Reviewed by: Michael Karounos
|Featuring:||Gabriel Macht (The Spirit/Denny Colt), Scarlett Johansson, Samuel L. Jackson, Eva Mendes, Jaime King, Michael-David Aragon, William Arute, Eric Balfour, Frank Bond, Chad Brummett, Burly Cain, Hugh Elliot, Pamela Finley, Seychelle Gabriel, Dan Gerrity, Al Goto, Meeghan Holaway, Daniel Hubbert, Stana Katic, Dan Lauria, Louis Lombardi, Marina Lyon, Genia Michaela, Sarah Paulson, Benjamin Petry, Richard Portnow, Johnny Simmons, Paz Vega, Foued Zayani|
“Sin City,” “300”
|Producer:||Lionsgate, Odd Lot Entertainment, Continental Entertainment Group (CEG), Media Magik Entertainment, Jeff Andrick, Michael Burns, Deborah Del Prete, F.J. DeSanto, Bill Lischak, Steven Maier, Linda McDonough, Benjamin Melniker, Gigi Pritzker, Marc Sadeghi, Michael E. Uslan, Alton Walpole|
“He’s something the world needs…”
Frank Miller’s “The Spirit” is a complete failure. The story is uninteresting, and it features a never-ending stream of leaden dialogue that sounds like bad Raymond Chandler. Visually and tonally, it is a noir film, and its character structure is noir as well: there’s a detective, a villain, a femme fatale, the good woman, and the villain’s love interest. Unfortunately, it lacks the crisp dialogue and action of a noir film. Much happens, but it doesn’t mean anything, because the characters don’t mean anything, especially the clones who are produced and killed like cartoon figures.
In brief, the Spirit is a police officer killed in the line of action who is brought back to life by an unscrupulous morgue attendant (Samuel L. Jackson) who later becomes the Octopus. The Octopus is seeking the blood of Heracles (really) which will make him a “god,” an idea he repeats several times. Thus, his ruling principle is power. The Spirit’s childhood sweetheart, Sand Saref (Eva Mendez), becomes embittered after her policeman father is killed and turns to a life of crime. Her ruling principle is money, and she’ll do anything to get Jason’s Golden Fleece. The Octopus’s sidekick, Silken Floss (Scarlett Johansson), is a brilliant scientist, and her ruling principle is knowledge. The Spirit is driven by a desire for justice, and Miller tries to make sense of it all, but only succeeds in making a mish-mash of all these conflicting drives.
The movie showed a flicker of depth in its opening scenes, when the three clone henchmen appear. They were named Pathos, Logos, and Ethos. These are the three parts of rhetoric that comprise an argument: pathos is an appeal to emotion; logos is an appeal to reason; and ethos is an appeal to the authority of the character. It is ironic or, perhaps, self-parodying that the Octopus kills Pathos while saying something like “I don’t want to feel.” At that point, one can forgive the audience for thinking that there was a point to killing Pathos. The movie certainly lacked emotion thereafter. But when Logos and Ethos were killed for no apparent reason, then it became evident that the film was incoherent in the management of its ideas.
The Octopus and Silken Floss also dress in the costumes of Imperial Japan and Nazi Germany, reflecting the World War II origins of the comic strip. There is a lot of self-conscious blasphemy balanced by a character named Morgenstern (Stana Katic) who prominently wears a Star of David, while Silken Floss wears Iron Cross earrings. But aside from those references, the film’s ideological statements are so muddled it isn’t clear at all what Miller is trying to say. The Spirit bears a superficial resemblance to Batman and, at the risk of provoking indignant comments from Eisner’s fans, is perhaps a copycat enterprise. The Spirit wears a mask, a cape, is a crime fighter, runs along roof tops, and has a contentious relationship with the police. Batman came out in 1939 and the Spirit came out in 1940.
Although not obvious, one wonders whether Miller’s and/or Eisner’s intention was to portray the seven deadly sins. The Octopus is wrathful, Sand Seraf is greedy, Silken Floss is prideful, the Spirit is lustful, the clones are gluttons, and Detective Sussman is envious. The only one missing is sloth. Whether that is intentional or not, one clings to what meanings one can find in such fare, and viewers are advised to go elsewhere for their entertainment.
Violence: Extreme / Profanity: Extreme / Sex/Nudity: Moderate
See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.