Photo of Frank Miller at 1982 San Diego Comic ConFrank Miller image via Wikipedia

By Lucas Siegel
18 December 2008

I went into director Frank Miller’s big screen adaptation of comic book legend Will Eisner’s The Spirit with few pre-conceived notions. Having only read a small number of Eisner’s original comics, I didn’t know much about the character going in. But on the other hand, with the previews and trailers seeming to indicate this movie would be Sin City 1.5 in terms of art direction, I knew enough about the comic books to know that this style might conflict a bit with the source material.

Despite this conflict, or perhaps because of it, somewhere inside The Spirit is a great film. Its potential can be seen in bits and pieces all over the screen, making it all the more disappointing when it just never quite follows through on that potential.

First, comic book fans should know ahead of time that there are some major changes from comic-to-screen. Changes to characters are made to seemingly make them work better for a two-hour live-action movie, and possibly to make The Spirit more familiar to fans of other recent successful superhero films, leading to a few awkward moments.

Some of the acrobatics that title character performs for example just seem strange. Not cool … not “wow” … just strange. Most of these moments occur in the high-action scenes, and can pull the viewer right out of the rest of the movie.

These moments, however, were contrasted by mostly great dialogue by director/screenwriter Miller, and some effective one-on-one interaction between the various actors. The scenes between The Spirit and each of the film’s bevy of leading ladies always entertained. Each of these women had their own unique strength and style, and they all stood out at one point or another as if they were the star of the film.

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