*Edit* Okay, so this is me, one year later. At the time I reviewed this, I recommended reading Will Eisner’s original run. I called him far ahead of his time, and he was, except for one aspect: Ebony. At the time I’d reviewed this, I’d only read the Best of The Spirit trade collection, which didn’t feature this very awkward character. After reading a little more…yeah, I don’t think I feel comfortable recommending the original run. I know that Ebony was socially acceptable back then, but now it really makes me cringe. If you’re really curious about the original run, read the Best of the Spirit in order to see why Eisner was so well liked, but I’d read only that or read what other writers have done with the characters.
Hello, I’m a Unicorn. I HATE THIS MOVIE! I HATE THIS MOVIE! I HATE THIS MOVIE! I! HATE! THIS! MOVIE! I HATE EVERY SIMPERING, MISOGYNISTIC, ASININE, MOMENT IN THIS ABSOLUTELY AWFUL FILM.
Whoa there. I think you forgot to turn off the caps lock.
Be quiet! You’re the one making me review this mess.
Kirin… take a deep breath.
Okay, baby steps. Why don’t you give a little history on the character?
Fine. The Spirit was created by the comic book legend, Will Eisner. Denny Colt was a detective in Central City. During the attempted capture of a super villain, he is sprayed with chemicals that put him in a death-like suspended animation. When he woke up six feet under, he dug himself out of his grave and became the Spirit, a crime fighter that can work outside of the law. The only man who knows his identity is Police Commissioner Dolan. You can dis- regard these last few sentences completely though, because this isn’t the Spirit from the movie. Yeah, the super powerless Spirit that’s been described as the Citizen Kane of comics is too lame for general audiences. Instead, we get a Spirit with Wolverine’s healing ability that’s more girl crazy than a teenage boy.
The person responsible for this movie, having written and directed it without help is Frank Miller. He’s best known for the Dark Knight Returns, his run on Daredevil, Batman Year One, Sin City and 300. He also wrote the scripts for Robocop 2&3 and consulted with the Sin City film. This was his first solo project and it’s obvious that it’s made by an amateur. Yet, somehow he still got Samuel L. Jackson, Scarlet Johansson, and Eva Mendes to be in it. I’m pretty sure they won’t be putting this on their resumes.
Why don’t we just get started with the review, okay?
Yeah. So you know you’re in for it when the movie starts with death. Also, for some reason death is a woman who is in love with the Spirit because he is the only one to escape her clutches. As you can guess, this is pointless. Lorelei Rox, the death lady, has absolutely no bearing on the plot. In the comics the character Lorelei isn’t death, she was like the Siren from Batman ’66. On another note, I’m going to start counting how many women fall for and/or kiss the Spirit. She’s woman #1. Trust me, there are plenty more where that came from.
We really get started in Wildwood Cemetery, in the cat filled tomb of the Spirit. Though there are many things that have been observed by critics of Frank Miller’s work, there is one pattern that I haven’t seen mentioned yet. Frank Miller loves cats. In Batman Year One, Batman protects a cat while cornered by cops. Cat Woman plays a minor role in that comic and the Dark Knight Returns. In the Dark Knight Strikes Again, Carrie Kelly takes up the mantle of Cat Girl. And in this, cats are everywhere. The villain even melts a kitten. Yes, being a cat lover myself, it is as messed up as it sounds.
Kirin, get back on subject. You’re going on a tangent.
You’re right, sorry. I just really don’t want to talk about this. Anyway, the Spirit gets a call that the Octopus, his arch nemesis, has been spotted. He rushes off and monologues about his city in a creepily sexual way. He stops a mugging and doesn’t notice a knife sticking out of his side.
Dude, even Deadpool would notice that.
As I was saying, he hitches a ride in a police car and we cut to Eva Mendes as Sand Saref. She’s confronted by a cop and apparently shoots him. The Spirit finds the wounded cop and in a flashback to five minutes ago we see that it was the Octopus played by Sam Jackson that shot the cop. No, I have know idea why we’d have such an unnecessary flashback. The Spirit goes after the Octopus. In the comics, we never got to see the face of the Octopus, and when we did, it was a disguise. In the movie, the Octopus, instead of being a master of disguise, plays dress up the entire time. The two fight, beating each other with everything from a giant wrench, to a kitchen sink, to a toilet, and Frank Miller’s head. I’m just wondering where they found all of that junk. A henchman of the Octopus mercifully ends this fight by shooting the Spirit. The Octopus leaves with one of the two chests that he and Sand were after. One note on Jackson’s acting. It couldn’t be hammier if it was honey glazed. He also makes bizarre puns involving eggs. The only explanation I can think of for these puns is that Octopuses lay eggs.
The Spirit wakes up and Ellen Dolan, his physician and sort of girlfriend, wants to check him out to make sure he’s okay. Another woman in love with him. That would make her lady #2. The Spirit finds a locket in the hands of the dying cop. It was the locket that he gave Sand when they were little. It turns out that they are old flames that still have feelings for each other which puts our counter at lady #3. When we learn that her dad was a cop accidentally killed by Denny’s uncle, it suddenly takes a dramatic shift in tone, becoming serious. Am I the only one who saw the Spirit get hit over the head with a toilet?
