After his successful collaboration with Robert Rodriguez on 2005’s Sin City, Frank Miller clearly caught the film-making bug. His adaptation of Will Eisner’s seminal comic book The Spirit marks the graphic novel artist’s solo directorial debut and, while visually reminiscent of Sin City, it unfortunately lacks any of that film’s narrative heart and soul.
After being – almost – fatally wounded on the job, city cop Denny Colt (Gabrielle Macht) is believed dead by virtually every one who knew and loved him. The only person aware of Denny’s survival is Detective Dolan (Dan Lauria) who goes along with Denny’s’s plan to reinvent himself as masked vigilante The Spirit. Now armed with superhero strength, and a seeming ability to cheat death, The Spirit is tasked to protect the city from nefarious mad scientist The Octopus (Samuel L Jackson). Helped by his glam assistant Silken Floss (Johansson), The Octopus is determined to make himself invincible and, of course, take over the world. Can The Spirit stop him – and find out the truth about himself in the process?
Visually striking, with a monochromatic palette spattered throughout with blood red motifs, The Spirit is the very definition of style over substance. Everything looks gorgeous, particularly the women – including a stunning Eva Mendes as Sand Serif – who are femme fatales in the extreme and undoubtedly steal the show. But the film’s tone doesn’t match its look; one minute it’s dark, shadowy noir, the next it’s camp pantomine, particularly when Jackson is on screen. Miller can’t decide whether to play it straight or play it subversive, and so it veers wildly, and irritatingly, from one scene to the next.
Unfortunately, the result is that all of Eisner’s spark and ingenuity is lost in translation from page to screen, and this is yet another graphic novel adaptation that’s lacking in, well, spirit. 2 stars
The commentary with Miller and his producer Demorah Del Pete is undoubtedly the highlight of the bonus features, with the pair’s enthusiasm for the project being infectious despite the disappointment of the finished article. There are also three featurettes, incluing one on Miller and one on an alternate ending, plus trailer. The Blu-ray also contains an extra featurette, plus a Lionsgate Live feature. 3 stars
Stars Gabriel Macht, Eva Mendes, Samuel L Jackson
Director Frank Miller
Distributor Lions Gate Home Entertainment
Format DVD & Blu-ray
Released May 25