by William Goss
The best thing going for 'The Spirit' is its misogyny. No, thatís not right. Frank Miller doesnít hate women, but loves them, and some lovely women at that. Scarlett Johansson, Eva Mendes, Paz Vega, Sarah Paulson Ė all are given the most flattering spotlight to shine in, and the men are that much worse for wear in comparison. Gabriel Macht embarrasses himself. Samuel L. Jackson embarrasses himself (but knows it). And Frank Miller embarrasses himself in his proper directorial debut, tainting the legacy of Will Eisnerís classic comic strip along the way.But itís fascinating. Lord, is it fascinating. Eisner told the story of a resurrected crime-fighter (played here by Macht) taking to the streets of Central City in the name of justice. Miller admittedly works that in, but only after making sure that characters pound one another with full-size toilets and deliver Nazi-costumed monologues apropos of nuthiní. Both honors belong to Jackson, and Jackson takes them as honors indeed, all wide-eyed and shouty about how he, the seemingly invincible Octopus, hates eggs, particularly getting them on his face. One thinks that the Octopus mustíve signed on script unseen to believe that.
The eggs are hard-boiled in the overcooked faux-noir dialogue of this undercooked faux-noir world, where people are declared ďdeader than Star TrekĒ but are never themselves more alive than three colors Ė black, white, and red Ė let alone three dimensions (Robert Rodriguez proved this possible in 2005ís Sin City, doing right by Millerís graphic novel as much as Miller does wrong unto Eisner here). Macht jumps hither and yon between growing to men and flirting with women. Mendes, the Thief, struts. Paulson, the Doctor, swoons. Johansson, the Right-Hand Gal, tries snark on for size; yes, honey, you are eye candy. Youíre also an embarrassing lackey to an embarrassing villain in an embarrassing movie, a live-action cartoon thatís ostensibly slick but never pops save for Millerís proudly gonzo fits of anachronism and other flights of, er, imagination.Iíll give him this: said fits give Eva Mendes an excuse to photocopy her perfect ass, and said fits bestow upon the world quite the drinking game for every time any character utters her characterís name, which is, well, Sand Saref Ė get it? GET IT? Thatís how most of the jokes go in Millerís realm: theyíre not funny the first time, and even worse the next. You canít run Samuel L. Jackson adorned in a swastika and a monocle into the ground, though. Maybe thatís the best thing going for 'The Spirit' Ė that, the ladies, and good old-fashioned morbid curiosity.
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originally posted: 12/31/08 12:13:34