Friday, December 26, 2008

Chronic Review: The Spirit

So I went to see The Spirit today, and it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. No, it was significantly worse.

The problem with the film is that it never hits a true note. You know when you're supposed to laugh at the Octopus clones and his egg references, and when you're supposed to be impressed with Gabriel Macht's improbable dialogue about "his city".

You know when you're supposed to be in awe of Denny Colt's sex appeal and charm, and you know when you're supposed to think how clever Frank Miller is as a director when he flashes those stark whites on the bottom of The Spirit's shoes at you. You just don't.

When you watch The Spirit, you don't ever feel the way you know Frank Miller demands you feel about it. There is never a five minute block during the movie when you can invest an ounce of yourself in it. Over the top doesn't begin to cover it.

If it sounds as though my review is entirely negative, I want to confess that I was conflicted about the movie for at least one third of it. As I watched and listened, I recognized that I was essentially watching a kissing cousin of Sin City.

It has the same absurd "hard boiled" dialogue, the same absurd growling narrative. It's imbued with the same juvenile power/sex fantasies. It's a Frank Miller movie. It hits you with a feverish lack of sophistication. Both movies prune their rose bushes with a chain saw.

So why do I find those attributes so charming in Sin City, and so jarring in The Spirit? I must confess again and tell you that I don't know why. I don't know why one works and one doesn't, I just know that my Spirit experience was one of bemused disdain.

I was also reminded a bit of All-Star Batman while watching the movie. While you're watching the film, you catch yourself wondering if the creators secretly hate the work. Is this a love letter gone wrong or a sick joke? How seriously am I meant to take this? You find yourself asking these questions as you read ASBM, as well.

I guess I'm not completely qualified to assess the movie, because I've never read much of Eisner's original material. Maybe Eisner's Spirit was also an exercise in pushing the envelope of the ridiculous. But it doesn't feel that way. It feels like Eisner is somewhere in the ether shaking his spectral head in dismay.

I thought Scarlet Johannsen avoided total embarrassment with her Silken Floss, which was mostly on key and occasionally fun. Dan Lauria (the dad from the Wonder Years) was serviceable as well. But really, the best part of this film for me was the trailer for Push that ran a few minutes prior.

The Spirit may be the worst movie I've ever seen. I say that as a man who has viewed Eye of the Beholder in its entirety.

If you like yourself, do avoid The Spirit.

- Ryan

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