The Spirit [DVD] [2008]

Actors: Samuel L. Jackson, Eva Mendes, Scarlett Johansson, Gabriel Macht, Jaime King
Directors: Frank Miller
Format: PAL
2 (This DVD may not be viewable outside Europe)
Number of discs:
Lions Gate Home Entertainment
DVD Release Date:
25 May 2009
Run Time: 98 minutes



Think Sin City meets Batman and you’ll get an idea of what The Spirit is like. That is, if the Batman was a philanderer and a snappy dresser like The Green Hornet . . .

The Spirit is a masked vigilante inhabiting a hyper-stylized noir version of New York City. He is an ex-cop named Denny Colt (played by Gabriel Macht) who cannot die thanks to an experiment by arch villain The Octopus. In the 1940s comic strip the movie is supposedly based on one never got to see The Octopus, but here he is played by Samuel L. Jackson and one gets to see too much of him!

To say that Jackson overacts is a kind understatement as he camps it up in overdrive for the cameras. Jackson probably thought that he was going to really earn his paycheck this time round! Then again, it is that sort of over-the-top movie: in one scene he appears dressed as a Gestapo officer as the old Nazi national anthem plays on the soundtrack! The muddled plot involves an old flame of The Spirit (played by Eva Mendes) making reappearance and the villain’s plan to achieve immortality by drinking the blood of Hercules. (No, seriously.)

Even though one has become accustomed to the visual marvels of “green screen” movies (in which the backgrounds and props are rendered using computer technology) such as 300 and Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, this 2008 feature film is still a wonder to behold. It is truly a noir comic book come to life: every film shot might as well be a perfectly framed panel from a comic book and with the crisp image of DVD it all looks fantastic! One often feels like hitting the pause button on the remote simply to gawp at some visual detail that would ordinarily get lost: the little puff of billowing snow as the hero leaps from a rooftop, the rows of trees in the background and so forth. (Many people – mostly men – will however most likely pause the scenes featuring actress Paz Veja in her skimpy belly dancer outfit. Can’t say one can blame them . . .)

THE DISC: The image transfer looks fantastic – this movie really ought to look great on Blu-Ray and would be the sort of disc you can use to show off your HD home entertainment setup to guests (just don’t make them sit through the entire movie though – they won’t like you for that).

In addition to the movie itself there is one “making of” featurette and one focusing on Frank Miller which comic book fans would definitely want to check out. Miller may no longer enjoy the godhood status amongst comics geeks as he used to in the ‘Eighties when Dark Knight and Batman Year One changed the face of the medium forever, but he remains a creative force to be reckoned with.

The single disc also contains an alternate ending which would have pushed the film even further into the realm of the ridiculous. The audio commentary featuring Miller and his producer is of limited interest.

WORTH IT? The Spirit is a case of style and flash over substance. It is a comic book brought to life, the only problem being that that comic book isn’t a particularly good one. (And by that we mean Frank Miller’s script and not the character created by the legendary comic book artist Will Eisner.) The visuals may be gorgeous, but the story itself is uninvolving and never as clever or funny as the script believes itself to be. Miller’s tough guy noir narration simply works better on the comics page than it does here.

RECOMMENDATION: To take in the awesome visuals one can always watch the movie with the sound turned off so that one doesn’t have to cope with the weakly-plotted story . . .



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