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Blu-ray Reviews

HTF BLU-RAY REVIEW: The Spirit



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24 replies to this topic

#1 of 25 Timothy E

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Posted April 19 2009 - 08:31 AM

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Studio: Lionsgate
Year: 2008
Rated: PG-13
Film Length: 1 hour, 42 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1080p High Definition Widescreen (2.35:1)
Audio: English 7.1 DTS HD Master Audio, French Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish


Release Date: April 14, 2009

The Movie
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The Spirit is Frank Miller’s first sole directorial credit after co-directing Sin City with Robert Rodriguez. The stylistic efforts in The Spirit are very similar to the design of Sin City, which is appropriate since both films are modern descendants of the film noir genre. In spite of the similarities between the two films, however, The Spirit fails to translate the original source material in the same manner that Sin City succeeded in bringing Frank Miller’s own acclaimed graphic novels to life.

The Spirit is the alter ego of Denny Colt(Gabriel Macht), a former police officer from Central City who comes back from the dead to don a black mask to work as an anonymous crime fighter with his headquarters in Wildwood Cemetery. The Spirit’s true identity is known only to Commissioner Dolan(Dan Lauria). The Spirit has many romantic entanglements but his most consistent love is Dolan’s daughter, Ellen(Sarah Paulson). Like all great crime-fighters, the Spirit has an arch-nemesis in the form of the Octopus(Samuel L. Jackson). The Spirit possibly has more femmes fatale than any other masked crime-fighter, and some of those women appearing in this film included Sand Saref(Eva Mendes), Silk Satin(Scarlett Johansson), Lorelei(Jaime King), and Plaster of Paris(Paz Vega).

The Spirit was originally created by Will Eisner in 1940 as a weekly newspaper comic book supplement. Since the weekly Spirit stories were discontinued in 1952, the fact that this character is remembered today is a testament to the genius of his creator, Will Eisner, who demonstrated the literary achievements that are possible in the graphic story form. Although Eisner is not well known to mainstream audiences today, his influence on comic book storytelling (or graphic novel, if you prefer) is most evident in the fact that the comic book industry’s highest award of excellence is named the “Eisner Award”. Frank Miller, who was an accomplished graphic novel writer and artist prior to his career as a screenwriter and film director, is himself a past recipient of several Eisner Awards. Frank Miller initially rose to prominence in the comic book industry in the brilliant stories written and drawn by him on the Daredevil comic book series, which combined super-hero storytelling with film noir sensibilities. In addition to Daredevil, and his acclaimed series of Sin City graphic novels, Miller is also the creator of The Dark Knight Returns and 300 graphic novels, the latter of which was successfully translated into film by Zack Snyder(Watchmen).

One of the reasons that Will Eisner is revered today by comic book creators is that he created compelling stories of 7 or 8 pages in length, once every week, in every possible style of story. Eisner’s Spirit stories were at turns whimsical, serious, comedic, romantic, or satirical, sometimes all at the same time. In his Spirit stories, Eisner succeeded in using his masked man and the film noir genre to create a continuing series of stories that commented on and related to every aspect of the human condition. While Frank Miller’s The Spirit attempts to emulate the variety of material in Eisner’s work, this film fails in that effort in spite of its high intentions.

The reason The Spirit fails to be a faithful adaptation may be due to the fact that Frank Miller’s nihilistic tendencies in his art do not lend themselves well to translating the work of a humanistic writer like Eisner.
Frank Miller’s story writing tends to be dark in tone and cynical, which may not be the best fit for translating a character like the Spirit who is known among other things for his whimsical stories. It seems like The Spirit tries to emulate the style of Robert Zemeckis’ Who Framed Roger Rabbit? in combining slapstick sensibilities with a serious adventure story. Roger Rabbit pulled this off successfully by having real-life consequences for its characters; in Who Framed Roger Rabbit? the audience always understands that Roger Rabbit could suffer real-life consequences of death or disfigurement if Judge Doom ever caught up with him, even though Roger was only a toon. By contrast, the Spirit suffers everything but an anvil falling on his head without any major consequences so you never worry much that serious harm will ever befall him. When you never worry about bad consequences for the characters, you do not invest much of your interest in them either, which is the major problem with The Spirit.

Samuel L. Jackson’s performance as the Octopus is probably the best in the film. Jackson gives an intensity to some of his lines that I have not really seen since his turn as Jules in Pulp Fiction. He is clearly having a ball in this film and it shows in his performance. Unfortunately, this is a mixed blessing since it demonstrates that sometimes less is more: in the original Spirit stories, the Octopus was a malevolent unseen presence who was identifiable only by the unique gloves worn by him, not unlike Blofeld in the early James Bond films. We see so much of Jackson as the Octopus that his mystery, and sense of menace as a villain, are diminished proportionately.

Video
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The movie is in 1080p high definition in a 2.35:1 aspect ratio. There is no grain apparent since The Spirit, like Sin City, was shot on high definition video. The color palette is muted deliberately for dramatic effect, with black, white, and gray as the dominant tints. Detail on shadows is excellent and blacks are inky and solid without any black crush or other compression artifacts. This is reference quality material and I can find no fault in it, but for the lack of colors which is a deliberate artistic choice and therefore not really a flaw.

