Following the success of Sin City and 300, Lionsgate immediately proclaimed The Spirit as a follow-up, making the critical error of raising expectations the film wasn’t able to meet. The movie tanked at the box office, partly because of expectations, and partly because it’s just not that great of a movie.
Gabriel Macht stars as Spirit, a masked hero defending Central City, a stand-in for the more popular stomping grounds of New York. The film is a mix of campy super hero movies, film noire, and Samuel L. Jackson as a Nazi (really). It’s never that entertaining.
All of the goofy dialogue falls flat, rarely even eliciting a snicker. Spirit reaches for every laugh, and few people in the modern audience will even grasp that it’s mocking a bygone era (especially the casual target audience of Sin City). Those that do might crack a smile at a few random lines.
The films best moment is undoubtedly Sam Jackson’s above-mentioned rant dressed in a Nazi uniform. It sells his character, The Octopus, as insane and evil. In fact, it’s better character development than anywhere else in the film. Even The Spirit is somewhat underdeveloped, given to the audience with the information that he can’t resist women, is hard to kill, and fights for his city due to an incident in his teen years.
Spirit wants to get right into the thick of things, opening with a fight sequence before the viewer even knows why the battle is happening. It’s off-putting. Those who enjoyed the visual style of Sin City will be less impressed here as it covers much of the same ground, with reds, blacks, and whites being dominant. It lacks the originality or impressive impact of its predecessor.
Spirit is a dull film, and even though it is well under two hours, feels longer. Characters are uninteresting, The Spirit is a dull on-screen hero, and the action only offers a few glimpses of originality. Hopefully the upcoming Sin City sequels can bring Frank Miller back to the screen with more success.
With all of its visual tricks, judging The Spirit in terms of visual splendor isn’t easy. Without seeing the original source, it’s hard to know what’s supposed to be here, and what is actually a flaw of the AVC encode. However, this one is going to be called like we saw it.
Detail is striking at times, especially thanks to Samuel L. Jackson’s textured face. Every wrinkle shows through thanks to an outstanding sharpness level. On the other hand, all of the female actresses are washed out and flat, apparently a way to accentuate their beauty with a dream-like quality. This is in direct contrast to the male actors, and the edits between a male and female actor are jarring. Black levels are deep, and times leading to black crush, although this is likely intentional to maintain the noir look.
Some noticeable banding is evident in the backgrounds. The disc doesn’t handle the thick layer of digital smoke cleanly. Right from the start at the 4:30 mark you can see the compression after-effects. Contrast can run incredibly hot, blotting out detail or even entire backgrounds, but like almost everything with this transfer, it always seems intentional.
As usual, Lionsgate is one of the few companies to consistently support 7.1 audio, delivering a crisp DTS-HD MA mix for The Spirit. Given the limited action, the track doesn’t have much to work with. That said, it can impress. Gunfire is beefy in the low end and the high end is clear. Action is loud, which unfortunately bleeds everything together.
The finale, loaded with gunfire, helicopters, and dialogue offers little in the way of discrete audio because it overwhelms itself. There are moments of subtlety, including Spirit leaving a crime scene with his footsteps tracking into the rears and a fine rain effect. Overall, the track ends up being too much of a good thing and it is unable to keep itself under control.
Frank Miller discusses his creation with producer Deborah Del Prete in a commentary that kicks off the extras. Green World is a 23 minute featurette that starts off blatantly promotional, but eventually settles down into a decent making-of. Miller on Miller profiles Frank Miller as he discusses his artistic life. History Repeats compares Spirit creator Will Eisner and Miller. It also dives into the history of the character, which is only touched upon by Green World.
An alternate ending is told in storyboard, although voiced by the cast. The standard trailers section contains a weird, unexplained hidden feature labeled “test” that does nothing but display multi-colored flame on screen between extended loading periods. Lionsgate usual MoLog online feature remains incredibly pointless, as does the new LG-Live. Spirit is the first disc to use this feature, letting the user download ringtones or display updated news on the main menu (?). What this actually does for the Blu-ray experience is still up for debate.
Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us by Rubenstein Communications PR. This has not affected the editorial process. For more information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.