The Spirit is a sad misstep of a film big on style – even if it is copied almost exactly from Sin City – but short on story. I know what Miller was going after with the campy nature but what might look good on the page (screenplay or comic book) may not translate too well on the screen.
Genre(s): Action, Comedy, Fantasy
Lions Gate | R – 108 min. – $39.99 | April 14, 2009
Date Published: 04/16/2009 | Author: The Movieman
The studio provided me with a free copy of the Blu-ray I reviewed in this Blog Post.
The opinions I share are my own.
THE MOVIE – 1.75/5
Note: This review does contain some plot spoilers. So readers beware.
“My city, I cannot deny her. My city screams. She is my mother. She is my lover, and I am her Spirit.” Its unfortunate the film had no spirit behind the story…
I knew I was in a world of hurt when our hero vigilante, The Spirit (played by the uninspiring GABRIEL MACHT), faces off against nemesis Octopus (SAMUEL L. JACKSON channeling his inner Snakes on a Plane performance), and the two beat each other up in a pile of mud before Octopus gets the upper hand and smashes a toilet over The Spirit’s head. This was within the first 15-minutes and it didn’t get any better.
The so-called story basically involves a part pimp/part Nazi Octopus going after some sacred vase that contains the blood of Hercules that will make him as close to a god as possible. Early on, we also learn he and The Spirit have something in common, but for the sake of keeping some of the story a “surprise”, I’ll leave that out, but trust me, it’s not worth the 90-minute wait to find out. In any case, in the beginning of the movie we find out that the beautiful Sand Saref (EVA MENDES) was going after a pair of valuable chests, one containing this vase and the other some shiny thing that is also revealed near the end. Anyway, The Octopus, along with his right-hand woman Silken Floss (SCARLETT JOHANSSON), gets a hold of what Sand Saref wanted and she in turn got what they wanted.
That’s the basic plot and there’s really nothing more to it so unfortunately there’s only one thing that will take you from the start to the end: Frank Miller’s carbon-copy styles of Sin City. The problem is, as visually arresting as The Spirit is; it has no heart, soul or… spirit, ironically enough.
I can’t place that much blame on the actors because the writing is as campy as can be. And that would be fine, but shouldn’t camp be somewhat funny? I know The Octopus said that “Toilets are always funny,” but not when it seems Frank Miller the director wants to present something dark and serious in the midst of horrid dialogue and characters we could care less about.
Outside of the visuals, which began to wear thin by the end, the only other highlight might be Sarah Paulson’s role as the doctor head over heels for The Spirit. In the scenes she’s in, the movie does seem to pick up pace only to come to a screeching halt when we go back to the story, and, especially, Samuel L. Jackson’s loud performance that we’ve seen before.
I can forgive Eva Mendes because she is a decent actress, but I’ve seen her in the unredeemable Ghost Rider so by comparison, she’s stepped up her game! No, the big question mark is the relative unknown Gabriel Macht as The Spirit. The man may be a great actor (I honestly don’t remember him in The Recruit or The Good Shepherd), but he’s so bland in a title role that needed so much more charisma especially with an awfully written and uneven screenplay.
Frank Miller is a talented fellow if you’ve ever seen Sin City or 300, but he does The Spirit no favors. He doesn’t seem to be able to figure out if this should be straight camp, a serious film noir or a rich graphic novel come to life, problem is he tries to combine them all with no success. I wanted to like The Spirit. Visually it’s a wonderful film, but the screenplay and some of the performances are just unforgiveable. Fans of Sin City will be disappointed so beware of that before you pop this into your player.
SPECIAL FEATURES – 3.75/5
While The Spirit wasn’t the greatest movie, I will give Lions Gate credit for at least releasing a solid Blu-ray (and DVD), including a few exclusives.
Audio Commentary with Frank Miller and Deborah Del Prete
Green World (22:53) begins with an overview of “The Spirit” comic book, characters and the author, Will Eisner and includes interviews with the cast and crew. It then delves into the “unique” style of the movie. The featurette doesn’t get interesting until they get into the technical aspects from green screen to transitions.
Miller on Miller (15:57) – Frank Miller talks about his childhood, where his inspirations came from and growing up in New York City, the styles of comic books (giving props to Stan Lee and Jack Kirby) and how he went about drawing some of his creations. He also goes into the history of comics and its change in the 1950s.
History Repeats (15:27) is an in-depth look at the origin of “The Spirit” as well as Will Eisner’s influence and vision in the comic book world. It also goes into the yin-yang friendship between Eisner and Frank Miller.
Last up is an Alternate Storyboard Ending (2:37) featuring the voices of Gabriel Macht and Samuel L. Jackson.
And there are a few ** Blu-ray Exclusives **:
– MoLog is a “network connected community and interactive blog tool set”.
– LG Live – Like BD Live where you can watch trailers for upcoming Lions Gate films and other great features. Within this, you can check out news, weather and even have a clock on the main menu.
– Bookmark is like what you’ve seen on Universal Blu-rays where you can bookmark some favorite scenes.
The second disc contains the digital copy.
VIDEO – 4.75/5
The Spirit comes to Blu-ray with a stunning 1080p high-def transfer. Black levels are absolutely spot-on with darkness in spots without losing details in other objects. And when you have reds popping out with The Spirit’s tie or his stark white shoes/other objects against a dark screen, it absolutely looks fantastic. Considering I did not see the movie in theaters (thank goodness), I assume this is a near perfect transfer, I say near perfect because there was a bit of noise, but not that much to be distracting.
AUDIO – 4.5/5
The audio side, Lions Gate is giving the movie a top notch audio track in a DTS-HD MA 7.1 that sounds great. It’s not the best sounding Blu-ray, which still goes to Universal’s The Incredible Hulk; it is a solid audio experience. Only reason I can’t give it a perfect score is because I did have to ramp up my surround sound a tad, but you will not be disappointed.
OVERALL – 3.25/5
The Spirit is a sad misstep of a film big on style – even if it is copied almost exactly from Sin City – but short on story. I know what Miller was going after with the campy nature but what might look good on the page (screenplay or comic book) may not translate too well on the screen. The jokes weren’t funny and the acting, when it not atrocious, was way over-the-top not surprisingly headlined by Samuel L. Jackson.
Now, the Blu-ray does have some decent featurettes and amazing video and audio quality, but is it worth the time and money? Probably not. I’m not going to The Spirit is one of the worst movies I’ve seen in 2008, it’s really not close nor is it even fair to make that statement, but I also can’t with good conscience state it’s worth the $25 price tag at this point either.