Thursday, November 19, 2009

Not in the spirit of the Spirit

I chanced upon a copy of The Spirit DVD in a bargain bin, and we watched it last night. I needed a few glasses of spirits to make it through. The movie, based on the beloved Will Eisner character, was written and directed by Frank Miller.

It looked amazing. Very Sin City. Lots of blacks and whites, with the occasional red splash of tie or blood.

It was awful.

The cliches were thick on the ground. The acting was, well in a word the acting was over.

Miller trampled over the subtleties of Eisner's Spirit and turned it into a over-the-top Sin City meets Dark Knight load of shite . A very beautiful load of shite, but shite none-the-less.

Don't get me wrong ... I like Miller's comics. I have more than a few of them. Dark Knight is one the comics I try to force people to read as the over-the-top overblown angst really works for Batman. But for the Spirit? No.

I'm guessing it had the most beautiful storyboards in the history of movies. It was so beautiful to look at. Shame it had words as well as pictures.

The character of the Spirit was reduced to a zombie seeking revenge.

"Zombie Spirit want brains! Zombie Spirit want woman! Zombie spirit want Samuel L. Jackson's autograph!"

The lowlight of the movie (there were many contenders) is Samuel L. Jackson in a Nazi uniform, for no apparently good reason, in a high-contrast room complete with large backdrop portrait of Hitler. He even does a Nazi salute. Surely that was the point where even Mr. Jackson should have considered walking away. If that wasn't enough of a hint, then the kitten melting scene (yes, the bad guy chemically melts a kitty-cat for no good reason) should have really set the alarm bells off.

Everything about the production seemed confused. It appeared to be set in the 1930s or 40s--judging by the cars, the buildings, and the fashion--but there were cellphones and helicopter gunships. The parade of beautiful and odd woman in The Spirit's life, all complicating his romance with Dolan's daughter, was about as close to the spirit of the comics that the movie managed.

Otherwise it was graphic yet pointless violence between undying and unfeeling characters, overblown voice-overs that seemed to be lifted directly from Miller's Batman, and very, very pretty graphics that severed only to suggest what might have been.

"Zombie Spirit want direction. Direction and brains!"

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