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The Spirit

The Spirit 2008

Finally getting around to watching our rental copy of Frank Miller’s The Spirit. It’s funny that I watch and write about all of these superhero movies, but as far as comic book artists and writers I don’t really know all that much. Although I suppose I know a heck of a lot more than the average person, I know exceedingly few compared to a comic book fan. I’m familiar with the name Frank Miller largely due to his work on Sin City with Robert Rodriguez, and then instead of Sin City 2 which seems to be in development hell as it was rumored to be worked on shortly after the release of the first movie and yet seven years after its release there’s still no word on it. Instead Frank Miller went on his own to create another movie very similar in style to Sin City, only it features a classic noir detective character called The Spirit.

I wasn’t familiar at all with The Spirit aside from trailers of the movie which I hadn’t seen in years and the fact that it was an old comic strip reminiscent of heroes like Dick Tracy, The Green Hornet, and Batman. The look of the film follows the style of Sin City with stark contrast and very little color except the occasional swath of bright color like The Spirit’s bright red tie. I did enjoy the style, it really helps make it look like a comic book come to life and it also has that gritty noir detective feel like it’s from the 20’s or 30’s. The only problem is that it also has modern contrivances such as flip cell phones and modern weaponry which places the movie in an odd timespace that’s not quite modern and yet not quite classic. But while watching the movie, it never really threw me off completely, it just felt like it was in its own world almost. And there’s also the connection to mysticism in the fact that they use The Golden Fleece and Heracles’s blood as the Macguffins and Death is another character in the movie. Unfortunately I thought all the scenes with Death were rather annoying and I would have been much happier if she had only gotten one scene in the movie, the important one where The Spirit is about to give into her, all the other times when they cut to her just felt extraneous.

The Spirit himself is someone that doesn’t actually use guns, which was surprising to me in this setting. Instead the way he puts it is that he uses the city itself as his weapon, using his environment to his advantage whenever possible to help him win his fights. He also is a police officer who came back from the dead, cannot die again, and his wounds heal very quickly, but he doesn’t initially know why. His costume basically consists of a suit and hat, red tie and a small mask that goes around his eyes. It’s a nice, classic look, and the tie really helps make the character.

The Octopus in full mad science mode and his grinning lackeys.

The biggest problem I have with this movie is the overall concept. I’m not sure how I was supposed to feel about the movie. It wasn’t funny enough to be a comedy, but it was too goofy at times to be taken seriously. There were a lot of funny parts in the movie, Samuel L. Jackson’s The Octopus is basically a mad scientist drug lord with the same powers as The Spirit. He revels in their long drawn out stalemate fights and is accompanied by exceedingly stupidly hilarious clones as his lackeys. In one scene he’s watching a failed attempt at making a smart clone which turned out to be a small foot with an even smaller head on the top of it, randomly hopping around while The Octopus keeps repeating the fact that it looks just plain weird.

The other problem I have is that the characters are way too interconnected. Eva Mendes plays The Spirit’s long lost love who left a long time ago and became a jewel thief and black widow. There’s also the love interest of the doctor that always treats The Spirit’s wounds and is also the police commissioner’s daughter. The police commissioner is also the only person that knows The Spirit’s true identity. The Octopus is also connected to the police force as an ex coroner, and early on in the movie The Octopus got the half of a treasure that Eva Mendes wanted while she got the half of the treasure that The Octopus wanted. The Octopus also has a hitwoman at one point during the movie who ended up having a previous relationship with The Spirit. It’s all just so convoluted.

When he almost dies, instead of his life flashing before his eyes, his women do.

At the end of the day, I’m not really sure how I felt about The Spirit. There were a lot of parts of the movie that I liked, but there were a lot of parts of the movie that I didn’t like. It felt rather disjointed with characters, plotlines, and moods that just never quite fit together correctly. I think it’s almost best to look at this movie as a black comedy, and it did make me laugh out loud several times. I enjoyed the dumb clones and the various names they had on their shirts. I also enjoyed The Octopus as a classic over the top mad scientist and almost quintessential Bond-style villain, he even had a cat at one point. I even enjoyed all the various jokes about The Spirit’s womanizing ways, whenever he ends up hitting on anything with a pair of legs. Which reminds me of the other thing that I had heard about this movie before seeing it, the rather sexist view of women. Every woman in this movie is oversexualized, and in love with The Spirit, even though they’re all technically very strong women. I’m not sure what I personally think about it, but I do remember that much about it. I think I’ve gone back and forth enough about this movie, if you’ve seen it, I’d love to hear what you think. Make sure you leave a comment down below and next time I’ll be watching Robocop for Thursday’s review. Until then, this has been Bubbawheat for Flights, Tights, and Movie Nights.

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About Bubbawheat

I'm a comic book movie enthusiast who has watched and reviewed over 300 superhero and comic book movies in the past four years, my goal is to continue to find and watch and review every superhero movie ever made.

Posted on April 8, 2012, in 00's movies, DC, Other Comics and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. I was a bit disappointed by this flick generally. I think Frank Miller should just stick to comics.
    About Sin City 2 though, Robert Rodriguez announced at SXSW last month that he was planning to shoot it this summer, after Machete Kills. If that does go ahead, it will be probably be released sometime next year. Here’s the latest from Empire: http://www.empireonline.com/News/story.asp?nid=33415

    • Hopefully it’s not yet another misdirect. It feels like it’s been on the cusp of being made for years now. I would be glad if it did finally come together though.

  2. I have to admit I’ve been avoiding this one, and when I do watch it, it’s a morbid curiosity files candidate for sure. I’m what you might call an anti-fan of Frank Miller; I have only ever liked one thing by him (Batman: Year One), and even that could have been a lot better. I don’t like his ideas for comics, and I don’t think he really gets what makes even bronze age or modern age comics great, let alone golden age comics such as The Spirit. And since I like Will Eisner’s original Spirit comics, and really like golden age heroes in general, I was hoping for a good movie for the character, especially since both The Shadow and The Phantom had sub-par films. But with Frank Miller at the helm, my expectations went right through the floor, and the trailers, reviews, and poor box office reception all kept them there.

    • It definitely had its fun moments, but it goes way far out there. The acting is also a bit spotty with the same disconnect between modern and classic deliveries.

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