Thursday, 5 December 2013

The Spirit (2008)

I saw The Spirit at the cinema, and found it almost mesmerising in its awfulness. So naturally, when I saw it available cheaply on DVD, I picked up a copy. And then it sat on my shelf, still in the shrink-wrap, until I read the thread "Worst Superhero Movie Evar, What is it?". Several people nominated this film, and that prompted a desire to re-watch it.

So, first things first: this is a terrible, terrible movie. The script ... well, it's hard to imagine that it wasn't written to be a spoof, to be honest. The sophomoric attitude to sexuality, the exaggerated machismo, the cliche after cliche after cliche. If Frank Miller got a dollar for every hackneyed bit of drivel spewed forth in this movie, he'd have the budget to make a sequel. Then there's the direction: Miller takes a fine cast and elicits from them some deeply odd performances. I mean, I kind of love Samuel L Jackson and Scarlett Johansson in this movie, but that's because they seem to embrace the utter craziness of the whole film: Jackson by over-acting as only he can, and Johansson by deadpanning like the deadpanniest deadpanner who ever panned dead. Unfortunately, the Spirit himself is ... well, awful, and both he and Eva Mendes are acted off the screen by the folks playing the younger version of their character. Seriously, in 2 minutes of footage, the younger actors show twenty times the charisma and chemistry of their "grown up" counterparts.

Some people have praised the aesthetic of the film, but I am ambivalent about it. It just seems a case of Miller slathering his (admittedly powerful) Sin City visual style on an unrelated project for no better reason than that he can.

So is there anything good that can be said about the film? Well, as I alluded to in the first sentence: it is (at least to me) so bad it's good. The terrible, hackneyed dialogue, the schoolboy-like attitude to women, the rampant insanity of Sam Jackson's performance ... it's all terrible, but it's not boring. Or at least, I don't find it to be. The movie might utterly fail to make me care about what it passes off as "characters", but it does make me interested to see what depths of stupidity it will plumb next.

And for that roller coaster of awfulness, I salute you, Frank Miller.

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