Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Does it Suck: the Spirit REBUTTAL

I love Frank Miller. I even like some of his recent work (TDKSA is really good as a cyberpunk story with capes, but I agree that All-Star was a bad idea). All his stuff up to Sin City was the cutting edge of its time and now sits as part of the comicverse canon. Miller brings a very specific style to the table, so I guess I enjoy that style even when it's not executed perfectly. The Spirit isn't executed very well at all, but if you already like Miller's style (and you have to be VERY lame not to), you're already on board.

Miller has a vague background in film, and his comics have always had a cinematic quality. But the Spirit is the first time he's been in total control. I think he wanted to create a real homage to Eisner and the comic book medium in general. Say what you want about him, but Frank Miller knows the history and mechanics of the comic medium like the back of his hand. That might have worked against him, because what he made was a movie that’s exactly like a comic. That’s the only problem with it. It drags on when you try to watch it all at once, but taken apart, the segments are actually pretty good. Comics are about bursts of story in serialized segments, keeping the reader interested enough to wait for the next episode. But like I said, that's the problem. The movie fails to deliver a strong overarching narrative because it acts too much like a comic strip. But the cinematography is great and the scenes all work as individual parts of a greater whole. It's just that that whole doesn't come together very well as a movie. It doesn't work as a narrative arc. It works in small bursts of flashy style.

What we wind up seeing is a lot of really cool looking scenes that would've worked really well as a serialized web series. Instead it's all mashed together as a movie. C'est la vie. You still get disposable clone stooges, slapstick Loony Tunes-like violence, ancient artifacts with Indiana Jones-ish powers, huge guns, macho guys, hot chicks, and Samuel L Jackson dressed up as a cowboy, a pimp, a nazi, AND a samurai. It’s a modern mixture of all those weird comics that Frank Miller must have read when he was a kid. It's not true to Eisner's original vision of the Spirit, but it's updated. Miller's stuff always seems to exist in weird worlds that are a mixture of several eras. And yes, the acting is terrible. Everyone's hamming it up, either intentionally or not. But they're working with Frank Miller's trademark noirish dialogue and snarky turns of phrase, so I think that's forgivable. It serves the overall style.

And one more thing. You can't have a Spirit movie without femme fatales like Eva Mendes, Scarlett Johansen, or the chick “Castle”. And as hot and sexy and dangerous as these girls are, the movie has a family-friendly vibe that’s only there so it will appeal to a larger audience. Look, i understand this. Making movies is a business, after all. But "family friendly" works against Miller’s custom style. What makes his work great is that it’s bleak and gritty and NEVER pulls punches. In fact, if the Spirit had included more boobies and gore and cursing, we could’ve had our first grindhouse superhero movie.

Does it suck? No. The visual style of this movie is too good to just throw it away. And the strange mixture of styles makes it unique, even among Miller's other movies. Maybe Frank Miller's getting old. I hope not. He still owes us a good sequel to Sin City.


  1. I am a fan of Frank Miller's as well, but THE SPIRIT was fucking awful. The story was lame and the visuals were even more lame. I found the strange backrounds distracting and cheap. SIN CITY was amazing, but I think that Robert Rodriguez should be the one to credit for that. Like you said, Miller's art already has a cinematic fell to it, that's why Rodriguez basically used the books as a storyboard for the film. But when it comes to making films, Miller should leave that to the pros, in my opinion. If THE SPIRIT is any indication of how Miller likes to make films, then he has a lot to learn.

    There's my two cents. :)

  2. I felt like it could've worked really well with just a few tweaks here and there. Then again, boobies, blood, and cursing usually makes anything a lot more interesting.

  3. Barbee, take your head out of your ass. Better yet, take your head out of MY ass. I didn't even see THE SPIRIT and I know it sucked.

  4. Ari Levin would have done a better job as The Spirit than Gabriel Macht.

  5. I never watched it, but now I have to. Barbee is one convincing mofo. I like his ideas gooder than what Jordan is trying to tell him.