The Spirit

"Excellent"

The Spirit Review


It's been too long since we've had a proper comic book superhero on the screen. There's been enough of them running around and bashing up the bad guys in a CGI-enhanced fashion, that's for sure. But it's hard to look at the recent cinematic incarnations of Tony Stark and Bruce Wayne and call them "superheroes;" even if they keep their identities secret and have nifty outfits. "Billionaire action figures" would be more appropriate, what with all their high-priced gadgetry and super-duper hideouts. Whatever happened to the caped heroes who kept an eye on the city's dark alleys and took out the bad guys with nothing more than a sock to the jaw?

Frank Miller's jazzy The Spirit answers that question with a cocky wink and a grin. The streets of Central City are almost always dark and threatening, but they're watched over by a guardian who used to be a cop named Denny Colt (Gabriel Macht, wonderfully deadpan). One near-death experience later and Colt has dug himself out of his own grave. He then decides to serve the city as a masked avenger known as The Spirit, whose only weapons are a newfound ability to absorb ridiculous amounts of punishment and his fists.

There's a supervillain out there called The Octopus (played with rarely-seen operatic relish by Samuel L. Jackson) and a squad of curvaceous femme fatales (Eva Mendes, Scarlett Johansson, and Paz Vega, to name just a view of the film's many pouty-lipped vixens) to fall in dangerous love with. The Octopus wants something that will make him invincible, and he's going after an old flame of The Spirit's to get it. So The Spirit leaps into the snowy night, long duster like a cape and blood-red tie flapping in the wind as he bounds across rooftops and intones odes to the object of his affection, the city: "She's my sweetheart, my play thing." And then he gets beat up; a lot. But he always has a quip to spit out the side of his mouth, and a friendly cat who's frequently nearby for him to gripe to.

It's surprising that one of the year's most refreshingly fun films would come from the man who helped Robert Rodriguez create the infinite loop of mind-numbing sadism that was Sin City (tongue-in-cheek or not, after the thirteenth pistol whipping, it got old). This time out, graphic novelist Miller takes the directorial reins himself to adapt that comic-book touchstone, the late Will Eisner's mid-century superhero series. While Eisner's classical storytelling verve and soft-touch humanity would seem an odd fit for Miller -- whose most famous works, like Sin City and The Dark Knight Returns -- are lavished with cynical ultra-violence, the two artists' viewpoints mesh rather beautifully here.

As in Sin City, each frame of The Spirit is more painted than filmed. Miller's performers work inside cartoonish cityscapes that draw equally from his own jagged style and Eisner's Sunday funnies look. It's a frankly gorgeous effect, liberated by the fact that Miller adapted freely from Eisner's panels -- the two were longtime friends -- to create an organic story instead of slavishly following the master's work.

Although The Spirit is in part a classic superhero story, with a square-jawed hero who knows how to take a punch and kiss a dame until she's weak in the knees, it's also a freeform lark that has more fun than anything that has been coming out of the Marvel sausage factory. What with flocks of cloned idiot henchmen (all played by Louis Lombardi) available for easy slapstick, and the Octopus' tendency toward elaborate costumery (one scene has him and his hench-girl in samurai-gear, another in full SS regalia), there's a drift here toward full-on giddy surrealism that beats anything you'll find in the next Incredible Hulk.

In short, it's neat-o.

Headin' up the the spirit in the sky.



The Spirit

Facts and Figures

Run time: 103 mins

In Theaters: Thursday 25th December 2008

Box Office USA: $19.8M

Box Office Worldwide: $39M

Budget: $60M

Distributed by: Lionsgate Films

Production compaines: DC Comics, Lionsgate, Dark Lot Entertainment, Continental Entertainment Group (CEG), Odd Lot Entertainment, Media Magik Entertainment

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 4 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 14%
Fresh: 16 Rotten: 96

IMDB: 4.8 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Producer: , , Michael E. Uslan

Starring: as The Spirit/Denny Colt, as Silken Floss, Samuel L. Jackson as Octopuss, as Sand Saref, as Plaster of Paris, as Lorelei Rox, as Dolan, as Ellen Dolan, as Morgenstern, as Liebowitz, as Mahmoud

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

Wind River Movie Review

Wind River Movie Review

After writing the superb Sicario and Hell or High Water, Taylor Sheridan moves back into...

The Vault Movie Review

The Vault Movie Review

Filmmakers Dan Bush and Conal Byrne attempt a mash-up of a frantic heist movie with...

Goon: Last of the Enforcers Movie Review

Goon: Last of the Enforcers Movie Review

The 2012 Canadian comedy Goon was one of those surprising little films that snuck up...

Detroit Movie Review

Detroit Movie Review

After The Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty, Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal reteam to...

Logan Lucky Movie Review

Logan Lucky Movie Review

Good news: Steven Soderbergh's well-publicised retirement from directing only lasted about four years. He's back...

American Made Movie Review

American Made Movie Review

An enjoyably freewheeling tone and Tom Cruise's star wattage combine to make this an entertaining...

An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power Movie Review

An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power Movie Review

It's been a decade since Al Gore's wake-up-call documentary won the Oscar. And here he...

Advertisement
The Hitman's Bodyguard Movie Review

The Hitman's Bodyguard Movie Review

It really doesn't matter that this movie is utterly ridiculous, because the central pairing of...

Final Portrait Movie Review

Final Portrait Movie Review

A relaxed, amusing true story about noted Swiss painter and sculptor Alberto Giacometti, this sharply...

Tom of Finland Movie Review

Tom of Finland Movie Review

Finnish artist Tuoko Laaksonen used the name "Tom of Finland" as he drew explicit illustrations...

A Ghost Story Movie Review

A Ghost Story Movie Review

Filmmaker David Lowery reunites the stars from his offbeat Western Ain't Them Bodies Saints for...

Atomic Blonde Movie Review

Atomic Blonde Movie Review

From the co-director of John Wick, this similarly styled action romp puts Charlize Theron front...

Girls Trip Movie Review

Girls Trip Movie Review

This movie's premise basically sounds like The Hangover with added black girl power. But it's...

Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie Movie Review

Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie Movie Review

There's so much manic energy in this animated action comedy that it can't help but...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.