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Movies  |  Reviews

The Spirit

December 23, 2008  |  9:00am
The Spirit
Release Date: Dec. 25
Director: Frank Miller
Writer Will Eisner (Characters), Frank Miller (Script)
Cinematographer: Bill Pope
Starring: Gabriel Macht, Samuel L. Jackson, Dan Lauria
Studio/Run Time: Lionsgate, 108 mins.

Comically inept directing leaves ghost of a watchable movie

If we lived in a reality where the dead could rise from the grave to enact vengeance against sins unforgivable, golden-age comic scribe Will Eisner would have good reason to revisit Frank Miller. Eisner advanced the medium during the '40s with his seminal strip, The Spirit, creating a grounded protagonist noted for his flaws and  humanity in lieu of biceps and heat vision. Miller, another icon of literary spandex and the creator of Sin City and 300, plied much of his trade under Eisner and felt compelled to helm the author’s series into cinema. Unfortunately, The Spirit has as much in common with its inspired source material as it does with decent filmmaking.

Miller, who's only previous film experience was co-directing Sin City with Robert Rodriguez, packs this green screen attrocity with a nonsensical stream of gaudy design choices and satirical overkill. Restraint is a superpower this man definitely lacks. The story, which follows a resurrected cop who battles Samuel L. Jackson for god blood and immortality serum, barely maintains a cohesive flow of imagery to constitute a narrative. The movie utilizes design and costumes from the 1940s, but the inclusion of stripper outfits and missile launchers begs the question of why Lionsgate allowed hormonal preteen boys to start writing their scripts.

The visuals are the lone asset with frames that shine like desaturated oil paintings, but completely lack finesse when strung together into jarring cuts and lingering stretches. The overwrought radio-show acting (Samuel Jackson plays an ADD auto-pilot composite of his previous roles) and disgustingly obtuse dialogue should have alerted a studio head to take this entire project behind a barn and send it to development hell. This is embarrassing fan fiction with a budget. The noir sensibility that Eisner invented is mutilated into graphic novel pornography, producing a film that will rest in peace as a cult failure that's as laughable in its misexecution as it's tragic in its failed potential.

Watch the trailer for The Spirit:

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