The Spirit (Movie Review)

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Note: It's been a while since my last review of Twilight a few weeks ago. Hopefully with all the Oscar bait popping up, I'll be putting finger to keyboard more often these days. Until then, enjoy my review of The Spirit since it might be the best thing to be associated with the film (I kid of course. There are better reviewers than I).

The Spirit

One of the root problems with Sin City was that the city itself (Basin City) never actually felt like an inhabitable place. A city built exclusively on overt crime and corruption can't possibly have a strong economy that merits growth, so while the surreal and exaggerated noir style did create a visually arresting feature, characterizing every single resident as either a foul mouthed brawler or filthy prostitute really threw a wrench in the immersive process. A nitpick perhaps, but it's the most extreme characterizations that require a foil or antithesis, and Sin City was in dire need of one. In The Spirit, Frank Miller learned from this mistake and decided to insert a few likable characters into this feature's Central City. They're no less shallow and corrugated, but they provide the necessary balance between the protagonist's unequivocal benevolence and the antagonist's hyperbolic malevolence. One step forward, two steps back...

A plot summary of The Spirit presents problems in that there is no actual thesis or revelation to grasp until the final scenes of the film. For the bulk of the picture, the audience is bombarded with threads that never feel designed to confluence in any meaningful capacity. One might liken this design to the film noirs from the golden days of Bogart, but the key difference is that those characters had motivation (usually). The Spirit is hunting The Octopus. Why? The Octopus is neither unambiguously evil, nor does he have a bad habit of leaving dead bodies in his wake (clones don't count). Sure, he's a little megalomaniacal, but who isn't? In order for the audience to understand the plot, the filmmakers elected to have The Spirit break the fourth wall and address the audience directly. They do this repeatedly, to the point where it becomes condescending. The frequent voiceovers and lingering looks to the camera eye are not effective expository devices.

For what it's worth, The Spirit is a virtually indestructible masked man with a red tie and an almost perverse love for his city. He's a pussy enthusiast (in both the feline and naughty sense of the word) and despite a bad habit of running headlong into cross-fires, never actually carries a gun. The Octopus is a fan of grandiose villainy copy/pasted from Saturday morning cartoons, only heavily stylized with more blood. In an unexpected twist of genre conventions, the police force (led by Commissioner Dolan) is not corrupt and rather effective. There are at least five pieces of cardboard eye candy (two of which are the femme fatale variety), and a porky imbecilic henchmen clone with increasingly humorous monikers (pathos, ethos, logos, dildos...)

image
Frank Miller tries to get his actors to emote

Plot details that aren't spoilers are scarce. Essentially, The Octopus is on a quest for immortality that involves a passing knowledge of Greek mythology and the occasional gene splicing. The narrative design is almost Rube Goldberg in nature (obtuse, not ingenious).

Visually, the film flickers between engagingly stylish and unnecessarily garish. Sin City had two colour pallets: graphic novel style black and white, and gritty city black splashed with blue and red. Sin City's palette was easy on the eyes while being occasionally provocative. Frank Miller dabbles with at least four palettes in The Spirit. While experimentation is something admirable, the palette changes don't elevate the film nearly as much as they signify tone and genre changes. There is the violence of 300, the graphic nature of Sin City, the light-hearted shenanigans of Spider-Man, but never any consistency. The whole is only the sum of its parts provided the parts can fit together.

Had The Spirit maintained a steady atmosphere and style throughout the duration, the film would have been tolerable. Unfortunately, the visual style doesn't draw you in so much as it compounds the awful narrative to the point of physical discomfort. The Spirit is a smorgasbord of visuals and unappetizing dialogue; a failed experiment. Not thoroughly detestable, just entirely disposable.

For a far better cinematic experience, ring in the New Year with Clint Eastwood's Gran Torino (if you can find it). It's currently in limited release, but it's well worth the hunt.

Good review, I liked the movie, it wasn't the best, but it certainly was entertaining.

Hmmm, I'm actually going to see this movie tomorrow, now I'm worried.......

excellent review, the flow was fantastic

*sigh* This movie is making Will Eisner spin in his grave, nice work with your friends legacy Frank, you shit.

Good review. I just saw the movie yesterday. I wasn't expecting it to be quite so weird. Are the comics like that too? It was pretty entertaining, and the ladies were quite nice, but yeah, the story and writing was shit.

I loved this movie, but I find myself agreeing with all your points. Is it because I'm a Frank Miller fanboy?

ThaBenMan:
Good review. I just saw the movie yesterday. I wasn't expecting it to be quite so weird. Are the comics like that too? It was pretty entertaining, and the ladies were quite nice, but yeah, the story and writing was shit.

Haven't seen the movie yet but the comics are downright silly on occasion. There's one where The Spirit talks Hitler out of the war and he goes back to Germany and gets assassinated. It's strange.

One of the much better reviews out there. You actually sounded fair and objective; the pacing was excellent for telling us everything that needed telling without excessive flourish and text.

