Friday, 2 January 2009

The Spirit (2009)

Frank, you can't direct. You may have helped Robert Rodriguez out on Sin City but you didn't learn much. He can direct. You can write comic books. This is an attempt at neither. Sadly, one of the best Batman runs at the moment (All-Star Batman and Robin the Boy Wonder) has descended into lateness and malaise writing because you've been throwing all your energies into this. Sadly, it would have been better, if boring for you, to stick to writing another awesome Batman than directing this mess. It looks gorgeous, the visuals are amazing, if borrowed from Sin City's aesthetic. This is the best thing about the film, as well as little flourishes of classic Miller writing (the obsession with eggs, the Elektra complex, the strong brassy deadly women) but the problem is, The Spirit, bearing no relevance to me in terms of source material feels like a flabby Dick Tracy, which was knowing ironic pastiche. This feels like it alludes to pastiche and genre-satire but the screwball 30s Dragnet feel is too sloppy as it's not directed snappily enough. The banter between Scarlet and Samuel feels like it should have been lifted from His Girl Friday, but falls flat and plaid due to unenergetic editing. The girls are amazing and gorgeous and much as I love Scarlet, Eva Mendes and Paz Vega are simply breath-taking, proper noirish fatales. The main problem lies in the empty portrayal of the Spirit by Gabriel Macht. He gives it all his Routh. But like Brandon in Superman Returns, he is all chiselled jaw and no personality. His gravelly voiceover, while typically Miller-esque, lacks any gravitas as it is too forced, too knowingly noirish. There is a lack of real danger and suspense, peril or energy. Everything feels flat. The final battle climaxes out of nothing. It's amusing, there's funny bits including a henchman consisting entirely of a foot, and some hammy set pieces, but not much happens and when it does, it looks stunning but isn't directed well. The banter, the conversations, the dialogues have no director's direction thus leaving the actors to play without guidance never knowing how they come across. Shame as this could have been brilliant. Frank Miller wrote the superlative Dark Knight Returns, the best run of DareDevil (the most underrated comic/superhero ever) and brought us the book and film versions of Sin City. He has the credentials... just not the patience and meticulousness to be a film director. Absolutely flabby and sloppy. It's a shame he's failed on such a big budget. Maybe aim smaller next time and get a dialogue editor on board. But those visuals. Surely this is the prettiest worst film ever.


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