Comic property review: “The Spirit”

Photo courtesy of ComicBookMovie.com

‘The Spirit’ lacking in focus, execution

“The Spirit”
Lionsgate, 2008

Despite reviews to the contrary, “The Spirit” isn’t a bad movie. It is a mess in some spots and it requires multiple viewings to fully understand what’s going on but, overall, it’s not bad; it’s just that its attention span is all over the place and could benefit from a pacing specialist’s undivided time.

Visually, it’s gorgeous. If you fell in love with the look of “Sin City,” you will love “The Spirit.” It sings for its supper in its lush graphics, and the mix of comic style and computer generated work does it a world of good. The costume direction is also a winner, and most of the characters look awesome with a softened glow about them against a gritty backdrop of crime, death and resurrection. Of particular note are the costume changes of Samuel L. Jackson and Scarlett Johansson, both who steal the show with their chemistry and impeccable timing. Gabriel Macht and Eva Mendes do a fine job in their lead roles and inspire feelings of sympathy and understanding for their predicaments.

“The Spirit” isn’t without its flaws, however. First of all, it’s not particularly true to the comics. The Octopus never shows his face in the original property. However, we can let it slide because it’s Samuel L. Jackson. He’s allowed to ham it up, and he’s a marquee name. Another change is the fact that the Spirit didn’t originally have the healing factor power he’s given. Again, the addition is jarring but it’s needed to pull the movie closer to the sensational to lure audiences in. However, it didn’t work as the film has only grossed nearly $39 million.

Thirdly, the story jumps around quite a bit. It’s not told nearly as well as “Sin City” and it’s not paced particularly well, either. In some parts — mostly those featuring Jackson — it’s hilarious and dark. In others, it’s slow and tedious, and you wish it’d pick up the pace and stop dragging its heels toward the inevitable Octopus-Spirit showdown climax. And finally, the climax, while it seems to take forever to get to, isn’t all that great. It’s really anticlimactic. What we really wanted was more of an emotional payoff for the Spirit’s romantic entanglements. Otherwise, it’s got a twitch factor that either you’ll get or you won’t. Despite its weirdness, we got a decent comic book movie fleshed out with interesting characters. Color us happy.

How we grade
We score the properties in three categories: Casting (or voice acting in case of animated), plot and similarities to its source material. Each category receives points out of the maximum of 10 per category and 30 overall. The percentage is the final score.

Casting: 9.5/10
Plot: 6/10
Like the comics?: 4/10
Overall rating: 19.5/30 or 6.5