No, I saw that too.
Good, so I haven’t gone insane.
Anyway, Sand tells Denny that she doesn’t want to live her life in the slums. This entire flashback is explained via Spirit is telling this to his cat. He’s taken to the hospital. Sand and the Octopus realize that they grabbed the wrong chests. She was after the Golden Fleece and he was after the blood of Heracles, because the Octopus wants to be a immortal or something. Apparently the serum that he used on himself and the Spirit is unstable, but we never see how. He punishes the henchman who’d failed him by dressing up as Fu Manchu and having the man commit seppuku. Yes, seriously. Sand goes to the fence who sold her out. She talks about how she’s looking for a “shiny thing to end all shiny things.” Did I mention that in the comic’s she’s a master spy? She does what every kid wishes they could do with a photocopy machine and photocopies her butt. She empties the bank account of the fence and the fence shoots himself. Or something. It’s really unclear.
The Spirit has fully regenerated and meets up with a grumpy Commissioner Dolan and a lady cop named Morgenstern, who happens to be lady #4 on our counter. They’re called in to investigate the death of the fence and we meet lady #5 on our counter, a reporter who “hangs on his every word.” Her scene is so pointless it isn’t even mentioned in the Wikipedia page. Morganstern talks about Sand’s criminal history, referring to it as an Elektra complex, because Frank Miller wrote Elektra. This is one of the many comic book industry inside jokes in this thing. Other’s were the password to the fence’s bank account being Robin, the truck that Silken Floss, (Scarlet Johanssan’s role and hench-woman of the Octopus), drives is from a company called Ditko’s (named for the comic artist), and Dolan saying “What’s ten minutes in a man’s life,” which is a line from one of the Spirit’s comics. Having inside jokes in a bad comic book movie doesn’t make it clever, it makes you wish you were reading the comics.
The Spirit finds Sand’s butt copy, and knew is was her because he remembers how she has the perfect bum. Then, I kid you not, he goes to every racial stereotype themed hotel in the city and shows them the butt print. Someone actually identifies her. Yes, seriously. He confronts the pointlessly naked Sand and when he reveals all he knows about her, she lightly taps him and he falls out of the window. He unfortunately survives.
After his run in with Sand, he finds out about the Octopus’s whereabouts. He monologues about his love of the city while taking out the goons. He’s captured by Silken Floss when he starts making out with her for no reason. That puts Miss Floss as lady #6. When he comes to, he’s in a dentist chair for some unknown reason. We see the Octopus in a Nazi uniform and he explains the origins of the Spirit. We find out that Denny Colt was killed in a shoot out. The Octopus used to work in the morgue and he injected Denny with the experimental serum. When Denny was found alive, he used it on himself. He then melts a kitten and calls in a belly dancing assassin named Plaster of Paris. She’s supposed to cut up and scatter the parts of Denny across the country even though it would make more sense just to blow him up. But, because the Spirit speaks to her in French, she falls for him, putting her, our final love interest, at lady #7. They escape, but she stabs him because he mentions Sand. He loses consciousness and pulls away from death’s embrace, only to fall into the nearby water and drown. This time he almost takes her up on her offer, then remembers all of the women he’s loved and pulls away again. He gets out of the water and collapses for the third time in ten minutes, making the first two pointless.
He wakes up in the hospital and meets up for a final confrontation with Sand, Floss, the Octopus and the rest of the police force. Sand and the Octopus are about to trade chests when the Spirit shows up. The Octopus, for some reason, is dressed like a pimp. The Spirit is shot a ton of times and is knocked down. The Octopus is shot six times in the head and just shakes the bullets out of his head. The vase holding the blood of Heracles is destroyed and the Spirit punches a grenade into the Octopus, blowing him up. He and Sand kiss while Ellen Dolan watches enviously and they set up for a sequel that will never happen. This movie finally ends with the Spirit’s monologue to his cat about how he loves his city.
That wasn’t so bad, was it?
Yes, it was. This movie was awful. The only nice thing I can say about it is that it was interesting to look at, but that doesn’t make it worth watching. I am a fan of the Spirit. I once dressed as him for a costume day at school. This is not the Spirit. It tries to be gritty and in Frank Miller’s words “scary,” but it comes off campier than Adam West’s Batman. The women in this are only to be ogled and that’s exactly what the Spirit does. In this movie, he has seven love interests. Seven! I know he was popular with the ladies in the comics, but that is ridiculous. The acting in this is atrocious, either under emoting or playing it hammier than an actual pig. The Octopus’s puns made me pine for Arnold Schwarzenegger as Mr. Freeze. At least his puns fit his persona. I never associate eggs and octopuses, so what was the point? That’s actually a question you’ll be asking yourself while watching this. Also while watching this, don’t be surprised if you hear a mysterious thumping. It’s just Will Eisner rolling over in his grave. Take my advice, read the comics. Will Eisner was a genius, far ahead of his time. Darwin Cooke’s run was also an enjoyable revamp. Just don’t watch this. If you’ll excuse me, I’m going to have a pan galactic gargle blaster.
Make that two!