The Spirit (2008)

<strong class="MovieTitle">The Spirit</strong> (2008)

(On DVD, July 2009) There are many ways to be disappointed by Frank Miller’s The Spirit.  The most esoteric one is by comparison to Will Eisner’s classic comic strips (or even Dwayne Cooke’s wonderful revival): The off-beat medium-specific tone of the original is a tough assignment for adaptation at best, but it becomes a mishmash in Miller’s hands, who seems more interested in ripping off his own Sin City than to deliver a coherent film.  But you don’t have to be familiar with Eisner’s form experiments to think that this is a poor film:  The Spirit veers from high camp to pitch-dark noir without much grace, and not even an astonishing gallery of lovely actresses is enough to redeem the result.  Samuel L. Jackson does well as a high-spirited villain, but it’s a shame that Gabriel Macht doesn’t have more to do as the square-jawed hero.  Visually, it’s a Sin City sort-of-sequel, although the quality of the images is much higher than what comes out of the speakers: The dialogue is over-the-top to a degree that seems stiff and self-conscious rather than amusingly arch.  For a mash-up of crime and superhero fiction, there aren’t that many set-pieces worth remembering and the only one that sticks in mind has no choice than to resort to full-blown Nazi imagery.  Little of it makes sense, and so the biggest disappointment of The Spirit is to think of what a much better film it could have been in other hands.

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