Some have called Frank Miller’s film version of Will Eisner’s classic comic book character an ‘Epic Fail’ but I can’t go that far. Don’t get me wrong- it is not a success. There are far more things wrong (and wrong headed) about it than things that are right. It is both too large and too small. It’s too large in that it tries to introduce the audience to this person as a larger than life character without ever giving us any actual character to grasp. We are just presented with things in motion and then sketchily presented info in bits and pieces as we barrel along through this big world. And it’s too small in that the story feels just too unimportant to matter. The Octopus is supposed to be trying to become some sort of god but the threat of this happening never seems like anything more than the silly plot of a lunatic. By the time The Spirit is insisting that he’s a threat to the world it just feels as if the matter is being much overstated to the point of silliness.
Another problem is that the Spirit comics were colorful- not shades of black & white with splashes of color. They were in Technicolor, dammit! Why bleed the brightness out of the character’s world? Just because it looked good for SIN CITY doesn’t mean it should be used for THE SPIRIT.
Still…… the film isn’t completely terrible. It could have used a better hand on the tiller and a second (or third) pass through the script phase but it has some interesting stuff amid the rubble. Most of the performances were good in that they were what the movie’s style called for- Samuel Jackson definitely set the volume to 11 and Eva Mendes is suitably sexy and alluring. Even Scarlett Johansson was fun and I usually find her a bit ‘off’ in her work. There are some great images and the action scenes are pretty fun even if the initial fight between The Spirit and The Octopus goes on too long and plays far too much like a Looney Tunes cartoon. Also, as a comic book geek I had a good time spotting all the little references to other comics and their creators. I think my favorite was the prominently featured van stamped with Steve Ditko’s name.
So overall, it’s not a good film but not the utter disaster I feared. It’s never going to be anyone’s favorite movie but it’s not totally awful. Unless you were hoping for a great translation of Eisner’s creation- then you might be screaming at the screen!
You're probably better off reading the classic stuff.