103 minutes approx
The Spirit -
The Octopus -
Samuel L Jackson
Sand Saref -
Silken Floss -
Ellen Dolan -
Written by -
Directed by -
The Spirit haunts the city by night, fighting criminals of all kinds, but mainly searching for the Octopus, his nemesis and the only other man who can take as much physical damage without dying. Once he was a cop called Denny, but then he died and became something more, and something less.
His simple black and white existence is complicated when the girl he loved in his yout comes back to town in search of a dream and with something that the Octopus needs very badly.
THE SPIRIT (based on the 40s comic strip by Will Eisner, the man some credit with inventing comic-books) is filmed in hyperstylised black and white with splashes colour, much like the film of SIN CITY and that's no coincidence since the film is directed by Frank Miller, celebrated comic book creator and co-director of SIN CITY. The man clearly knows how to create an image and there are many striking ones throughout the film. Unfortunately, what he doesn't seem to know how to do is to tell a coherent story, not cinematically anyway. Films are not simply animated comic books and anyone who tries to treat them simply as that is always going to disappoint. On this evidence it is clear that Miller's co-director on SIN CITY, Robert Rodriguez provided the movie smarts to Miller's visual sensibilities.
There are so many problems with the story (which is so simple that it struggles to fill out the running time) that they can't be ignored by the audience the same way that Miller ignores them. If foxy female lead Sand Saref paid so much to an international fence for her beloved artefact why was she the one smuggling it, and The Octopus's cargo, into the city underwater herself? Why did the Octopus try to hijack the shipment that he knew was coming his way anyway? Why does the Spirit feel the need to run across rooftops and telegraph wires for miles before commandeering a police car when he could have found one nearer? Why doesn't the Spirit take the Octopus's precious vase from Sand's room when she leaves the hotel? Why must the Spirit fall in love with every woman that ne meets. How does she line up a new prospective husband so quickly and where did the Octopus get those big anti-aircraft guns at the end? The answer is simply that it easier to ignore the problem and go on to the next pretty picture.
Central to all of this is the main character of the Spirit. It is appropriate that thr Spirit is neither alive nor dead as Gabriel Macht barely manages to breathe any life into a two-dimensional good guy even with the help of a ponderous ill-scripted voiceover.
Miller's much more interested in the more colourful characters anyway. Samuel L Jackson plays the Octopus as a pantomime villain with the full-on force of his personality and certainly has far more fun with the film than the audience. Whilst he's on screen things perk up considerably. He even manages to cope with the film's wild variations in tone, one minute menacing, the next paying for laughs.
And then there are the women. Eva Mendes leads the pack as Sands Saref, Denny's ex and part-thief, part black widow serial bride. She's probably the most interestingly shaded character, though she is paraded around in a series of unnecessarily revealing outfits to show off her figure and even gets to photocopy her 'perfect ass' just to underline the fact. Scarlett Johansson is the most fun as the Octopus's right hand girl. Whether she is dressed as a Nazi, nurse or geisha, she makes the most of her thankless role as explainer of the Octopus's plots. Sarah Paulson (so good in television's STUDIO 60 ON THE SUNSET STRIP) also does wonders with the less-showy and laugh-free role of the doctor who loved Denny and is caught by the Spirit's magnetism. The less said about Paz Vega's ridiculous Plaster of Paris (there simply to get the Spirit out of a jam) and Jaime King's inexplicable Lorelei (the personification of Death? The essence of the city?) the better.
In the pantheon of superhero movies, THE SPIRIT isn't going to be challenging any of the leading lights.Top
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