Apparently Tom and I agreed on the same movie, on the same spot on the list which is like getting struck by lightning while holding a winning lottery ticket.
This movie is The Spirit.
If you were reading comics, you knew that Frank Miller was WAY past his prime and was descending into Colonel Kurtz-like insanity. Unless you’re a movie executive, in which case, you let him write and direct. This is like arranging a world championship middleweight bout between Miguel Cotto…and 93 year old Jake LaMotta.
The Spirit combines the pretentiousness and lack of subtlety of Frank Miller’s older work, with the absolute crazy of his newer work. Somehow he made a film with the grim visuals and noir voiceovers of Sin City and inserted Looney Tunes costumes and violence. Miller was never great with dialogue, and somehow he got worse until all his characters babble on like a David Mamet play in Hell. He has no idea how to write women, and they are consistently oversexualized. Everything great about the legendary Will Eisner’s comic is thrown away here, which begs the question, why bother?
As a director Miller is utterly disinterested in the actor’s performances that Scarlett Johansson phones it in completely while Samuel L. Jackson gives a turn so bad I didn’t know he was capable of doing this poorly.
With a budget of $60 million (and usually marketing budgets are half the film budget) and a likely total cost of $90 million this money could have been put to use eradicating the destructive Painted Apple Moth. As a city boy I know NOTHING about the Painted Apple Moth, and yet learning about it would be more compelling than watching The Spirit.
As Tom stated, he and I don’t usually agree on these things, hence the separate lists. This time, however, we have been united by mutual hate.
Frank Miller’s directorial debut was a direct result of the success of two adaptations of his earlier work: Sin City and 300, which were smash hits at the box office. Rodriguez, for his part, was doing what he thought was the right thing. The fact that Miller’s comics were being adapted shot-for-shot made him fight to get Miller co-director status, despite the fact that he had done all of the real work of making that film as good as it was. That gave Miller the clout he needed to make this film – and prove true the adage that the road to hell is paved with good intentions.
The film tried desperately to convey a slick visual style, and for good reason. Slick direction and striking visuals can sometimes make up for gaps in plot, or cover for weak performances. It’s what made Sin City such a good film despite some glaring weaknesses, and it’s one of the reasons Zack Snyder still gets work.
Unfortunately, visual style is where this film fails the hardest, and shows how far out of his depths Miller was as a director. He had no idea why Sin City came out so well, and tried his best to duplicate the formula, but only succeeded in taking the more hokey elements that made that picture uneven, like a surgeon who takes away your healthy organs and leaves the tumors.
There were only two things I remembered about The Spirit from my first time seeing it: One was Eva Mendes’ butt, which Miller spent two scenes focusing on. The other was a scene where Sam Jackson dresses like a Nazi, and comes off like Colonel Clink.
Upon re-watching it for this list, however, I was left with only one thought:
Please, for the love of God, don’t let Alan Moore direct a film.