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.
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.