Thursday, 15 January 2009

REVIEW: The Spirit

Before I even begin this review, I am going to have a rant about Orange Wednesdays. Yes, it’s great that people can get cheaper cinema tickets but I hate them. Why? Because Orange Wednesdays drag all of cinema’s greatest offenders out of their homes and into the multiplex. I’m talking about chavs, chavettes, texters, chatterboxes, popcorn-munchers and people who actually laugh at the Orange adverts. It drives me mental.

And I walked into an empty cinema, sat down and the next people through the door – who could have sat anywhere else – sat directly behind me. And then, the next woman through the door sat next to me. She asked me to move my coat and everything. What the hell?!

Films are a form of art. These reprobates don’t go to the museum or art galleries. But I have to suffer them in the cinema. Humph.

Anyway, snobbery over. The Spirit


I’ll start by getting the inevitable Sin City comparison out of the way. Yes, there are similarities: a black, white & red palette, gravely voiceovers, Frank Miller. But the comparisons end there - The Spirit is an incredibly ridiculous and bizarre film.

Despite looking like Sin City, The Spirit is less of a graphic novel film and more of a comic book film. In fact, it is less of a comic book film and more of a spoof of a comic book film. The passing tongue-in-cheek references to Robin, Superman and even Thor only confirm that. The whole film lacks the punch, thrills and gritty tone of Sin City and you feel that the film is missing one key ingredient: Robert Rodriguez.

The Spirit is certainly memorable for an infinite number of reasons but I can’t quite work out if those reasons are good, bad or just plain weird: we see a bouncing foot with a head, Eva Mendes photocopies her ass, Samuel L Jackson melts a cat. And that isn’t the half of it.

Maybe one of the big problems is that The Spirit is a costumed hero that you just cannot take seriously. I’m not sure if that is Gabriel Macht’s fault or just the way the character was written. Our leading man is obsessed with women, cats and his city – running jokes (hopefully intentional) that just get silly. One minute he is hamming up the gravitas, the next minute he is dangling from a building with his pants around his ankles. He is ridiculous. It is hard to feel for such a dumb character, even when he is in mortal danger, because he just keeps spurting out baffling quips. At one moment he even breaks the fourth wall to chat to the audience reminding me of Zach in Saved by the Bell.

If there is anything good about this film, apart from the sexy ladies (simultaneously wearing wetsuits, nurse outfits and there is even a belly dancer) and the style of the film (why don’t more films look like this?), then it would have to be our villains.

The best scenes by far feature Samuel L Jackson and Scarlett Johansson, as The Octopus and Silken Floss respectively, both clearly loving the free rein to chew the scenery. They both play over-the-top, cardboard cut-out villains, with more wardrobe changes than an Oscar host. We see Jackson dressed as a samurai, scientist, fur-lined gangster and, if you thought Tom Cruise’s turn in Valkyrie was the surprise Nazi of the year, wait until you see Jackson suited-and-booted in his finest SS gear.

Both villains get the clunkiest of the lines. Johansson snapping insult like ‘Fart’ and ‘Toe-cheese’ at her henchmen (these guys are irritating enough, even without a lisp) whilst Jackson gets to shout the following:

“I’ve got eight of everything!”
“Toilets are always funny!”
“Immortality: all five big syllables of it!”
“No egg on my face. Not one glob!”
“Mutha-fu…!” Final words. Classic Jackon.

As you can see, the dialogue is bonkers and certainly not what you would expect from king of the graphic novel, Frank Miller. The whole film sounds like somebody imitating Miller. And when the dialogue isn’t being ridiculous, then it is actually quite tiresome. And one point, The Spirit says: “I’m growing old just listening to you,” and we as the audience are inclined to agree.

Overall, I left the cinema feeling a bit baffled.

The Spirit is kind of cool in a silly, sexy way - but ‘Snakes on a Plane’ cool, as opposed to ‘Sin City’ cool.

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