Based solely on the trailers and my knowledge of promotional materials for the movie, I can honestly say that I think The Spirit will suck. Probably a lot.
But first, some backstory….
The Spirit is a comic that started in the early 40s by legend Will Eisner. (Eisner is such a legend in the world of comics that awards for excellence in comic books are named after him.) In the first story of The Spirit, private detective and criminologist Denny Colt gets accidentally covered by a mysterious liquid in a scuffle with the nefarious Doctor Cobra. When the police arrive, Colt is seen motionless on the ground, thought by all to have been killed. Awhile later, Colt wakes up in Wildwood Cemetery and realizes that the whole city thinks that he is dead. Without an identity, Colt creates a role for himself as The Spirit, a vigilante who works outside of the law and uses the bounty he collects from catching crooks to fund his do-gooding exploits.
The comic itself was versatile to say the least; mystery, noir crime drama, sci-fi, romance and humor all combined together to create the many stories of The Spirit. Given the fact that there are over 60 years of storylines for The Spirit, it would take someone with finesse in story crafting, an ear for excellent dialog and a working knowledge of combining disparate elements into a cohesive narrative to be able to write and direct a successful movie based on the comic.
Unfortunately, the producers thought that man was Frank Miller.
Don’t get me wrong; Frank Miller has done some good work… just not recently.
Sure, he has created two of the most important Batman tales written with Batman: Year One and The Dark Knight Returns, he almost single-handedly turned Daredevil from a lame comic on the verge of cancellation to a staple character in Marvel’s roster, and he expertly brought the 80s extremeness for comic ultra-violence into the 40s and 50s world of noir crime fiction by creating the entertaining (although, admittedly, not for everyone) Sin City.
In recent years, however, Miller has created work that has done nothing but shown that he has gone absolutely, positively, completely, bat-shit crazy. While he used to strive for pathos and dark thematic elements in his comics, he has now gone into creating campy, self-aware, style-over-substance, violent-for-violence-sake works. Worst of all, his dialog goes for 30s and 40s-style melodrama, but it lacks sophistication and subtext, making it ring hollow, yet overwrought and… well, campy.
I hate to keep going back to the word, but “campy” is probably the best word I can use to describe anything that Miller has done in recent years.
Perhaps I’m just being hard on the man. He has done greatness before. Who is to say he can’t do it again? Besides, my complaints are about the recent comics he has written. This is a movie — it’s a different medium entirely. Maybe he can make something that exceeds expectation. Let’s watch the trailer to see if my complaints are without merit….
Um…. No, it looks like my complaints were spot on.
My inner geek also feels compelled to address certain issues that only I and other comic geeks care about, like that The Spirit wore all blue (not black) except for a red tie and a white dress shirt. Now, I know that blue might look terrible on film, but if you go for a deep indigo like the new EU police uniforms, I can’t see how it would look bad or out of place. The Spirit wearing blue is iconic.
Also, The Octopus (played by Samuel “Motherfucking Snakes” Jackson) was never seen in the comics. Never. The only times he was seen was in a disguise, so you never saw what he actually looked like. Outside of his disguises, he was always obscured by the shadows with only his gloved hands being visible.
He was the classic unseen villain, one step ahead of the hero. He was a seemingly-omnipresent, evil, criminal mastermind with henchmen doing his bidding. Seeing his face takes away his mysterious, omniscient-like quality and makes him seem less frightening as a villain. It’s like finally seeing Dr. Claw’s stupid face and being completely let down by it.
If your villain has an air of mystery about them, sometimes it’s best to keep it.
(Samuel L. Jackson’s scenery-chewing performance doesn’t help, either.)
I have many more things to say (re-hashing Sin City‘s look to the point that people think it’s a sequel, making Denny Colt a cop instead of a for-hire private detective, etc.), and I know it appears like I’m nit-picking, but if they can’t get a few small things right, who is to say they’ll do the big things well?
Besides, nit-picking is what fans are supposed to do. We’re supposed to vocalize what we don’t like about the things we obsess over to keep filmmakers in line. They’re (sometimes blindly) making these movies to turn a profit by keeping us happy and in the theater seats and/or buying their DVDs. By speaking out, we’re letting them know how they’re screwing up so they don’t repeat mistakes and therefore, lose money. In a way, I’m helping the film industry… sort of. Not really.
Well, I talked A LOT about a movie that hasn’t even been out yet. Just know that should you go to the theater and the film stinks, don’t say I didn’t warn you.
And if it’s good, I’ll be shocked… and proven wrong… for once.