Saturday, December 27, 2008

Hey film critics, what did you guys think of Frank Miller's Spirit?

“What is most striking about The Spirit is how little pleasure it affords, in spite of its efforts to by sly, sexy, heartfelt and clever all at once. Or perhaps the movie flounders because its multiple ambitions are fundamentally at odds, like the various femmes, fatale and otherwise, who do battle for the hero’s heart.

“The 108 overstuffed, interminable minutes of “The Spirit” yield exactly two memorable moments: when one of Mr. [Samuel] Jackson’s genetically engineered minions (all played by Louis Lombardi) appears as a tiny, hopping foot with a head grafted on to it, supplying an odd, creepy morsel of Surrealism; and when Eva Mendes, playing a character called Sand Saref, sits on a copy machine and presses the button. She produces what may be the only true-to-life image in the movie, as well as the most interesting.”

A.O. Scott, The New York Times

"The Spirit is mannered to the point of madness. There is not a trace of human emotion in it. To call the characters cardboard is to insult a useful packing material. The movie is all style—style without substance, style whirling in a senseless void.”

Roger Ebert, The Chicago Sun-Times

“As his comics work suggests, Miller is a peerless admirer of the female form, which is to say a shameless lecher concerned primarily with exposing as much luscious female flesh as possible. As a babe-delivery system, The Spirit is a rousing success. In every other sense, it’s a pronounced failure. The hard-boiled visual style of Sin City, with its comic book compositions, noirish black-and-white, and impressionistic splashes of color, now feels shopworn. Running gags limp and scenes drag on endlessly with little sense of rhythm, shape, or momentum. Miller’s screenplay oscillates sleepily between leaden camp, stumbling slapstick, and pulpy pseudo-poetry and [Gabriel] Macht leaves a fatal charisma void in the lead role. Not even the presence of Jackson in a Nazi uniform late in the film can give this regrettable boondoggle a pulse. In comics, it took Miller decades to devolve into embarrassing self-parody. In film, he’s made that leap over the course of a single disastrous film.”

Nathan Rabin, The Onion’s A.V. Club

“Like Ang Lee's misbegotten Hulk,The Spirit thinks the best way to bring comic-book characters to the screen is to mimic the look of those colorful panels. What Mr. Lee missed, and what eludes Mr. Miller with The Spirit, is making sure the source material's stories also make a clean transition.”

Christian Toto, The Washington Times

“With the fanboys anxiously eying Zack Snyder's Watchmen adaptation, Frank Miller's version of The Spirit sneaks into theaters almost unnoticed on Christmas Day—good thing, too. Miller, comics-writing icon turned director, has rendered comics-industry revolutionary Will Eisner's crime fighter Denny Colt a grim shade of dull—all talk, no action, save for a few slapstick mash-ups of old Warner Bros. cartoons and Miller's own Sin City, which has the effect of turning Eisner's Technicolor comic into a gray glob of hardboiled mush.”

Robert Wilonsky, The Village Voice

“Give Miller some credit. He didn't make the worst movie of all time. But that's about the best thing that can be said for The Spirit.”

Peter Hartlaub, The San Francisco Chronicle

“And yet The Spirit, which Miller wrote and directed, doesn't just play like a cheap Batman knockoff, it plays like a cheap Batman knockoff that knows it's a cheap Batman knockoff and wants to be sure everybody knows it knows. A goofy parody of hard-boiled detective fiction, larded with indigestible globs of expository voiceover and clunky catchphrases, the movie preemptively mocks itself at every turn, as if trying to beat the rest of us to the punch.

“The intention is clear, but the result is dreadful. Good comic books suggest action through abstraction, but The Spirit plays like an overproduced diorama. Watching it is like watching three dimensions trying to pass themselves off as two.”

Carina Chocano, The Washington Post

“Imagine the stark, monochromatic visuals of Miller’s Sin City as a backdrop for the campy humor of Adam West’s Batman series. Then imagine that the visuals hurt your eyes and the humor leaves you cold, and you get a sense of the The Spirit as a wearying waste.”

Curt Holman, Creative Loafing

“Still, there's an unavoidable feeling of been-there, done-that to just about everything that shows up onscreen. Macht's weary, fatalistic take on his heroic duties is right out of the Batman mold, while Jackson's Octopus seems little more than The Joker without all the face makeup.”

Chris Kaltenbach, The Baltimore Sun

“The story, embellished with Yiddish phrases and references to Greek mythology, could hardly matter less. Miller lavishes just as much attention on his own private fixations, which require Jackson and Johansson to dress in both samurai and SS gear.

“The Nazi stuff might make sense if the film were set in the 1940s, but the presence of computers and cell phones suggests otherwise. Miller is entitled to modernize Eisner's vision, of course, but his update is haphazard and soulless. Better to forever haunt a wartime Central City than to be trapped in The Spirit’s green-screen Nowheresville.”

Beth Accomando, NPR's All Things Considered

“It must really hurt to kill the thing you love.”

Ty Burr, The Boston Globe

Yeesh. I’m sorry I asked…


Toto said...

Thanks for quoting my review. Looking back, I think I was too kind to the movie. It's a real mess, but an often pretty one.

Siskoid said...


SallyP said...

I was going to give this thing a pass from the minute that I heard Frank Miller was involved. I like the Spirit, but only Will Eisner's Spirit. Well, I like Darwynn Cook's version too.

But I have no interest in seeing Sin City II.

malpractice said...

I actually liked the movie, but as you can see i seem to be the only one who did.

Tony said...

I'm skimming the Other Paper review of The Spirit, and I come across this line:

"Based on a legendary newspaper comic created by Will Eisner in 1940, The Spirit is a dead-on reproduction of Eisner's alleged masterwork."

I'm trying to decide which part of that sentence offends me more: "alleged" or "dead-on reproduction."

Hdefined said...

"I was going to give this thing a pass from the minute that I heard Frank Miller was involved."

Why? Though he had little directorial experience prior to the release of this film, he didn't have any flops either. What led you to want to avoid this just based on Miller's involvement?

chiasaur11 said...

I know that one.

To quote a comic on the subject:

Whores Whores Whores Whores...