Although wondrously talented, Frank Miller’s first solo effort as director of “The Spirit” would have been better appreciated as still images displayed in an art gallery. Whilst “The spirit” conformed to the same formula as Miller’s previous co-directed success “Sin City”, this time the conversion from comic book to cinema was not a smooth journey.
Set in the shadows of central city “The spirit” refers to the cop played by Gabriel Macht who mysteriously returns back from the dead to protect the city (his one true love) from his arch-enemy Octopus (Samuel L. Jackson). But don’t let that true love fool you into thinking he is a one woman man; quite on the contrary. Since his second life began it seems that beautiful women from all across the city are attracted to him like stupid moths to a flame and he can’t get enough: Ellen Dolan (Sarah Paulson), the smart doctor who tends to his quick healing wounds; Silken Floss (Scarlett Johansson), Octopus’s Phd student sidekick and Sand Saref (Eva Mendes), “the one that got away”. All these beautiful women want to seduce him, kill him or both. Unfortunately similar to his immortal, evil-scientist, Frankenstein nemesis Octopus, “the spirit” cannot be killed. It is for this reason the plot of the “the spirit” looses all momentum, as we watch a stalemate between two opposing immortal forces converse through repetitive, restricted, empty dialogue.
Although the acting in this movie was limited by the monotonous discourse that dismissed any opportunity for subtext on the big screen, Gabriel Macht played a chisel-jawed womanizing hero the best he could. Samuel L. Jackson’s wide eyes and charisma shone through his villain persona, which may or may not have been the intention, but was nonetheless amusing to watch.
Whilst the storyline is slow and the characters are stereotypic and underdeveloped, the film noir, stylized visuals of this movie are truly superb. Whilst not as monochromatic as “Sin City”, Miller’s manipulation of the dark shadowy city juxtaposed with the use of brilliant colours is sensational. Unfortunately it was not his beautiful images that led to Miller’s downfall in this movie. Rather it was his disregard of the flow of these spectacular images building a whole greater than the sum of its parts.
If you like beautiful women in stylized skimpy gear and flawless, comic-style visuals then this film is for you.