I loved 300 and Sin City, but I was never that excited about the Spirit in the first place.

PedroSteckecilo:
Haven't seen the movie yet but the comics are downright silly on occasion. There's one where The Spirit talks Hitler out of the war and he goes back to Germany and gets assassinated. It's strange.

That... could be a good movie? Although it does tend to reinforce my current attitudes towards comics and their cultures.

These are some of the best comments I've received for any review I've written. I personally feel that this is one of my better reviews, and it's nice to see that others enjoy it too.

Nice review, can't be said for the film though, it was dire, I felt ripped off after seeing this and didn't even pay to see it.

saw the movie a few nights ago and I found it alright. I agree with everything you say and I went into the movie with a lot of skepticism but found the humor pretty good and rather entertaining despite being somewhat of a hollow movie. It's one of those movies you have to take with a grain of salt when going into it, don't be too serious and you will enjoy it but they could have done much better with the story.

Another good, enjoyable review Maet, more enjoyable than the film seemingly. I shall see for myself when I see it on Monday and construct my own review when I can be bothered.

I was actually thinking about seeing this movie at one point in time, but seeing as how I found Sin City to be quite a mediocre movie, I suppose I'll just skip it. Although I will say that I love the line "I'm gonna kill you all kinds of dead"

ThaBenMan:
Good review. I just saw the movie yesterday. I wasn't expecting it to be quite so weird. Are the comics like that too? It was pretty entertaining, and the ladies were quite nice, but yeah, the story and writing was shit.

The original Will Eisner comics were from newspapers in the 1940's. It could get silly, but all comics from its time were just as strange. And that's generally what people used to think whenever someone brought up The Spirit. Though, to be honest, before Frank Miller got his hands on the movie project that didn't happen very often. (Not being a comics expert, I only found out about the original work when comics enthusiasts were getting up in arms at the fact that Frank Miller took on the head creative post in the project as writer and director. And it seems their fears were vindicated.)

It's possible to do good movie adaptations of comics, but I don't trust Miller with The Spirit--and, judging by critical reactions, my hunch was right. Considering that it's possibly the most influential work in the history of Western comics, you'd think someone would try to do it justice.

Perhaps this particular comic deserved a better writer and director than what it got.

The plot did seem kinda convoluted, so it's probably one of those movies you need to see more than once to fully grasp all the details of it (or at least I'm giving it the benefit of the doubt). It was a decent movie, but nothing that special.

I went to see this movie knowing full well that it would be awful, and so with that in mind, I actually really enjoyed myself. This film nails "so bad it's funny" in exactly the right way, everyone speaks in a highly overblown version of the halting noir style, and virtually every line that Jedi Samuel L. Jackson says is hilarious. There is one point where they cross Nazi's and dentistry to create the ultimate in "evils".

Watch the movie as a mockery of itself and it might work out a bit better for you.

- J

You make it sound like all the plot convolution of pirates of the Caribbean, mixed with the setting of Batman.

I
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uh
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Good review, do more?
I honestly have nothing else to add, you basically hit every point that I could request for.

Except length! IT'S NOT LONG ENOUGH.

Well, it is, but you have such a smooth flow, I want more.

Spleeni:
I
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uh
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Good review, do more?
I honestly have nothing else to add, you basically hit every point that I could request for.

Except length! IT'S NOT LONG ENOUGH.

Well, it is, but you have such a smooth flow, I want more.

"It's so good I want more!" is what I'm hearing a fair bit of. I plan to watch The Wrestler tomorrow, so hopefully I can maintain the same quality review for a couple of hundred extra words longer.

If I might plead my case for a minute, I do write for my university's newspaper and they often encourage shorter articles packed with succinct content. My editor will tell me to aim for the ~350 - ~450 word limit trying to avoid anything longer than 500 words (unless it's a core piece), and I feel I should aim for ~1000+ words when I post here. I have a "write what needs to be written" mentality right now, so if a film/game merits lengthy discussion, then I will put my effort into being as comprehensive as possible.

In all honesty, I thought this review was too long and my Curious Case of Benjamin Button review was too short. Oh well... c'est la vie...

Um, just to clarify for some people who seem a little confused, though this film is DIRECTED by Miller it's not his creation like "300" or "SIn City" but was the creation of Will Eisner, just thought I'd clear that up since some people sound like they think it's a Miller comic.

The Spirit was such a letdown. It looked so cool in the trailers and turned out to be ass. Atleast it wasn't as bad as Babylon A.D, which I was also excited to see.

The people at AICN called it worse than Battlefield Earth

The thing about this movie is...why so serious? I died laughing in this film- my girlfriend and I actually got headaches laughing at this film (and almost got kicked out of the theater).

Hmm...

Samuel L. Jackson...
dressed as a Natzi...
listening to Haydn (where Mendohlsson would be more serious, and Richard Strauss would be more comedic)...
and delivering (in English, no less), Hitler's inaugural speech...

