Comic property review: “The Spirit”

Photo cour­tesy of

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

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