The Spirit
dir-scr Frank Miller
with Gabriel Macht, Samuel L Jackson, Eva Mendes, Scarlett Johansson, Sarah Paulson, Dan Lauria, Jaime King, Stana Katic, Paz Vega, Louis Lombard, Eric Balfour, Dan Gerrity
release US 25.Dec.08, UK 1.Jan.09
08/US Lionsgate 1h43
The Spirit
And just who is this naked man, young lady? Macht, Paulson and Lauria

jackson mendes johansson
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
The Spirit A riot of colliding genres and film styles, this screen adaptation of Will Eisner's beloved comic books is intriguing enough to be watchable, but is so chaotic that it doesn't work at all.

Denny Colt (Macht) was a cop before he was killed and mysteriously brought back to life. He has no idea why he's now apparently immortal, but adopts an enigmatic persona as The Spirit, protector of Central City. He works with a cop (Lauria), who's the father of his ex-sweetheart doctor (Paulson), to fight criminal mastermind The Octopus (Jackson), who knows something about Denny's past. And when notorious jewel thief Sand Serif (Mendes) arrives in town, even more secrets are about to be unearthed.

Rather than simply adapt Eisner's books to film, Miller decides instead to make the movie in the style of a zany Saturday morning cartoon (the fight between Spirit and Octopus is like something from Tom and Jerry), while using the high-contrast visualisations he learned while working alongside Robert Rodriguez on Sin City, only without Rodriguez's wit or skill. The resulting tone is all over the place and never finds its rhythm. The goofy slapstick, gritty drama and dark emotion never gel, leaving us unable to connect with the film in any way.

And Miller's direction is just as jarring, with awkward camera angles, irrelevant visual gimmickry and incoherent editing. He forces the actors to deliver their dialog in extremely stylised ways that makes it impossible for us to believe any of it. And their bizarre costumes and hair are a constant distraction as well. It also doesn't help that the story feels so derivative in things like nutty character names, a sewer-level villain's lair, dead-parent angst and forbidden romance.

Macht suffers the most with his inexplicable little eye mask (who's he fooling with that?) and his creepy to-camera narration. Johansson at least looks cool in a role that couldn't be more thankless. Jackson is in over-the-top scene chomping mode. And Mendes seems to only be here so Miller can leer at her with the camera. And by the time some genuinely funny dialog emerges, we're so worn out by the scattershot approach that we've given up completely.

cert 12 themes, violence, some language 1.Jan.09

R E A D E R   R E V I E W S
send your review to Shadows... The Spirit Still waiting for your comments ... don't be shy.
© 2008 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall