Showcase of Shame: The Spirit

You know you’ve got them. Everyone does: Movies you’re ashamed to admit you like, much less own. We’re not talking about those late night movies you watch when no one thinks you’re looking– we’re talking about bonafide theatrical releases that critics pummeled with the left-right-uppercut combo of loathing and disgust. We’re talking about movies your friends pull off your shelf and say, “What the heck/*expletive*!?” The movies you know you’ll be mocked for and unapologetically watch anyway. Some come down the pipe via populist backlash (IE-Titanic). Some are gold wrapped in platinum stuffed in a rusty aluminum box. Some are just plain terrible. But that doesn’t matter. You’re making no apologies and it’s time to kick that shame right where it counts.

Introducing the Showcase of Shame: a weekly spotlight on films we’re not ashamed (er…maybe a little) to say we like in one way or another—in no particular order, of course. Sure, you might make fun of us, but we know you’ve got your own list. And it’s hidden quietly under your mattress.

Read on.

spirit-gobbledy-goopThe Spirit (2008)

Director: Frank Miller

Starring: Gabriel “I tried!” Macht, Samuel “Over the top” Jackson and four pretty faces named Eva, Scarlett, Jaime and Sarah.

TomatoMeter: 14%

The Spirit made it’s own bed and slept in it. Unfortunately, when it sold itself as an extension of Sin City, that bed was built out of matches, gasoline and paper plates—and when The Spirit’s campy and comic escapades began kicking in, they might as well have been a BBQ lighter. As a whole, the film suffers from an audience losing cavalcade of Richter scale shaking tone shifts and directorial missteps. One minute the villainous Octopus is chucking a severed cop head (Frank Miller’s incidentally) at The Spirit, the next some goon is being run over ala Wile E. Coyote, complete with tire tracks running from stem to stern.

Still, unless you’re totally consumed by hatred at having spent money and time on this film, you can see what Frank Miller was trying to do—inject the campy fun of Will Eisner’s original Spirit comics from the early 40’s and infuse it with the hard-boiled nihilism of our modern era. And a bunch of his own fetishes. The move was daring… just not a dare that actually paid off or was handled well. The sheer camp mindlessly stretches itself into oblivion—most of the stuff is truly ridiculous and ham-fisted. As a whole, the movie plays out like it’s poster above: a mess. Nothing — including its digital sets, relationships and even story– connects.

Roger Ebert pumped The Spirit full of rhetorical lead in his review with lines like this:

“There is not a trace of human emotion in it. To call the characters cardboard is to insult a useful packing material. The movie is all style — style without substance, style whirling in a senseless void.”

I can’t argue with that. At all. And yet there’s that whole “style” thing… a style The Spirit delivers in picture frame-worthy effect. Although the style can be statically spartan and cribs heavily from Sin City, which, incidentally, heavily cribbed from Frank Miller’s comic book style themselves, the look is arresting. And I’m a sucker for style. Thus, just for the sake of the sophomore style’s digital wow, this little turd that could have but didn’t holds a nice little spot on my shelf… of shame.

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