The Spirit review


Described in vari­ous circles as the ‘Best Movie of the Year!’, this was no mean feat for The Spirit’s UK debut: it was unleashed onto an indif­fer­ent pub­lic on 1st Janu­ary 2009.

Based on a Will Eis­ner comic strip which began life in the Amer­ican Sunday news­pa­pers, the Spirit is a cop turned masked vigil­ante. His goal, as with any super­hero, is to fight crime. One slight dif­fer­ence though. He’s dead.

Of course, being dead never usu­ally gets in the way in these sort of things. If any­thing, it’s some­thing of a boon, as it makes him invin­cible. How can you kill that which is already dead? Nice idea, but it effect­ively robs the film of any ten­sion. I’ve no idea how, or if, the com­ics got around this prob­lem. In the film, bul­lets are a minor incon­veni­ence, noth­ing that a quick trip to the hos­pital, and the sooth­ing words of a saucy nurse can’t fix.

A nice sandwich shop

But it’s not just saucy nurses that have an eye for our lad, the Spirit. Run­ning con­trary to sci­entific stud­ies of dead people, he’s a hit with all the chicks, vil­lains and good­ies, cops ‘n’ rob­bers. It seems no woman is safe from his spe­cial brand of smarm: a mere turn of the head, and a quip rich in Gor­gonzola soon gets them froth­ing at the panties.

As much as he’d like to, the Spirit can’t spend all day woo­ing the ladies. He needs a stomp­ing ground to fight bad­dies in. That stomp­ing ground is Cent­ral City, and his open­ing voice over extols the vir­tues of this com­pu­ter­ised town­scape. By the end of the film, I was still a bit fuzzy on the details of what made it so great. Could be there was a nice sand­wich shop near his house. Per­haps there was a book club in the local lib­rary, where he went every week, and shared his pas­sion for the latest Dan Brown. Or maybe the local swim­ming pool did a spe­cial lunch­time dis­count for dead, ex-cop vigilantes.

The city is rendered in bold, car­toon col­ours, not dis­sim­ilar to Frank Miller’sown Sin City. That was a pretty good film, and I got the sense when watch­ing The Spirit, that Miller was try­ing to recap­ture that magic, but with little success.

Ham factory

This is Miller on auto-pilot. The Spirit is badly paced, and filled with char­ac­ters who, only on the sur­face, are lar­ger than life. Samuel L. Jack­son is ham­mier than a lorry full of ham, on a col­li­sion course with some sort of ham fact­ory. The femme fatales pose, and preen in vari­ous states of dress, and undress, Scar­lett Johans­son and Eva Mendes reach­ing pre­vi­ously unheard of career lows.

Johansson’s one good moment is a pro­longed shot of the warm, invit­ing space between her big knock­ers as she bends over a desk. Eva Mendes’ one good moment is a brief flash of her shapely bum. Miller seems more con­cerned with cap­tur­ing every womanly curve in his lens at the expense of a good story, or decent action.

Yes, it’s fairly obvi­ous the type of film Miller prob­ably wanted to make with the above two hot­ties, and it prob­ably would have been a lot bet­ter than the tur­gid crap that we ended up with. He basically made a shit movie. But how hard is it to make a shit movie? You might be surprised. Check out the boardgame below.