About 3 years after the success of Robert Rodriguez’ Sin City, writer Frank Miller decided to take a run with the photography format used in that film. The Spirit used the same mix of Black & White with certain elements of color. In some degrees, it works. Miller was known for his artwork in The Dark Knight Returns and Sin City, so it’s not new to him at all. That was something I didn’t realize. I thought in taking over the directing, he was learning how to film in the same way Rodriguez did, but he knows what he’s doing. There’s an atmosphere to the city and the people in it. It’s dark, gritty, almost mysterious in a lot of ways. The only problem is that we’ve seen it already, so it isn’t quite as effective here. After the first Matrix came out, every other film used a Bullet Time affect. By the time The Matrix Reloaded arrived, the effects were old hat. The Spirit has it’s moments, particularly with shots of our hero running along the city’s rooftops. It fades fast, though.
The Spirit, based off the works of comics legend Will Eisner, is the story of Denny Colt (Gabriel Macht, Suits), a former police officer who finds he has a problem with being able to die. Patrolling the streets of Central City as The Spirit, he is chased by the specter of Death, Lorelai (Jaime King, Sin City’s Goldie), who is after his soul. In protecting the city, The Spirit squares off with his arch-nemesis, The Octopus (Samuel L. Jackson, Kong: Skull Island) who suffers from the same problem as Denny and is looking to turn himself into a god by drinking the blood of Heracles. At the same time, he’s trying to track down his ex-girlfriend turned jewel thief Sand Serif, (Eva Mendes, 2 Fast 2 Furious) who also seems to have an a hand in the deal.
The casting for The Spirit may actually be the only thing working in it’s favor. Dan Lauria (The Wonder Years) plays up the old Commissioner Gordon cop figure that reminds The Spirit to work within the rules. Stana Katic (Castle) has some fun moments, and Sarah Paulson (American Horror Story) is as reliable as can be playing the would be love interest to Denny if he’d only see reason. Working with the Octopus, we have Scarlett Johansson playing Silken Floss, and Louis Lombardi as Pathos (along with all of the clones that do the dirty work). While everyone tries their best to keep from dialing their roles in, what they have to work with is so strange that you could conceivably tune out of the film within the first 20 minutes. How many times does someone have to punch another person in the face before they’ve proven their point? We get it, they’re immovable objects & unstoppable forces.
The plot in The Spirit is a simple one, but often feels like it’s moving in circles. It’s as if the story isn’t exactly sure what to do next, so it simply tries to do anything to move the story along. A bellydancing assassin? Sure, let’s try it. Enough guns to take out a small army? Toss it in the pot. Perhaps I don’t know enough of Eisner’s original stories to fully understand what Miller was trying to do here. It’s entirely possible that Miller actually hit the mark and followed everything the comic did. For that, I’d have to read the comics. If I find that it changes my view on the film, I’ll update this entry.
As it stands, however, The Spirit is definitely an Incident among movies and resets the counter down to zero.