Overview: Frank Miller takes everything interesting about The Spirit and throws it in the trash, then spends an hour fantasizing about Eva Mendes. Lionsgate Films; 2008; Rated PG-13; 103 minutes.
The Good: It’s a good thing Hollywood waited until Will Eisner was dead to produce this movie. The biggest positive note that I can offer is that he’ll never know what writer/director Frank Miller did to his most famous creation. I could also note that the style is visually striking, but being derivative of 300 and Sin City isn’t enough to save this abomination.
The Bad: Where to begin? Will Eisner’s The Spirit is a comic that thrives on pathos; the characters’ struggles seem very real and the stories have a lot of heart. The film adaption, however, thrives on breasts: lots of breasts attached to mannequins posing as real characters. When these top heavy mannequins speak, they speak in soundbites. They strike poses for the trailer and say, “Shut up and bleed!” and “Tell me, do I look like a good girl?” As if the hollow female characters weren’t enough, our only insight into The Spirit himself comes in the form of voice-overs and the only thing we learn is that Denny Colt likes his city. I mean he really likes his city. He loves his city. I’m pretty certain he wants to make love to his city. But I digress. In its comic form, The Spirit is charmingly funny. In the film, there is nothing but toilet humor. In one instance, that’s literally the case: The Octopus (Samuel L. Jackson), hits our hero over the head with a toilet, then proclaims “Come on. Toilets are always funny.” As it turns out, they are not.
The Worse: It’s one thing for Frank Miller to take a somewhat obscure comic book character and turn his film into a high schooler’s fantasy; it’s another to do so with a completely incomprehensible script. This film was marketed as a natural successor to Sin City, but that film had a solid plot. It also had a director (Robert Rodriguez) capable of getting stellar performances from his actors. The Spirit has none of that. In fact, it seems like Frank Miller told the cast to act as terribly as possible. Eva Mendes certainly wasn’t cast for her talent, but it’s absolutely stunning to see just how poorly she delivers her lines. Similarly, someone must have told Gabriel Macht that The Spirit needed an exaggerated Christian Bale-esque Batman voice. That someone was wrong.
The Worst: Did I mention that there’s a scene with a tiny, sentient foot? I thought dealing with Frank Miller’s homophobia and obsession with prostitutes (and incidentally dealing with Frank Miller in general) would be the most trying aspect of this movie ; then there was a tiny foot person.
Overall: Some movies are so bad that they’re funny. This is not one of those films. Skip it.