Frank Miller’s first foray behind the camera is inevitably based on a graphic novel featuring an unkillable crime fighter and his evil nemesis, The Octopus.
Superficially The Spirit resembles Robert Rodriguez’ film version of Miller’s own Sin City, no doubt the inspiration for his decision to tackle a cinematic project of his own. The difference is that Rodriguez is an experienced and skilled film maker, whereas Miller just has a very good eye for an image. The Spirit for me just seemed like an exercise in “Film Noir For Dummies”; all the ingredients are here, but the action is halfhearted and unexciting and although it has a tongue in cheek approach, it just isn’t funny. The result resembles a Saturday morning cartoon; the Octopus’ henchmen in particular are straight out of Adam West’s 1960’s Batman camparama. Samuel L. Jackson is easily the best thing about the film and has a lot of fun as the larger than life bad guy, but there’s little else here of interest besides some gratuitous “hotties” and attractively framed shots. All too often this film looked like what it is; a collection of actors stood in front of a green screen, the depth and dynamism of Sin City being sorely missing.
The Spirit actually reminded me a lot of 1990’s comic strip action movie The Shadow starring Alec Baldwin, but I actually liked that rather a lot more. A disappointment.