Lacks a soul, lacks a "Spirit"

Dec. 28, 2008, midnight | By Sophia Deng | 11 years, 10 months ago

Dazzling visuals fall to messy production

From acclaimed director Frank Miller comes "The Spirit" – visually stunning but heartbreakingly disappointing. The jumbled plot, coupled with bad acting and corniness, prevents "The Spirit" from getting the boost needed to propel it to the acclaim of Miller's own "300" and "Sin City."

Adapted from Will Eisner's popular comic book series, "The Spirit" follows Denny Colt aka The Spirit (Gabriel Macht) and his attempts to protect Central City from terrors like The Octopus (Samuel L. Jackson). When Sand Saref (Eva Mendes), The Spirit's former girlfriend, returns to Central City to exchange treasures with The Octopus, chaos ensues, culminating in a final humdrum battle.

Despite its all-star cast, the acting in "The Spirit" quickly becomes irritating. Macht tries too hard to be cool in his portrayal of the stoic Spirit and only comes off as a lost soul. Arguably more infuriating are the intentionally annoying characters of Silken Floss, The Octopus's assistant (Scarlett Johannson) and police officer Morgenstern (Stana Katic). Both characters become exceedingly aggravating, and their nasal voices prolong already lengthy scenes.

The only noteworthy actor in "The Spirit" is Samuel L. Jackson, who not only brings most of the terror to the film, but also the humor. His great flexibility and versatility in acting ensures his commendable transformations into both a scary villain and a comedian. By bulging his eyes and flashing his blindingly white teeth, Jackson succeeds in creating a frightening nemesis to The Spirit. Jackson also uses his instinctual prowess to artfully craft his words and actions as wit. Unlike the rest of the actors, who tend to be unnatural in their portrayals, Jackson is comfortable in his own skin, effortlessly dispensing threats and jokes alike.

In action movies, fight scenes are the movies' best sequences, but in "The Spirit," they are the worst, plagued by length and repetition. In resorting to visually boring action sequences, "The Spirit" draws tired yawns and snores. The fistfights between The Octopus and The Spirit are lackluster at best. When The Octopus smashes a toilet seat onto The Spirit, the scene causes a few chuckles, but there is no entertainment in the resulting battles. Miller was lazy with "The Spirit," as he created unvaried action sequences with a predictable pattern: fists, guns, toilet seat, fists, guns. Relying on recycled moves and fighting techniques, "The Spirit" evolves into more of a snoozer than a thriller.

Fortunately, "The Spirit" is saved by magnificent special effects and stunning visual artistry. The movie constantly switches from a comic book two-dimensional effect to a three-dimensional version, set with black, white and sepia tones. The scenes are beautifully colored and the special effects are unique and imaginative. Although special effects coordinator Donald Frazee did a superb job with creating a true comic book feel to the film, the remarkable visual effects which made "300" memorable were disappointingly lacking in "The Spirit."

The brief moments of humor also rescue "The Spirit" from atrocity. Jackson and Macht's jabs at comedy reduced some faults of the film, but the comical attempts were too few. The scene in which The Spirit and The Octopus bicker about Muffin the cat is hilarious, but there are not enough humorous interactions between the naturally funny Jackson and nonchalant Macht. Although comedy would reduce the action aspect of "The Spirit," the improvement would at least make the film less stiff and more watchable.

Additional comedic relief and visuals equaling the splendor of those from "300" could have countered the bad acting, fight scenes and messy plot, but would still not be able to save "The Spirit" from shoddiness. "The Spirit" was both messy and corny. It was embarrassing to watch the trite dialogue and predictable actions play out, as the all-star cast faded away into oblivion. Comic book movies are supposed to be clichéd, but "The Spirit" goes overboard on the corniness. Only a superhero could have saved the film, and sadly The Spirit was not up to the job.

"The Spirit" (103 minutes) is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of stylized violence and action, some sexual content and brief nudity. Now playing at all area theaters.

Sophia Deng. Sophia was the Managing Editor of SCO during the 2009-2010 school year. When not laughing or chilling to OWL CITY, Sophia can be found oil painting, playing volleyball, doing sudokus and sprinkling happy fairy dust over everyone. She loves folk/pop/electronica indie, Harry Potter, Burt's Bees … More »

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