows no sign of ending and just as you think it may be over it continues on, ushering sighs and moments of regret for ever sitting down.

Frank Miller seems to hope audiences will laugh at the corny set ups and be wowed by the visuals. However it just proves Miller is not suited for filmmaking as his talent only reaches as far as green screen will take him. The characters have no depth and virtually no reason to exist. I would say I hated this film, but I couldn’t even manage such an emotion as I just sat staring blankly at the movie screen unwilling to call what I was watching entertainment, but unable to muster anything more. The Spirit has no direction, no story and plenty of voice over as Miller’s only attempt at formulating a narrative. It doesn’t work and as the film comes to a close and the final words we hear from The Spirit begin to play over one final rooftop excursion, I just sat waiting for it all to end so I could get up and leave.

Beyond copying the black and white stylings of Sin City with moments of color splashed on screen here and there, Miller also resorts to pretty ladies to fill the flesh quotient. Eva Mendes plays a diamond loving thief named Sand Saref. Paz Vega plays Plaster of Paris, a belly dancer whose purpose is pretty much unknown. Jamie King plays Lorelei, something akin to an angel of death. Stana Katic plays the big gun toting female cop Morgenstern and Sarah Paulson plays Ellen, The Spirit’s one true love. All of these dames make up for a whole lot of nothing. To make it quick, Sand Saref wants the mythical Golden Fleece, which for some reason is in one of two boxes. The other box has the blood of Heracles, something The Octopus wants so he can, like definitely, for sure be all immortal and stuff. Sand steals one box and The Octopus the other, you can already assume neither got what they were looking for.

Lorelei is seen sporadically throughout the film floating in what must be a green screen water tank given the black-and-white treatment with appropriate rays of light added. Neato! Morgenstern is here to assist in bringing down The Octopus and Ellen serves as the damsel in distress when the story calls for it and the jealous lover when it doesn’t. The Octopus wants the blood, Sand Saref wants the Fleece and so the story goes as The Spirit wants to stop them both.

Watch at your own risk. I don’t think you can possibly hate this movie as it only wears on you in a harmless way, but I don’t think anyone can like it. It would have made my year end “Worst Of” list if it had managed to stir up enough emotion for me to even care. As it turns out this is likely the last time I will ever think of this movie, and for that I am grateful.


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