The Spirit

The Spirit movie poster
MPAA rating: PG-13
Genre: Action/Adventure, Drama
A murdered cop (Gabriel Macht) comes back from the dead as the Spirit, out to protect Central City from crime and fight his archenemy the Octopus (Samuel L. Jackson) while encountering many lovely ladies along the way. Adapted from Will Eisner's well-known comic strip.
Starring: Gabriel Macht, Samuel L. Jackson, Scarlett Johansson, Eva Mendes, Jaime King, Eric Balfour, Paz Vega
Director: Frank Miller
Running time: 1:43

Editorial Review

"The Spirit," which Frank Miller wrote and directed, doesn't just play like a cheap "Batman" knockoff, it plays like a cheap "Batman" knockoff that knows it's a cheap "Batman" knockoff -- and wants to be sure everybody knows it knows.

Miller, who adapted "The Spirit" from the comics of Will Eisner, is the man behind the comics that inspired the hyper-stylized gore-fest "Sin City" and the hawkish oil and loincloth epic "300."

A goofy parody of hard-boiled detective fiction, "The Spirit" preemptively mocks itself at every turn as if trying to beat the rest of us to the punch.

This should prove dispiriting to fans of Eisner's work, given that Eisner's goal with "The Spirit" was to sidestep what was, by 1940, already a cliche. Asked to create a costumed superhero for a special newspaper section, Eisner came up with Denny Colt, who lets people think he's dead in order to secretly help the police. In the movie, Denny (Gabriel Macht) is a murdered cop "reborn" as a vigilante crime fighter with supernatural healing powers.

The story begins as the Spirit arrives at the place where, moments earlier, a beautiful woman (Eva Mendes) emerged Venus-like from computer-generated waters and shot a cop.

The cop tears a locket from a chain around the woman's neck, which is how the Spirit discovers that his old flame and international jewel thief, Sand Saref, is back in town. He quickly realizes that the real cop-shooter is the villain, the Octopus (Samuel L. Jackson), who came to the mud flats in search of the other treasure, with which Sand has now absconded.

Jackson's Octopus is an over-the-top caricature, a vociferous cipher with a big gun collection. Macht's Spirit is cute, goofy and utterly vapid. Never mind that there isn't a fully formed character between them.

At times, the movie resembles an incredibly expensive, and expressionistic, puppet show. Each line is an elbow to the ribs; each gesture is overplayed. Good comic books suggest action through abstraction, but "The Spirit" plays like an overproduced diorama.

-- Carina Chocano (Dec. 25, 2008)

Contains intense sequences of stylized violence and action, sexual content and brief nudity.