Yes, yes- I will be getting back to the film amnesty soon. It’s just that I’ve seen two films recently that I really want to talk about-the first of those films being The Spirit.
I was looking forward to The Spirit after seeing the trailer on Youtube many months ago. It looked a lot like Sin City and it was directed by Frank Miller- the creator of 300, Sin City and the harder edge Batman that Christopher Nolan owes a lot to in the huge success of the series reboot. So what are my thoughts on this offering from the golden-plated living God that is Mr. Miller? Erm, it’s shit.
Murdered cop Denny Colt (Gabriel Macht) miraculously comes back to life and chooses the life of the vigilante The Spirit to satisfy the injustice of being deadified. Meanwhile, The Spirit’s nemesis, The Octopus (Samuel L. Muthafuckin’ Jackson) seems to be embarking on another evil deed involving some chests. It’s up to The Spirit to save the day yada yada yada. If this plot summary seems lazy and vague, I assure you it’s intentional. Truth be told, the film’s plot is just that- lazy and vague. It meanders from one confrontation to another with all the grace and sure-footedness of a drunken toddler. As for the actors, Gabriel Macht was OK as The Spirit. Yes, he was a cardboard cut-out hero but that was the point- he’s the chiseled jaw, baddie punchin’ hero with kung-fu kick action and 17 points of articulation. Scarlett Johansson and Eva Mendes are merely used as a great set of breasts and arse respectively, with all meaningful dialogue being poorly disguised filler until the next gratuitous shot of admittedly very nice fleshy globes. Yes, they are parody characters too, but did they really have to be this boring? At least with the character of The Spirit some people got punched in the face. Anyway, what I really want to discuss is Samuel L. Muthafuckin’ Jackson’s take on The Octopus, a character only represented by a pair of gloves in the comics. In fact, I want to to about it so much I shall start a new paragraph…
He is diabolical. It’s genuinely painful to watch someone as cool as Samuel L. embarrass themselves this much. It’s hard to see the bulgy eyed, Bible quoting, awesomely afroed hitman from Pulp Fiction leaping around in some mud in a ridiculously large Stetson after smashing a toilet over The Spirit’s head. He’s what I feared the Joker would be like in The Dark Knight before I watched it- apparently zany and crazy with no likeability. In fact, The Octopus seems like a 60’s Batman villain with his silly costumes and over-the-top maniacal laughter. I kept expecting to see the classic Batman sound effect bursts like KAPOW! every time he got hit.
The Spirit actually put me in a bad mood. It’s a frustrating film. On one hand, it’s visually stunning, although nothing new is done with the style, with nearly all the memorable shots from Sin City being present here. It’s also brave in tackling so many elements at once. Is it a thriller? parody? comedy? satire? However, on the other hand these elements are awkward and don’t gel at all, giving the film a disjointed feel. One minute, there’s a serious occurance then the next there’s an arse joke. It’s all over the place in terms of tone. There was no set tone, which made it difficult and infuriating viewing.
The Spirit is an odd film. There are some really good and interesting ideas buried here. It’s just the thick layer of shittiness over the top that disguises everything. The visuals are pretty much the only thing I can recommend it for and you’ve got the far superior Sin City for that. Although the film’s strongest feature is its look, I believe that it was a mistake to shoot The Spirit in the Sin City style due to the fact that people will immediately draw comparisons with the Rodriguez flick. I can see why they did it, but people may sit down and watch this expecting the same sort of grit and depth that Sin City had, which definitely isn’t the case. All in all, The Spirit is pretty damn shoddy filmmaking.