Gabriel Macht, Samuel L. Jackson, Scarlett Johansson, and Eva Mendes
Spending 100 minutes with The Spirit is like going on a blind date with a beautiful, vapid woman. At first, you're mesmerized by her looks, and for a while, you buy into the theory that she might have a bit of an attitude. You can deal with that; you've dealt with it before.
But the longer she keeps yappin', the easier it is to realize why she was set up on a blind date with you: She's an idiot.
Frank Miller was bitten by the movie bug with Sin City a few years ago. At least that's when it bit him professionally. You can tell by watching The Spirit that he's studied some aspects of filmmaking before. But his real background is in comic books. The titles movie fans will know him for are Sin City and 300, but he has a long history in the form. The Spirit is not one of his comic books, however; it was created by the late Will Eisner over 60 years ago.
Fans of the original Spirit might wonder why this movie looks more like a new beat cop assigned to Sin City, though. The color palette is identical, which is truly one of the film's failings. If Miller had proven he could do more than black, white, and red, this might be allowable. But when he tries to throw in a new color - there's a hint of blue with one of the female characters - it doesn't fit at all. It would be like adding a baby blue pocket silk on your blind date with that beautiful, vapid woman if you were wearing, say, a black suit and, of course, a red tie.
But it must be said that, for the most part, the look of The Spirit is incredibly compelling. Many of the costumes and the way Miller incorporates digital backgrounds really come to life and fill the scenes. This movie is never boring. Now if it would just shut up.
To get a leg up on his competition, The Octopus has sought the Blood of Heracles for years, thinking it would hold the key to immortality. And the Blood is mistaken for another treasured item, pursued by Sand Serif (Eva Mendes), a woman who has some history with The Spirit.
It's not as convoluted as it may sound, but it's still more than this movie needs. We're treated to a horde of beautiful women - Mendes, Paz Vega, Scarlett Johansson, Jaime King, Sarah Paulson, and Stana Katic - which is its own kind of overkill. The trouble is, the more actors/beautiful women Miller carts out for us, the more obvious the bad writing becomes. With only a couple of exceptions, every performance in The Spirit is a bad one. Paulson is good enough, but she's spared the silly dialogue. Mendes is probably the highlight, because it's a completely vampy role.
Johansson and Jackson, who operate as a kind of tag team here, both give their worst performances in a while, and as the hero, you can't even root for Gabriel Macht, who is simply never convincing unless he's in a fight.
Because there are so many characters, The Spirit feels episodic, as if there will be more of them. That could be triggered by the story's roots in the comic book arena. But let's hope this is a one and done.