Art in the movies is liable to take the strangest forms.
When an comic book artist’s artist like Will Eisner gets his best known creation made into a movie by a popular modern comic book artist like Frank Miller, what is the result?
Well, as one would expect, a few very beautiful visual movie moments. In between them, unfortunately, are a whole lot of words. Words, words, words. While we’ve all seen movies where the hero mocks the villain for boring him during a villainous diatribe, “The Spirit” is one of the first movies to use such a line where the writer of that line wasn’t paying attention to his own words. The words in “The Spirit” never seem to end, and wind up dragging the movie down when it should have been light, lean, and fast-moving . . . sort of like a Frank Miller comic book.
Frank Miller the comic book artist is been known for his stark, simple comic book tales like The Dark Knight, Sin City, and 300. And while some great movies have been made out of those works by others, “The Spirit” is Miller’s first movie as writer and director. And Frank Miller the movie writer and director seemed to forget all about what made Frank Miller the comic book writer and artist so popular to begin with. Perhaps he was trying too hard to capture Eisner’s quirky comic hero. Perhaps he went word-crazy because he didn’t have to draw all of the results. Whatever the cause, the result is not a good thing.
Samuel L. Jackson, stalwart veteran of movie disasters past, is watchable enough. Eva Mendes is lovingly showcased as beauty Sand Serif. Of course, while girl-watchers get treated to Mendes, Sarah Paulsen, Stana Katic, Paz Vega, Jaime King, and other femme fatales, they also have to suffer Scarlett Johansson fashion-nerded up to near unrecognizability. And then there’s Gabriel Macht, the hero of the film, who one can’t help but wonder how great he might have been in a better movie.
The result of a wonderful cast and a oddball visually-oriented director is more of a movie curiosity than an actual great movie experience. One can imagine an entire film class based around what was done right and done wrong on this movie, for as any good student of Sherlock Holmes knows, life is a series of lessons.
And “The Spirit” is definitely a lesson in something. Still not sure what, but something.
What great-grandfather Sherlock might have said about the film: