Frank Miller steps behind the camera solo and creates a visually beautiful, but wholly absurd and over the top film, that if you know what it is going for heading into the picture, is an entertaining piece.
The Spirit (Gabriel Macht) loves his city and he has sworn to protect it from the evil of the world. Along the way, running along rooftops, he makes women swoon when they see him, and he is always chatting them up when ever the opportunity presents itself. His arch-nemesis is The Octopus (Samuel L. Jackson) and when the film opens, The Spirit, is checking in on a hot tip about a deal going down with The Octopus involved. Mixed up with the deal is a beautiful thief, Sand Saref (Eva Mendes) who is attempting to steal what The Octopus is going after as well. By the time The Spirit shows up on the scene, Sand is gone but The Octopus is ready for a showdown. While the two brawl, we discover both of them can take incredible punishment and are able to recover almost any wound with ease; The Octopus even leads the Spirit on that they are two of a kind, and all the same. The film from here turns into a stylized and super clichéd film noir into the investigation of The Octopus and the mysterious Sand Saref who The Spirit has a history with.
Now, first things first, the insane over the top nature of the film will turn people off for sure, and some will even dismiss it as terrible acting, will I am pretty sure everyone is intentionally hamming it up for the picture. Sin City did the same thing, maybe not to this extreme, but people were going over the top left in right in that film as well and no one complained; though the acting was a better in that film. But some of the complaints and razzing of this film are unwarranted. If you sit back, have fun, and enjoy the ride it is a fun flick. It has plenty of laughs, it looks beautiful, has a great Burton’s Batman-esque score, and fun enough action to boot. The film has a couple of short comings, the Sand Saref flashback is a mis-handled, and the Octopus’s henchmen are a tad to absurd and a bit annoying, though it is a fun premise. The biggest mis-step the film takes is the awful character of Morgenstern, who is annoying and unneeded, and while I get what they were going for with the 40’s wise talking sidekick thing, it doesn’t work. Another thing to keep in mind is when this comic by Will Eisner’s was made, in the 40’s, it is from a different era and a turbulent time and I think Miller did a good job of making it modern and fun. Also, for those interested in feminine eye candy, it is a plenty in the film with a line up of gorgeous actresses.
The acting in the film is also solid all around and everyone does a good job of playing in on the fun. Scarlett Johansson just hits something right for me on this one as The Octopuses right hand woman. She nails the joke and silliness of the role and she just works. Sam Jackson made me laugh pretty hard on a number of occasions and you can just tell he was having a blast playing the Octopus, some might call it over acting, but in the realm of The Spirit’s world it was just right. Eva Mendes is gorgeous as Sand Saref and does an alright job with the character as well. Her character is the least “fun” though and played the most straight, and she does a good enough job. Gabriel Macht is quite funny and a strong lead for being basically unknown before this picture. I just love the attitude he carries in the film and he is great flipping from the cheesy to the bit more serious attitude the Spirit can have from one minute to the next. Sarah Paulson rounds out the leads as the surgeon that is in love with the Spirit and waits to save him every night he comes in with new injuries. She nails the cold humorous jabs on The Spirit while also handling the seriousness of her love for him as well, a fine job.
In the end, The Spirit is a fun, over the top, beautifully shot piece of noir comic book cinema. While not on par with Sin City, and probably my least favorite comic book film of the year, it is still a solid entry in my book. The actors are having a blast, and as a viewer you need to just not take things so seriously and just have an open mind and some fun when seeing The Spirit and you will most likely have a good time. Though, be warned, this is not for everyone, but if you think it might tickle your fancy and you go in with proper expectations of what you are about to see, it is a good flick.