Views & Reviews From Writer Steve Miller
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Thursday, December 25, 2008

'The Spirit' is lacking

The Spirit (2008)
Starring: Gabriel Macht, Samuel L. Jackson, Eve Mendes, Scarlett Johannson, Louis Lombardi, Dan Lauria, Stana Katic and Paz Vega
Director: Frank Miller
Rating: Three of Ten Stars

The mysterious protector of Central City, The Spirit (Macht) squares off against the villainous Octopus (Jackson) over the secret behind The Spirit's powers and the key to world domination. But will triumph mean defeat for The Spirit? Has his long-lost childhood sweetheart, Sand Saref (Mendes), really joined forces with the Octopus?

The Spirit (Gabriel Macht, left), Officer Morgenstern (Stana Katic) and Commisioner Dolan (Dan Lauria)keep the streets of Central City safe for honest citizens. It's too bad they couldn't stop Frank Miller.

I've been a fan of Will Eisner's "The Spirit" since the very first story I read. It's a series that's unique both artistically and story-wise, and it's one that is well-deserving of the place of honor it holds in the minds of well-read comic-book fans and scholars who study the genre.

It was for this reason that I was a bit concerned when I heard that Frank Miller was going to be adapting "The Spirit" to the big screen. Miller has shown himself to be a one-trick poney when it comes to story-telling, and I was afraid that he would "Sin-Citifie" The Spirit by reshaping the property into the sort of stuff he usually does.

The fact that Miller has long been a very vocal admirer of Eisner and his work made me hold out hope, however. I hoped that Miller understood enough about "The Spirit" to recognize that he had to take a different tack than he did on "The Dark Knight Returns" or "Ronin" or any of the Sin City graphic novels (and especially the Sin City movie).

Unfortunately, I held out hope in vain.

While it's clear from the film that Miller has looked at the gorgeous art that Eisner produced--the Eisner hallmarks of falling snow/rain, the splashing water, the plunging buildings, the femme fatales dressed in clothes that will fall off if they sneeze are all present in the film's visuals--but I can't believe he actually bothered reading the stories.

Miller has imported some of Eisner's trademarks (and The Spirit's red tie) into a world that is visually Miller's, but he completely missed the... well, the spirit of Eisner's work. Either that, or Miller isn't half the admirer of Eisner that he claimed to be, and he figured that he knew how to "do it right."

Miller also seems to have misunderstood a number of Eisner's characters, or he viewed them through his "Sin City" lense. How else can one explain the merging of master criminal Sand Saref, black widow con-artist P'Gell, and international jewel thief Silk Satin into one character and failing to include the humor surrounding P'Gell, Silk Satin's honorable nature, or Sand Saref's fundemental vulnerability? How else can one explain him taking three great characters are reducing them to nothing more than a beautiful dame in a skimpy dress?

"The Spirit" movie is an empty shell of a movie that rehashes, poorly, the visual approach taken in "Sin City" and Miller's writing style on Sin City. What little that remains of Eisner's creation are echoes so distorted that they barely warrant mentioning. Even worse, the film is boring. It is, quite possibly, the most boring movie I've sat through this year. (And I did sit through the whole thing; I kept hoping it would get better.)

Take my advice: Instead of wasting money on this crappy movie, spend it on one of the collected volumes of the real "The Spirit." The series was at its best during the years featured in Vols. 12 through 19. The forthcoming Vol. 25 will feature the story that first made me fan of the strip, a near-wordless fight between The Spirit and Octopus, a fight that is far more powerful and engaging than anything that's featured in this film.

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