The Spirit Movie Review (1 Star)
Movie Review by Michael Phillips
We have our winning entry in the "worst scene in 2008 cinema" sweepstakes.
It arrives halfway through the achingly poor screen version of "The Spirit," based on the comic book series begun in 1940 by artist and writer Will Eisner.
In a Nazi vaudeville interlude, Samuel L. Jackson, dressed like Col. Klink with a monocle, shares the screen with Scarlett Johansson, dolled up as if rehearsals for a remake of "Ilsa, She Wolf of the SS" were starting any minute.
They gas on about their plans for immortality, and Hercules' mystical blood, and various failed experiments while their prisoner, the masked, supernaturally hardy crime-fighter known as The Spirit, played by Gabriel Macht, sits there muttering how bored he is with their act. And how. Dull, yet offensive. Nice trick.
Frank Miller wrote and directed this adaptation, in a visual style lazily close to that of his "Sin City." You know the vibe: stark, grim silhouettes, urban decay by the ton, blood that looks pretty because it oozes from a victim's skull in black-and-white. It's not "real," so the violence can spill over the top and still stay within the Motion Picture Association of America's jaded notions of a PG-13 rating.
All you hormonally addled teens may take solace in the "great eye candy" (as Johansson's character describes herself) provided by Johansson and Eva Mendes, the latter of whom is shown at one point photocopying her posterior.
Yet even the cheesecake curdles.
Director Miller chops the action into awkwardly paced illustrations of a scene rather than keeping the scene in fluid motion.
Macht, the Robert Cummings of our generation, hasn't figured out how seriously to take his assignment or what sort of energy to provide.
Only Sarah Paulson, as the Spirit's doctor and sometime lover, seems to be in there playing the scenes as if she were a human being in a comic book superhero scenario, as opposed to a comic book character stuck in a cruddy movie.
MPAA rating: PG-13 (for intense sequences of stylized violence and action, some sexual content and brief nudity).
Running time: 1:48.
Starring: Gabriel Macht (The Spirit); Eva Mendes (Sand Saref); Sarah Paulson (Ellen); Dan Lauria (Dolan); Scarlett Johansson (Silken Floss); Samuel L. Jackson (The Octopus).
Directed by Frank Miller; written by Miller, based on the comic book series created by Will Eisner; photographed by Bill Pope; edited by Gregory Nussbaum; music by David Newman; art direction by Rosario Provenza; visual effects supervised by Stu Maschwitz; produced by Deborah Del Prete, Gigi Pritzker and Michael E. Uslan. A Lionsgate release.
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