I will never understand the reasoning behind Frank Miller ever wanting to direct his own superhero movie. It’s not that he’s directing a movie, either, it’s that he’s directing a movie in the style of Robert Rodriguez’s fast and cheap process where he merely places his cast in front of a green screen for ninety percent of his film. And we must endure a hundred minute crime thriller with people that stumble around a CGI world. Frank Miller has no idea how to grasp at anything other than dark, violent, and gritty thus he takes Will Eisner’s groundbreaking comics and tacks it on to his “Sin City” neo-noir universe. Miller doesn’t outright say it to us, but Miller wants us to very much believe that “The Spirit” is a shared universe with “Sin City.”
Through that he’s able to own and co-opt Will Eisner’s idea by forcing it to be as violent and misogynistic as his graphic novel series. Miller‘s new version of “The Spirit” is all kinds of derivative, with the Spirit running along roof tops, narrating in a smoky whisper, and proclaiming how he’s married to his job and his city. He also dodges the goddess of death, Lorelei, who beckons him whenever he’s injured. Meanwhile, Miller basically destroys everything about “The Spirit” by hopping on every single tone imaginable. I don’t know who Miller intended this movie for, but “The Spirit” shockingly has little appeal despite broadly tackling about everything under the known sun.
Sometimes it’s a dark noir, sometimes it’s a superhero movie, sometimes it’s a tragic romance, a vigilante thriller, a dark comedy, a samurai film, and a mystery where The Spirit deals with a bunch of lecherous women. One moment we’re watching Eva Mendes rise from a pool of water to attack someone. The next The Spirit and The Octopus are duking it out in a pool of mud as if Bugs and Elmer finally had enough and decided to just deck it out. There’s honestly a moment where the Octopus slams a toilet over The Spirit’s head, and then slams his crotch with a large rod. I’m not even sure if kids will like what Miller deals out since he packs the film with all of his trademark sexual nonsense, including women who wants sex, sex, and nothing but sex.
They’re traitorous, reptilian, objects meant to be knocked around, pushed down, and murdered, and you don’t have to see them as anything else. The performances are embarrassing all around, from Samuel L. Jackson’s over the top madman, Scarlett Johannson who is tasked with—um—dressing in skimpy clothing and walking in to rooms, and Gabriel Macht who I swear seems to be doing his best impression of Johnny Depp. To finish us off, talented individuals like Paz Vega, Jaime King, Eva Mendes, and Sarah Paulson are wasted, but Miller does fish for every opportunity to allow the audience to ogle them.
“The Spirit” really is proof that Frank Miller hasn’t evolved as an artist or storyteller. He steamrolls all over Will Eisner’s raucous comics in order to retrofit the character and his universe in to the violent, cynical, and gory “Sin City” box that Miller has yet to grow out of. If Will Eisner’s comic and legacy was a flag, Miller would be that person stomping it in to the ground and lighting it on fire. He does so with easily the worst comic to screen adaptation ever made. It fails as a narrative, a movie, an adaptation, and a directorial effort.