Published Dec 24, 2008The Spirit, based on the graphic novel by Will Eisner, attempts to mimic a '30s movie serial but the overly self-aware narrative and distracting visual style make it difficult to suspend disbelief long enough to be entertained.
In a misguided attempt to create a post-modern, hard-boiled pulp-noir film director Frank Miller coaxes awkward performances out of a cast of veteran actors, resulting in a movie that feels like something created by a high-school drama class.
Police officer Denny Colt (Gabriel Macht) is killed on the job and mysteriously returns to life with the ability to heal his injuries no matter how severe. Denny takes on the identity of the Spirit, the unstoppable enemy of the city's criminal underground. When Denny's childhood sweetheart Sand Serif (Eva Mendes) returns home a jewel thief and becomes entangled with criminal mastermind the Octopus (Samuel L Jackson), the Spirit gets caught in a dangerous game that may destroy the world.
Following in the stylistic footsteps of films such as Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, Sin City and 300 (the latter two based on Miller's work), Miller takes the look to an overwhelming extreme that often steps out of bounds and comes off as just plain weird-looking. The Spirit's total lack of subtlety is its biggest flaw, with not only the look of the film but also the story, characters and acting being purposefully one-dimensional.
The often self-aware narrative further distances the audience from the on-screen action. The generally pretentious literary conceit known as meta-fiction is difficult to make work on film - even renowned screenwriter Charlie Kaufman's latest attempt fell flat with this year's Synecdoche, New York. Miller's desire to up the artistic ante of the superhero genre, though commendable, is ill advised for his first solo outing in the director's seat - he "co-directed" Sin City, remember.
Frank Miller may be a genius when it comes to creating graphic novels but if The Spirit is any indication of his directorial skills he should return to pen and paper and let others bring his stories to the silver screen. (Maple)