Yep- it was pretty funny!

Spleeni:
I
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uh
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Good review, do more?
I honestly have nothing else to add, you basically hit every point that I could request for.

Except length! IT'S NOT LONG ENOUGH.

Well, it is, but you have such a smooth flow, I want more.

???? I don't think any more "serious" review would be necessary on this film.

I found the movie to be OK if you were willing to be a little lax with the visual aspects of the movie, i.e. in the beginning, when he's running on the wire, it looks awful, but if your willing to just forgive things like that it was alright. something my dad noticed was in the climax when all the cops pulled up they were in 40's era cop cars and then attack helicopters appear, another odd thing you have to forgive.

Very well-written review, I thought. Tied together nicely, with a strong sense of flow.

I enjoyed The Spirit in spite of the film's faults. I suppose it's not so much quality filmmaking as it is an example of the moviegoing experience. You go, you see a spectacle and enjoy the occasional moments as they come, and you leave.

Yes nice review, I was heavily expecting this movie to be throughly disappointed, but I was looking into it with a Sin City idea.
I was thinking Sin City with a REAL hero, but it ends up the Spirit isn't really an agent of the law/justice or he could've charge San Serraph or whatever her name is with attempted murder when she pushed him out the window.
I thought the only parts I could truely stand was with Samuel L. Without him the movie would've flopped worse than Baby Geniuses 2: Superbabies.

Dorian Cornelius Jasper:
Perhaps this particular comic deserved a better writer and director than what it got.

The problem is Frank Miller has an enormous ego, he thinks he is gods gift to comics. In addition to that this is his first real attempt at directing a movie. I think he should have set his ego aside and let a real director handle this one.

Also, excellent review.

I think you might want to shy away from purposely including complicated bits of language, friend. It's a) a little, I dunno, aloof and b) that same aloofness brings you down when you screw it up.
Example: (from the first paragraph)
"They're [referring to the characters" no less shallow and corrugated..."

Er... what? They're marked with parallel folds?

After you'd called my attention to it by using "corrugated" to describe character, I couldn't focus on anything except how many giant words you were tossing into your review. It doesn't have to be high-brow. Sometimes accessible language is the best language.

MrBrightside919:
The Spirit was such a letdown. It looked so cool in the trailers and turned out to be ass. Atleast it wasn't as bad as Babylon A.D, which I was also excited to see.

Gah Babylon A.D. sucked beyond what I could imagine. I promptly deleted it after watching.

sneakypenguin:

MrBrightside919:
The Spirit was such a letdown. It looked so cool in the trailers and turned out to be ass. Atleast it wasn't as bad as Babylon A.D, which I was also excited to see.

Gah Babylon A.D. sucked beyond what I could imagine. I promptly deleted it after watching.

I wanted to gouge my eyes out after watching Babylon A.D.

HobbesMkii:
I think you might want to shy away from purposely including complicated bits of language, friend. It's a) a little, I dunno, aloof and b) that same aloofness brings you down when you screw it up.
Example: (from the first paragraph)
"They're [referring to the characters" no less shallow and corrugated..."

Er... what? They're marked with parallel folds?

After you'd called my attention to it by using "corrugated" to describe character, I couldn't focus on anything except how many giant words you were tossing into your review. It doesn't have to be high-brow. Sometimes accessible language is the best language.

Corrugated can refer to cardboard folds as easily as it can refer to being stiff and rigid. I didn't screw it up. It works fairly well no matter which way you slice it.

I don't think my reviews are "high-brow" and I don't toss giant words in the mix for the hell of it. I can point to thousands of professional reviews that are far more smug than mine. I'll admit I do get a little carried away sometimes (who doesn't?) but my focus when reviewing is more on overall length and flow.

Maet:
Corrugated can refer to cardboard folds as easily as it can refer to being stiff and rigid. I didn't screw it up. It works fairly well no matter which way you slice it.

I don't think my reviews are "high-brow" and I don't toss giant words in the mix for the hell of it. I can point to thousands of professional reviews that are far more smug than mine. I'll admit I do get a little carried away sometimes (who doesn't?) but my focus when reviewing is more on overall length and flow.

Does anyone ever think their reviews are high-brow, that doesn't do it deliberately? And aren't professional reviews allowed to be more smug, since they're professionals?

Personally, I got the cardboard parallel, but the way I look at it, the fact that you had to explain it sort of undermines your argument that it works fairly well.

RobinHood3000:
Personally, I got the cardboard parallel, but the way I look at it, the fact that you had to explain it sort of undermines your argument that it works fairly well.

I only had to explain it to one person (so far) outside of the review itself. If I had to attach a footnote or make an aside in the review, then I would agree with you that it would've been undermined.

I don't know what to think of professional reviewers that are deliberately smug though. On the one hand, maybe they've earned that self gratifying position. On the other hand, some get paid to go off on retarded tangents because they think their word is law. I'll get back to that question if somebody decides to give me a salary for this crap.

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