Audio
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The English 7.1 DTS HD Master Audio tracks make excellent use of all speakers for a completely immersive experience. The gunshots and ambient sounds with directional audio make this film a prime candidate for testing or showing off the range of your sound system. It is tragic that the film itself fails to live up to the high quality of its presentation.

Special Features
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The special features are located exclusively on disc 1. Disc 2 consists of a digital copy for transfer to portable media device.

The main menu on disc 1 has its own special features included for Blu Ray players with internet connections. The menu selections are presented beneath a simulated billboard and your local weather temperature and time are displayed along with “tickertape” headlines promoting other Lionsgate films. These displays are optional and may be disabled in the “LG Live” menu.

The special features are all in 1080p and include all of the following:

Audio Commentary: The commentary is provided by director Frank Miller and producer Deborah Del Prete.

Green World (22:53): Cast and crew are interviewed regarding making the movie primarily on a green screen along with behind the scenes footage.

Miller on Miller (15:57): Frank Miller talks about his artistic influences in creating comic books.

History Repeats (15:27): Frank Miller, Neal Adams, and others present an overview of Will Eisner’s career in comic books.

Alternate Storyboard Ending (2:37): Gabriel Macht and Samuel L. Jackson provide dialogue over storyboards and animatics for the unfilmed alternate ending.

Also From Lionsgate: Trailers for Crank 2, Terminator 2: Judgment Day Skynet Edition, Transporter 3, Bangkok Dangerous, and Hulk Vs. These trailers also show automatically at the beginning of the disc. A theatrical trailer for The Spirit is also included.

LG Live: Internet connected Blu Ray players can access cell phone ringtones, wallpapers, and previews of other Lionsgate films. At present, preview footage and a trailer are available for Crank: High Voltage. The box art states that Molog is also included, however, this appears to be an error since there is no Molog feature on the menu options for this disc. The Molog feature, available on certain other Lionsgate titles, allows users with internet connections to post their own blogs onto the screen in the form of animated shapes, text, and graphics to share with other BD Live users.

Conclusion
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Miller succeeds admirably in creating CGI film noir eye candy that duplicates the sensational camera angles and stunning images of Sin City. Comic book afficionados will appreciate the in-jokes that have many of the incidental characters named after prominent people in the history of comic books. Eagle-eyed viewers will also spot Frank Miller’s cameo appearance in the film, and the storyboard art illustrated by Miller that appears over the closing credits is a nice touch. It is unfortunate that the sublime video and audio presentation on this Blu Ray disc are not provided in service to a better film. The Spirit is recommended to hardcore fans of Frank Miller and Sin City but not really to anyone else. If you want to show off the abilities of your home theater system, then The Spirit on Blu Ray is a great demonstration disc.

#2 of 25 Ron-P

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Posted April 19 2009 - 06:17 PM

This was a blind buy for me...and I loved it. Much better then Sin City. The audio and video on the disc is amazing as well.
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#3 of 25 Sam Posten

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Posted April 20 2009 - 02:17 AM

I will definitely get this at some point but not until prices get more realistic. It seems like a fun companion to Sin City... Thanks for the review Tim!

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#4 of 25 Bryan^H

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Posted April 20 2009 - 03:29 PM

Wow,
What did I buy?

Thought it would be a cool comic book movie.
This thing was so hokey, and uninspired I was shocked.

Frank Miller crafted the best comic book story ever....The Dark Knight.

I couldn't believe that the same person wrote, and directed this garbage.

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#5 of 25 Paul Arnette

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Posted April 21 2009 - 02:40 AM

I must admit my morbid curiosity compels me to watch this. However, I'm not touching this thing until it is $14.99 or less and may wind up renting it anyway.
Universal Blu-ray Discs I will not be buying while they're offered only as Blu-ray + DVD 'flipper' discs:

The Jackal
, Out of Africa, and Traffic.

#6 of 25 Colin Davidson

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Posted April 21 2009 - 03:50 AM

Thanks Tim for your review. Was going to be a blind buy but now will be a rental and if I like it I will, as Paul pointed out, wait until the price is more reasonable.

#7 of 25 Eric F

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Posted April 21 2009 - 11:31 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bryan^H
I couldn't believe that the same person wrote, and directed this garbage.
He's had his fair share of crapola. Don't forget he wrote the garbage screenplays for Robocop 2 & 3.

