By Adam Frazier
Frank Miller. If you donâ€™t recognize the name, you must spend your time socializing and making friends instead of sitting in dark, dusty comic book shops. To geeks like myself, Frank Miller is something of a legend in the illustrated world of superheroes and pulp fiction.
Heâ€™s the mind behind works such as ”Sin City”, ”300” and ”The Dark Knight Returns”. Frankâ€™s been fortunate enough to have directors like Robert Rodriguez and Zack Synder bring his works to life on the big screen, exposing the mainstream masses to his unmistakable style of storytelling.
Someone got the idea that old Frank should direct a movie himself, being as the guy is such a visionary storyteller. Heâ€™s the problem: Frank doesnâ€™t know the first thing about directing a movie. Heâ€™s great with a piece of white paper and some black ink, maybe a few splotches of red here and there, but when it comes to putting it on film â€“ the guyâ€™s as clueless as a virgin in the condom aisle.
”The Spirit”, a 1940 Sunday-newspaper comic book insert created by writer-artist Will Eisner, is Millerâ€™s first target to shoot down from the directorâ€™s chair. The series is considered one of the medium’s most significant works, with Eisner creating many of the styles, techniques, and storytelling conventions still used by comics writers today.
Millerâ€™s own style and sensibilities were no doubt influenced by Eisner, who became a dear friend and mentor to Miller. Take a look at the hardnosed detective pulp stories in Millerâ€™s Sin City and you canâ€™t help but see flashes of ”The Spirit”. The phrase, â€œkill your darlings,â€ has never been more literal.
Frank Miller has taken such an intimate and beloved project and, quite frankly (clever, right?), smashed it straight to hell. Before I tear into this film like a chicken wing buffet, lets get some simple stuff out of the way â€“ like the plot.
Rookie cop Denny Colt returns from beyond the grave as The Spirit (Gabriel Macht), a hero whose mission is to fight against the evildoers in Central City. The Spiritâ€™s arch-nemesis is a crime lord and mad scientist known as The Octopus (Samuel L. Jackson) who, as you might have guessed, has a thing for the number 8.
”The Spirit”, meanwhile, has a thing for the ladies. He falls in love with every dame he runs across, and lucky for him Central City is filled with the most beautiful, seductive creatures in existence. From Eva Mendes, Scarlett Johansson and Sarah Paulson to Jaime King, Paz Vega and Stana Katic, The Spirit offers some spectacular eye candy if nothing else.
What you can expect out of a film like ”The Spirit” is a super-stylized world of black, white and red filled with campy banter, Looney Tunes action sequences and a fair amount of sex appeal. Weird combination, right? Whatâ€™s worse is, aside from the sex appeal, not a single thing in this movie works.
Poor Sam Jackson and Gabriel Macht, they do the best they can with such an uneventful screenplay youâ€™ve got to feel sorry for them. As far as Mendes and Johansson, Iâ€™m not sure they were even trying â€“ its almost as if they accepted they were there for the eyes, not the ears. Every single line of dialogue in the film was disposable and clichÃ©, even for Millerâ€™s pulpy noir sensibility.
Frank Miller is not a director. Iâ€™m not saying he completely lacks the ability to someday direct a competent motion picture, but as for right now things are looking pretty dim. ”The Spirit” reveals that he may in fact be creatively bankrupt, a one-trick pony capable only of smearing stories in dollops black white and red. The only thing he seems to be competent in directing is making pretty girls even prettier â€“ maybe thereâ€™s a future in the porn industry for him if this doesnâ€™t pan out.
Sorry Frank, I hate to be so hard on you, but youâ€™re a big boy and Iâ€™m sure you can handle the criticism. You better be, because thereâ€™s a lot coming your way. If it makes you feel any better, I think ”Batman: Year One” and ”The Dark Knight Returns” are two of the greatest stories Iâ€™ve ever read. Hell, I even enjoy ”All-Star Batman and Robin”.
Speaking of Batman, ”The Spirit”â€™s score seems to be nothing more than a remix of Danny Elfmanâ€™s 1989 Batman score. Iâ€™m pretty sure I heard the caped crusaderâ€™s main theme a few times throughout this unbearable filmâ€™s 103-minute running time.
What else can be said? ”The Spirit” is a bad movie. Itâ€™s not a guilty pleasure, and itâ€™s not one of those movies thatâ€™s so bad itâ€™s good. It fails at even being laughable and enjoyable. I will say that some critics have chosen to be excruciately cruel to it, comparing it to ”Battlefield Earth” or ”Gigli”, but I assure you The Spirit is not that horrid â€“ itâ€™s just really bad, dumb and all-around worthless.
The line, â€œCome on! Toilets are always funny!â€ is said by The Octopus after he slams a toilet bowl over The Spiritâ€™s head. This is after hitting our hero in the testicles with a monkey wrench the size of an 18-wheeler. The thing is, it isnâ€™t funny, not even in that Americaâ€™s Funniest Home Videos kind of way.
To me, itâ€™s just a reminder of where a piece of shit like ”The Spirit” belongs.
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