review: The Spirit (2008)

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I’d never really heard of The Spirit (the film or the comics) until I started seeing the tv ads about a week before it came out… I like the visual style and I’m interested in films of comic book stories but mostly what swung it was that it had Samuel L. Jackson in it. I’ll watch anything with Samuel L. Jackson in it. So I booked the tickets.

I decided to go look it up a little before I saw it… it’s very unusual for me to hear nothing about a film before it comes out particularly one that’s an adaptation. I never read reviews before seeing a film but I’ll cast my eye over IMDb and Rotten Tomatoes to get some idea of what I’m in for. The early signs weren’t good (5.4 on IMDb and 15% on RT) but nothing will stop me seeing a film if I want to see it… I like to make up my own mind.

To be perfectly honest the critics aren’t really wrong… there are lots of things to dislike about The Spirit. I mean seriously, it is terrible… in a way. The dialogue is awful and I don’t where they found Gabriel Macht but they should put him back.

It’s actually hard to describe what’s bad about it because what’s bad is what makes it great. My criticism of it is that some of the dialogue is repetitive, that always annoys me, and it stutters to start. It’s completely outlandish but it takes a while to get to that point. It’s as though Frank Miller started off thinking he’d make serious film noir then realised that there was no hope of that so chose to go careening off the rails.

Sure, it’s annoying but I can’t agree with what Rotten Tomatoes surmised from the critics – that it doesn’t make sense and the characters are unmemorable. It has a very simple plot and the characters are all great fun. Ok, they’re not characters in the sense they have no particular substance, they’re more like interesting props. And they’re all just so odd, it’s great. Samuel L. Jackson is brilliant and for once I didn’t find Scarlett Johansson annoying at all. To be honest herself and Eva Mendes weren’t in it enough I would have liked to laugh at them a little longer. The one character we could have done without was Lorelei Rox (played by Jaime King) I don’t know what was going on there. I can only assume it something from the comics that they felt they had to put in…

I can only thank Frank Miller for going off the rails on this, it is a fun film. It is however, doomed to be a cult classic, if even. There just aren’t that many people out there are who are going to stick with all the madness and there are even less out there who’ll appreciate it. Personally I’ve never seen so many people leave a theatre (that said, I rarely notice people leaving the cinema – I usually watch the film) and it’s a pity because the film does deserve to be seen. At the very least it looks class.

Anyway I, for one, am glad I saw it.


PS – I just had a look at the Roger Ebert review of this and he gave it one star. Which is fair enough, his accusations aren’t unfounded, but… he’s got the plot wrong. I don’t know how someone can get the plot wrong – it’s really very simple, you’d have to stop watching the film to get confused… so I gotta say, a little down in my estimation there…

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