Ironic that a film with a character named Sand Serif would so strongly emphasize edges and points — no matter how dull they occasionally can get.
Based on comic icon Will Eisner’s character of the same name, The Spirit is graphic-novel guru Frank Miller’s solo directorial debut. (Miller co-directed Sin City, and his was the source material for 300).
Certifiably but agreeably insane, The Spirit plays like Dick Tracy on brown acid. Coincidentally, murky brown is one of few colors to break up the mostly dichromatic black-and-white scheme boosted from Sin City.
Blandly played by Gabriel Macht, the Spirit is described as “something the world needs.” If you mean a hero who looks like Casper van Dien and talks to himself in a voice like Judge Reinhold impersonating Jack Bauer, well, the Spirit’s your man.
Wearing a blood-red tie and a barely there mask, the Spirit protects Central City from the Octopus (Samuel L. Jackson). Jackson is in on full-on Marlon Brando Moreau mode — gnashing and gnawing in getups both Japanese and German, with monocle, jackboots and swastika.
Way more interesting than the Spirit, the Octopus really hates eggs (especially “big brown ugly-ass eggs” of free-range chickens), conducts bizarre genetic experiments, and, in a twist of fate, made himself and the Spirit temporarily immortal.
The Octopus believes he’ll be forever unstoppable if he drinks the blood of divine Greek hero Heracles. Complicating his plot are the Spirit and thief Sand Serif (Eva Mendes), a beauty with whom the Spirit has a history. Aiding it are the all-business Silken Floss (Scarlett Johansson, channeling Haviland Morris in Gremlins 2: The New Batch, of all performances) and sword-wielding Plaster of Paris (Paz Vega).
Dialogue isn’t spoken, it’s bleated. Sample exchange: “He knows something.” “Why do you say that?” “He told me he knows something!” Use of Jason’s golden fleece as a snuggle blanket is hardly the loopiest plot development. And there are credits for “undomesticated quadruped wrangler” and “Spirit meat chart designer.” See? Weird.
Still, no matter how sexualized, Miller showcases several strong female roles (excepting Sarah Paulson, playing a doctor like a cut-rate Nicole Kidman). And the movie is as kinky as it is kitschy – sometimes all in the same moment, as when a miniature version of the Spirit dangles from Sand’s chubby lower lip.
The Spirit is presented in a 1080p 2.35:1-framed widescreen transfer, using the AVC MPEG-4 codec on a dual-layered BD-50 disc. Because the film itself uses 30 GB of the disc, its transfer is pristine – whether it’s ropy blood escaping a wound, the folds of Paulson’s velvety cheeks, or Jackson’s always-flaring nostrils. The script is tin, but the visuals are smooth chrome.
Of equal reference quality is the English 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack. It’s a room-shaking, but discretely mixed, soundtrack.
Blu-ray extras include: audio commentary with Miller and producer Deborah Del Prete; a Miller on Miller featurette, a Green World featurette, a Blu-ray exclusive featurette titled History Repeats, and an alternate storyboarded ending — all in high-definition. Also included in the two-disc set are BD-Live features, as well as HD trailers and a digital copy of The Spirit (in standard definition).