PSA: The Spirit (2008), or I’m Sick of This Motherfuckin’ Egg On My Motherfuckin’ Face!!!!

12 06 2009

The Spirit fails on a legendary scale. It’s massive amounts of unanswered or barely answered questions, lack of clear tone, and overall insipidness prevent it from being what it could have been, which is pretty damn good. Much like his comic books, first-time film director Frank Miller creates an urbanized hellhole and places an anti-hero in front of the brink of madness to catch an entire city from spilling over. But unlike his comic books, this is not an instant classic, a hilarious hard-boiled detective story, a dark look into the crass modern world, or an indictment of the folly of youth. Instead, it tries to be all these things at the SAME TIME! It is incredibly hard to catch up with the shifting tone, the obscure and difficult humor, as well as the little-explained plot due to the fact that is is simply too scattered and incomplete.

Based on the classic Will Eisner strip, we follow The Spirit, everyone’s favorite dead cop brought back from the dead to fight crime as a nameless crusader for goodness and peace, as he battles his arch-nemesis The Octopus in a battle to the death for the fate of Central City! Oh, wait; there’s also a side-story about his former flame, Sand Seref, who’s in town to find a priceless stolen artifact called the Golden Fleece. Oh, wait; there’s also some side-story about a chick named Plaster of Paris that comes and goes through the plot sporadically. Oh, wait; there’s also a side-story about how The Spirit falls in love with every girl he sees. Oh, wait; and let’s not forget all the underwhelming running jokes and goofy antics that run all around the film to distract from what the main plot is, which is… umm… Aw, fuck. I forget.

It’s all a matter of sticking to your guns, a thing one would think Miller would be good at. But, here, he’s like a kid in a candy store! He can’t keep his hands off his dangerous dames, his exposition-spewing baddies, and impossibly straight kicks and punches. He is a very strong visual storyteller (obviously), and I liked the movie to that end, but there is so much else that he tries to create that I simply can’t comprehend, much less agree with.

It’s just a jumbled mess. The performances run across the board from good to downright awful. Gabriel Macht is passing as The Spirit. He has the body and the delivery, but he seems rather listless at times. Like he would rather be doing any other activity than making millions of dollars by pretending to be a superhero. Eva Mendez sleep-struts through this one as Sand Seref, provoking the question, “Why didn’t you just stay at home and let the body double do all the acting?” Scarlett Johansson is similarly awaiting her paycheck, although she gets a little more credit just because of the get-ups Frank Miller put her in. I don’t want to show you any pics, because I like you fine people; but if you watch the movie, you’ll know what I mean.

My main gripe with this movie though, despite my earlier gripes, is Samuel L. Jackson. MY FUCKING GOODNESS he is manic. He plays The Octopus, and he might be the most outrageous villain I’ve seen in years. I don’t even fully know what his plan was for the world-domination racket, that’s how little I understood the character. I mean, this character is weird!!! Other than obnoxious, I can’t even figure out how to describe him. He’s loud, boisterous, extremely shouty, and for some reason EXACTLY like Samuel L. Jackson! Almost like he’s not even playing a role! Weird, huh?

I’m getting a headache just thinking about this movie. I can’t believe I saw it twice. I don’t recommend it even for a laugh. It’s incredibly bad. It looks great, but when has that ever carried a movie? It’s a mess, and Frank Miller, while a comic book genius, really needs to work with the medium a little more before he goes back into film. I give this movie 3 horrendous outfits out of 10.

Tomorrow we tap into the people’s revolution with Steven Soderbergh’s Che! Until then!

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