#8 of 25 Brian Borst

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Posted April 22 2009 - 03:30 AM

According to Mr. Miller himself they were altered very much by others, so I don't think it was his fault. If you want to read something crappy done by him, I'd suggest the All-Star Batman and Robin comic series.
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#9 of 25 TravisR

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Posted April 22 2009 - 05:42 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Brian Borst
If you want to read something crappy done by him, I'd suggest the All-Star Batman and Robin comic series.
I enjoy that book because of its... eccentricities. "I'm the goddamn Batman!" Posted Image

#10 of 25 Brian Borst

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Posted April 22 2009 - 08:34 AM

Yeah, that must've been the most often quoted Batman thing ever, besides some things the Joker says in The Dark Knight. Anyway, I only bought it for Jim Lee's art (personally I think his Batman is the best) but I stopped buying them.
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#11 of 25 RickER

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Posted April 22 2009 - 09:06 AM

I rented this from NetFlix...didnt like it. I do, however, like Sin City. While this looks as good as Sin City, nothing about the movie itself is as good. Stupid dialog, people doing things i dont understand. Like standing in a swamp one minute, and then being under 40 feet of water the next. Its all the same scene, too. You see frogs in the swamp, but its snowing? I dunno...i can handle a guy running across the power lines, but swamps that are 40 feet deep kinda lost me. Thats just the first 20 minutes of illogic. I could go on!
I can handle movies with wild and crazy ideas, but come on! Put some thought behind the craziness! This movie didnt have any internal logic, at all.

#12 of 25 nighthawk1

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Posted April 23 2009 - 05:47 AM

2 1/2 is a generous rating. I thought The Spirit was absolutely terrible. A total mess of a movie.

#13 of 25 Jonathan Peterson

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Posted April 23 2009 - 06:42 AM

I agree with the negative comments about this mess of a movie. I loved Sin City and I am a huge comic book fan but this movie...

Even my favorite eye candy Scarlett couldn't save this. And why the heck were they dressed like Nazis??

I would recommend anyone thinking of a blind buy to rent it first.

#14 of 25 Michael Allred

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Posted April 23 2009 - 07:10 AM

"Sin City" - coolness + "Batman & Robin" x 3 times the camp = "The Spirit"

#15 of 25 Bryan^H

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Posted April 23 2009 - 11:57 AM

I remember hearing that Frank Miller wanted to write, and direct a big screen Buck Rogers, making it much campier than the tv show.
I forgot where I heard it, but I believe it now.

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#16 of 25 ManW_TheUncool

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Posted April 23 2009 - 02:35 PM

I also just gave this a rent (via Blockbuster Online), and despite low expectations, yeah, it's rather lacking as a standalone movie though I did like the visual style and such. Still, if I think of it as the first (eg. origins) episode/installment of a new comic book series, then it sorta makes sense to me that it plays the way it does -- and really, that's probably Frank Miller's thing anyhow as that's where he's coming from (though I'm not sure he really intended it work like this for the audience). And unfortunately, that kind of approach just doesn't play well for a movie (franchise) since I'd probably have to wait at least another year-and-change for the next installment. This approach would probably play better in a TV serial format where the series would be allowed a good deal more time/episodes to develop before completely losing the audience's patience.

So to me, this movie plays kinda like a big long Act 1 of a more complete movie (w/ some bits of stuff you normally expect in later acts thrown in). *OR* maybe I'm just being too generous to Frank Miller w/ this take. Posted Image

OTOH, the whole approach to this movie probably has a lot to do w/ Miller's strong preference to be suggestive (w/ just about everything) rather than explicit, so a lot of details are just essentially hidden below the surface and require us to figure out before we even have a chance to feel it (rather than very intuitively feel in response to what's already explicitly displayed). The movie is like just the tip of the iceberg, Posted Image and perhaps unfortunately (or maybe not), we may never get to see the full thing that Miller envisions judging by all the negative critical *and* mainstream response this movie's receiving... Posted Image

*OR* maybe I just see enough here to make me *want* to like it, but wish Miller had given us something a bit more (accessible) to work w/ (and enjoy). Posted Image

_Man_
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#17 of 25 Michael Allred

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Posted April 24 2009 - 08:12 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bryan^H
I remember hearing that Frank Miller wanted to write, and direct a big screen Buck Rogers, making it much campier than the tv show.
I forgot where I heard it, but I believe it now.

It wasn't that long ago when the news came out, I forget where but it was on the major news sites.

I get the feeling that Miller is much like Stephen King, a wonderful writer but just isn't meant to be a director.

#18 of 25 Patrick Sun

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Posted April 24 2009 - 11:12 AM

I remember seeing this film at the theaters during the Christmas break, and there was maybe 6 of us in the theater, and after a while, we would MST3K the film because it was just so abominably bad in a way that it was fun to mock it while it was playing on the big screen. It was one of the few times where no one was shushing anyone for snarky comments made at the theaters.
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#19 of 25 Timothy E

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Posted April 24 2009 - 12:35 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Patrick Sun
I remember seeing this film at the theaters during the Christmas break, and there was maybe 6 of us in the theater, and after a while, we would MST3K the film because it was just so abominably bad in a way that it was fun to mock it while it was playing on the big screen. It was one of the few times where no one was shushing anyone for snarky comments made at the theaters.

Patrick, should I amend my review to recommend it to hardcore MST3K fans? Posted Image

#20 of 25 Patrick Sun

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Posted April 24 2009 - 01:36 PM

It might help if adult beverages were also served.
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