From dime-store digests to lush graphic novels, the comic-book genre has fully established itself as part of high culture. Along with the literary upgrade have come equally artful films, including The Dark Knight and Sin City. But for all its highbrow hopes, The Spirit plays like a B movie.
Written and directed by Frank Miller of Sin City and 300 fame, The Spirit is no Sin City or even the less cerebral 300. As both artful sketch and pure entertainment, The Spirit is lacking. For all the highs and lows,
With its black-and-white brushstroke canvas and film-noir narration, The Spirit starts with promise. In cahoots with the local cops, the Spirit (Gabriel Macht) is a slain policeman turned subdued superhero and ladies man who feels indebted to keep watch over his city.
Our hero has a campy rivalry with the requisite villain, a theatrical mad scientist known as the Octopus (Samuel L. Jackson) with a genetically engineered posse of doofus henchman. When one brute gets killed off, Octopus and his evil assistant (Scarlett Johansson) just make more, all in pursuit of an urn containing the blood of Heracles that the Octopus needs to secure his immortality.
The plot is fairly simple. Yet with each new character who is introduced— a devoted doctor smitten with the Spirit, an angel of death draped in a sparkly veil, a jewel thief who is the Spirit's childhood love (Eva Mendes) — the movie gets ever more spiritless. Despite its loftiest constructs, mythic undertones, and bizarre Nazi imagery, The Spirit is almost cool but mostly just awkward. The aesthetics look impressive, but the tone is all off. It's like the comic-book film equivalent of a one-camera sitcom without a laugh track that just isn't funny enough.
Photos Courtesy of Lionsgate