Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Movie Review: The Spirit

directed by: Frank Miller

The creator and director of Sin City (one of the best comic book adaptations of all time) is back again, this time with a lesser known graphic novel - The Spirit. It's Christmastime, time for big blockbuster films to be released and enjoyed. My family all had an interest in seeing the Spirit, because frankly from the trailer it looked gorgeous and like a ton of fun. I loved Sin City, the visual style, the story, the concept, the aura of film noir, and I guess my expectations for this venture may have been a bit too high. Simply put, the Spirit was a HUGE letdown.

How can I count the ways? Well to begin with, I almost fell asleep twice, not a good thing for an action film, especially one that relies on WOW imagery. If you have seen Sin City, or the trailer for the Spirit (which was great), then you know the imagery of which I speak. Its all done with green screen - but all looks wonderful. As if you are in a living and breathing comic book. However, if you saw the trailer, you saw everything exciting the Spirit had to offer. Instead of a visual feast, I felt like I was sitting at a visual dinner table and was feasting on the leftover scraps no one else wanted.

The story was not intriguing in any way. I had never heard of the Spirit before, and when the movie was over I knew even less. He was actually one of the most uninteresting characters in his own film. The Spirit is played by Gabriel Macht, a rather unknown actor who did little to make this character likeable or memorable. You know its going to be a bad film when you cannot like the title role. Picture Batman having no backstory, Superman no personality, you catch my drift. Also the Spirit had no real power other than he couldnt be destroyed, he can never die. And honestly how many times have we seen that. He had no alter ego (no Clark Kent or Peter Parker) other than when he was a child, which we saw in a 5 minute flashback which was supposed to explain it all. He had no real love interest (no Mary Jane or even Vicky Vale), rather a couple of women whom he sometimes seem connected with. Sadly none of these women were given anything to do either. The closest to a love he has was Loreli Rox (played by Jamie King) who seemed nothing other than a matronly nuisance. There was a bumbling female wannabe detective (one of the worst performances), an out of place french belly dancer (who was given about 4 minutes of screen time, and right as she was about to get interesting left the film never to return), a mysterious phantom lady who showed up randomly throughout the film to deliver odd off the cuff words of wisdom, and maybe worst of all Eva Mendez as Sand Sariff (who was either the love interest with a past ala catwoman, or another villian of the film). She did nothing but wear a skin tight catsuit in the water, sit on the copy machine and take copies of her ass, and utter meaningless dialogue.

THANK GOD for Samuel L. Jackson and Scarlett Johannsson (as the Octopus and his girlfriend Silken Floss). Without these two, as the bumbling villians, the film would have been a total and complete waste. Jackson is often the best thing about a terrible film, and this is no exception. As the bad guy in the film, he is wonderful in his most over the top performance since Pulp Fiction. He is truly the breath of life this movie needed. And in every scene he is in, he is followed by his cohort Silken Floss (Johannsson) who is finally doing something right. When she is good shes great, but when shes bad she's awful that Scarlet. But here she gets a rare shot at being the comedianne, which fits her nicely. There is a scene where her and Jackson don natzi outfits and using a projection screen they plot out their plans to destroy the universe. They also have cloned hundreds of copies of a big fat blundering fool to use as their army (he is all at once funny and horribly annoying). Did I mention they melt a cute kitty too?

The Spirit tries to be a lot of things. It fails at all of them. Its often funny and sometimes steps out of the box and is really creative. I think Frank Miller was onto something, but in the end he really ended with a disappointing product. The film is not fun, its almost like the crumbs that fell off of the Sin City table. Not very fulfilling.

*1/2 out of *****

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