Spirited Silliness

by Ian T. McFarland on December 25, 2008

in Movie Reviews 

  • Title: The Spirit
  • IMDb: link

There’s not much to the movie, and that’s just how it should be.  Basically, The Spirit (Gabriel Macht) is vigilante that never seems to die.  The same thing could be said of his arch-nemesis, The Octopus (played by none other than Samuel L. Jackson).  The two have locked heads with each other for the foreseeable past – the good guy fighting for the city, and the bad guy fighting to keep selling drugs.  More stuff happens, like the Spirit’s former flame coming back to town, and something to do with eternity is also mentioned; but there’s not much to figure out in this movie.

Very much like Sin City, a movie that The Spirit will likely be compared to by anyone who has seen both, this is a movie governed by its strict and saturated use black and white, with splotches of red accenting the occasional frame.  What makes The Spirit its own movie apart from Sin City, though, is its tone. “Cartoon Violence” might be the best way to describe it – when someone is run over by a truck, he lives but caries a tire mark on his face; and Jackson’s character happens to wield two four-barreled shotguns – at the same time.

In the aftermath of The Dark Knight, a superhero movie like the very silly The Spirit looks downright ridiculous, but it might be the exact thing we need.  No one’s going to be able to top Christopher Nolan‘s saga anytime soon in respect to its weight, drama or effectiveness – so the best option left is to go in a completely different direction full of absurdity after absurdity.  And this is a movie so absurdly over the top, even Samuel L. Jackson has trouble staying afloat.

That’s all well and good, but The Spirit does have some trouble sustaining itself.  Simply put, there’s too much talking and not enough action.  There are several scenes that last too long, with the bad guys describing their dastardly plots to the good guys.  That’s not necessarily a bad thing; but these scenes stick out as boring and talky in an action film defined by its style.  If this just happened once, it could be overlooked; but it feels like these scenes constitute at least a third of the flim, if not half.

The Spirit is headed in the right direction – a ridiculous, over-stylized hero flick that doesn’t take itself too seriously and isn’t afraid to have fun.  But because a lack of thrills, it’s just not as spirited as this kind of movie needs to be.

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