2008 was a great year for the comic book movie. The Dark Knight, Iron Man and Wanted all received great reviewed and more importantly in the world of hollywood brought in plenty of dollars. Fitting then, that 2009 starts with what may be the biggest bomb this newfound genre has seen in a while. Frank Miller, whose Sin City was brought to such wonderful life in 2005 by Miller himself and Robert Rodriguez, flies solo directorally and aside from an eye for individual shot quality, has no idea what he's doing. He may be able to make pretty images, but thats not enough and his inability to do everything else is made quite evident here.
The story, possibly one of the most ridiculous I've ever seen in a movie, sees the Spirit (Gabriel Macht), a seemingly immortal, masked vigilante who does almost generically what masked vigilante's do. His nemesis, The Octopus ( played by Sam Jackson with the OTT meter cranked up to 11) is also immortal and for some reason wants to kill him. There's also something about the blood of Hercules, a femme Fatale named Sand Saref (Eva Mendes) and an ongoing obsession with eggs. In terms of story, this movie gets a giant WTF. But sometimes in the comic book movie, if other areas compensate then story doesn't matter too much. They don't. Gabriel Macht is as bland as can be, and the variety of women paraded infront of us in minor roles all get objectified in a way I haven't seen since Charlie's Angels. Not this is necessarily a bad thing, as the eye candy managed to distract me from the blood of hercules. Its just with Eva Mendes, Scarlett Johansson, Sarah Paulsen and Paz Vega involved, all who have been good at one point in their careers. It would have been nice to see them do something else other then being looked at. Mendes does OK, but is by no means great. Johansson doesn't just look lost, but seemingly is incapable of having fun on-screen, utterly wooden and uncomfortable throughout every second she appears. Maybe best to stick to sombre Woody Allen movies for now. Paulsen, playing essentially the movies straight man actually hold her own, which is impressive because the movie pretty much drowns in its own camp, and the more straighter role would usually have been the one to seem out of place. But the only actor who knows what movie they're in is Jackson, who in a succession of bizarre and unexplained choices of wardrobe, ranging from Nazi Uniform to Samurai get-up, gives it his all. And by all, I mean as for over the top as it is possible to go. Yet he is by far the best thing in the movie.
Now onto Miller, who both wrote and directed the thing. writing-wise, he is pretty much awful. Sure he shoots a decent line of dialogue our way every once in a while, but he has no idea how to structure a movie. The most painful example of this is Macht being forced to speak what was born to be a voice over in soliloqouy form repeatedly. Similarly, whilst a huge amount of attention is clearly payed to the look of each shot, one gets the impression that Miller barely directed his actors at all leaving them to do their own thing. This movie is very similar to the Avengers from 1998, which had a similarly ridiculous plot and aimed for the same deliberate camp. Much like that movie, everything just becomes embarrassing.