Movie Review: The Spirit - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Movie Review: The Spirit

01/14/2009

Comic book artist Frank Miller brings the same visual style as Sin City (2005) to this movie. It's film noir, done mostly in black-and-white, except for certain single objects like a tie that are single, bold colors. There are stark contrasts between the blacks and whites, as to make them really standout.

Gabriel Macht (American Outlaws and A Love Song for Bobby Long) stars as The Spirit, a crime fighter in the fictional Central City who has the ability not to get hurt. Like Indiana Jones, he never goes anywhere without his fedora.

Samuel L. Jackson (Pulp Fiction and Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace) co-stars as the Octopus, his archenemy and mad scientist, hellbent on becoming immortal and ruling the world.

There is a scene toward the end of the film where the Spirit is sitting and listening to the Octopus ramble about something and after a while he says, "I'm bored." This, in effect, summed up my entire feeling about the movie.

I was initially impressed. The style starts with visuals that trick you into thinking you're watching an animated film with moving silhouettes running and jumping atop roofs. The novelty of that quickly wears off.

Writer and Director Frank Miller tries to be faithful to the graphic novels from what the characters' clothes are to the words that come out their mouths, which seem like they were ripped right from the original 1930s source material. For a while, you feel like you're in that Depression or pre-World War II-era. Yet, Miller allows the Spirit to have a cell phone.

This is, of course, a comic book movie, and since this release of The Dark Knight, currently the biggest and best comic book movie, still fresh on people's minds, I can't help but draw comparisons.

The perpetual snow contrasts to the constant dark backgrounds. There are hardly any scenes that take place in the daytime, but, clearly, this movie isn't meant to be as dark in tone or mood. This film is more lighthearted. If Nirvana did the soundtrack, the theme song would be "Smells like Batman's Teen Spirit."

With its corny dialogue and cartoonish fighting, it's not Batman's spirit via Christian Bale. It's more in the spirit of Adam West. I was sitting there waiting for the colorful titles that read "Pow" and "Bam" to appear during the fisticuff scenes.

Jackson's villainy here was less Heath Ledger's Joker and more the Joker of Cesar Romero. It's funny, but Jackson played another comic book villain in M. Night Shyamalan's Unbreakable (2000). That film was decidedly somber, but, ironically, Jackson's character then was funnier than his now.

Jackson is a good actor, but he was way over-acting here. It was purposefully over-the-top, but, unlike with Ledger, it just felt like a sledgehammer on a thumbtack. The filmmaking, at times, felt the same.

For example, the aforementioned scene where Octopus rambles features images and symbols of Adolf Hitler. It's as if the totalitarian belief system and Eugenics references weren't enough. Miller has to blatantly show you to whom they want the Octopus compared.

Macht achieves some success as this womanizing, acrobatic crime-fighter who instead of bats, he has a legion of prowling cats, which I suppose fits being that the Spirit does enjoy chasing tail.

Yes, there are plenty of pussycats in the form of beautiful women. Most exist just to fawn over Macht's pretty boy looks. He's rather cocky about it. In that regard, he takes on the Robert Downey, Jr. mantra from Iron Man. It makes Ellen Dolan, played by Sarah Paulson, the Spirit's Pepper Pot. Paulson is winsome.

Eva Mendes (Hitch and Out of Time) plays Sand Saref, the requisite femme fatale who literally flashes the Spirit some tail. Scarlet Johansson (Lost in Translation and A Love Song for Bobby Long) plays Silken Floss, the sidekick to the Octopus, a kind of Harlequinn, only way stiffer, robot-like.

One Stars out of Five
Rated PG-13 for stylized violence and brief nudity
Running Time: 1 hr. and 43 mins.

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