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The Spirit

Movie title: The Spirit (2008)
Grade: D- (1 star)
Rated: PG-13
Summation: Rookie cop Denny Colt returns from the beyond as The Spirit, a hero whose mission is to fight against the bad forces in Central City.
Spoilers ahead: No

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Say hello to what will no doubt prove to be the most underwhelming comic book character and unappealing comic book movie since 1997's Batman and Robin. Closing out 2008 and christening 2009 is this superhero stinker The Spirit.

Starting with a peek-a-boo fight scene with archenemy Octopus (played as well as could be expected by Samuel L. Jackson) in the setting of a wannabe Gotham City (Central City), things start out wrong and don't get right.

Now I'm willing to live and let live with the out-of-place-ness of a hero wearing a kind of Zorro-looking mask to fight crime, but when that mask is glued to one's face and the mask is worn in the bright of day around town and in police stations and it's not Halloween, we've got a problem!

The Spirit's enemy, “The Octopus,” (not Dr. Octopus, just “The Octopus”) could have been a good villain if he had some kind of distinct identity, and ideally, a more creative name. But he doesn't, and neither does anyone else in the film. Unoriginality is not limited to Octopus. Just combine Batman and Robin with Dick Tracy and mutant-like abilities of regeneration, and you have The Spirit. With writing like this, I was expecting a character named “Bolverine” to make an appearance.

Both The Octopus and The Spirit have special abilities of the same kind. The Spirit loves and cherishes his city above all else, and Octopus wants to subvert it by becoming a god by drinking the blood of Hercules that has been amazingly kept in a pitcher for the last 3,000 years (wouldn't it have coagulated by then?) The stage is set. Interested? I didn't think so!

When good comic book movies are trying harder than ever to blend our reality with comic book world reality, this one (written by Will Eisner) detaches itself from reality nearly all the way and runs in the opposite direction. They might as well have gone all out and had “pow” and “whop” bubbles appear next to a character when someone gets punched or kicked.

The dialogue I found to be clever. I liked the phrase “dead as Star Trek.” The Octopus gets all the cool lines—when they are not ruined by lead balloon humor, that is. There's the bad humor that just doesn't take, and then there is romance saturation. Spirit is an irresistible ladies' man, and that dynamic only makes things weirder (unless you happen to prefer your comic book movies seeming more like perfume commercials).

The story does eventually get moving and take the shape of a so-so plot. But it’s a boring waste of time, wholly uninteresting and silly, despite being directed by the same guy who did Sin City and 300. It tries to be Sin City. It wishes.

(JH)

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Director: Frank Miller
Starring: Gabriel Macht “The Spirit / Denny Colt,” Jaime King “Lorelei Rox,” Dan Gerrity “Det. Sussman,” Larry Reinhardt-Meyer “Officer MacReady,” Frank Miller “Liebowitz,” Eva Mendes “Sand Saref”
Genre: Action/Thriller

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