Tuesday, January 13, 2009


Whilst in the cinema the other night, I had a flash of inspiration; I reckon I've found a way to ease the world's environmental woes with a brand new totally green energy source. If we can somehow harness the energy of Will Eisner's rapidly rotating corpse we won't need to worry about fuel price increases.
Yes, I watching Frank Miller's woeful The Spirit. It's one of the worst movies I've seen in a very long time, and I've recently watched Australia! (Not usually the type of film I go and see at the pictures, but my girlfriend, who works in PR, got us some tickets to a special preview put on by the Australian tourism board and there was free food and beer (there was one woman there putting food from the buffet into her handbag for later. How Birmingham is that?), we even got free popcorn to munch while we were watching the film, and we were given free Australia-shaped luggage tags and an Australia pen. If you've seen Out Of Africa, Gone With The Wind, The African Queen, Last Of The Mohicans, Red River, Pearl Harbour, or Walkabout I wouldn't bother. To says it's derivative and unoriginal and clich├ęd is an understatement.You can tell it's Australian because Bryan Brown is in it. I think he's been in every Aussie movie since about 1981. It looks pretty, though, and there's lots of shots of Hugh Jackman with his shirt off. If you like that sort of thing. My girlfriend does. I don't, makes me feel inadequate.)

Anyway, The Spirit! This is not Will Eisner's Spirit, this is most definitely Frank Miller's. I'm not the world's biggest Spirit afficionado (I can recommend Will Eisner's Dropsie Avenue trilogy, referred to in the movie, and his Comics and Sequential Art book is a comic artist's bible), but I've read it, and the movie doesn't resemble what I've read at all. It's trying to be cultish and camp and comedic, but fails miserably.
Eisner was a master visual storyteller, groundbreaking and ahead of his time in his day. The film tries to be visually interesting, but if you've seen Sin City, you've seen it already. And Sin City was a far better movie. Probably because it had a proper director (I know Miller had a co-directing credit, but you know Rodriguez was the real guy in charge.) and decent actors (Jessica Alba excluded, of course) and knew when to use its visual flourishes for maximum effect. The Spirit has the same touches, but are used so inconsistently and for no apparent reason. The acting is terrible (Samuel L. Jackson is so hammy as the villain, The Octopus, I was expecting him to grow a little curly tail at the end) there's only the slimmest of plots and the dialogue is really awful.
It's basically an excuse for Miller to film lots of Hollywood starlets with very little on, and while that's an admirable aim, I'd rather he did his perving in his own time. (I was talking to a colleague about this movie, and he said he thought it was shit, but his teenage son loved it. I can guess why!) It's politically suspect in its portrayal of women ( I know it's supposed to be noirish, but this film is very definitely set in the present day, there's mobile phones and computers and at one point a photocopier on display, doesn't really fit with the look of the film) there are references to paedophilia (not very nice for a supposed kids' movie) and dressing Sam Jackson and Scarlett Johansson up as Nazis is a bit politically suspect as well. They're just dressed like that when they're explaining their grand scheme to our tied-up hero. As if we didn't guess they are bad people by that point, Miller tries to hammer it home by making them dress up as Hitler. And the plot's Macguffins, Heracle's Blood and The Golden Fleece, are not things that should be in a movie based on Will Eisner's comic.
As you can tell, I didn't really like it. It's a bad sign when the best thing about a night out at the cinema is the trailers.


Andy Winter said...

Haven't seen The Spirit movie but can recommend Darwyn Cooke's ongoing Spirit series from DC - it's bloody marvellous and right up there with a lot of Eisner's best work.

Mick said...

you should be glad you've not seen it. It's really, really awful. The thing that worries me is that from now on, in the general public's mindset, is that The Spirit won't be remembered as a Will Eisner's great comic strip, it'll be remembered as Frank Miller's shit movie.

I'll definitely check out Cooke's Spirit. Sounds good.