The Spirit Review

Published 6 years ago by , Updated January 3rd, 2009 at 9:13 am,

Short version: The Spirit is two hours of your life that you’ll never get back.

scene from the spirit The Spirit Review
Screen Rant reviews The Spirit


That’s the first word that comes to mind as I think about The Spirit. It’s an example of a movie that just leaves me plain dumbfounded. It’s so awful that I’m completely in the dark as to how a movie like this can ever actually get funded, produced and make it into movie theaters.

The very first line of dialog spoken in the movie was utterly cheesy – and that set the tone for the entire movie. I wasn’t sure what I was in for… I’d seen the footage and the trailers and it ALL looked horribly bad, but I thought that there might be something else to the film that either wasn’t being conveyed in the footage we’d seen, or that would make what we HAD seen somehow “work.”

As Alex Trebek would say on Jeopardy: “Sorry, no.”

In The Spirit, former police officer Denny Colt (Gabriel Macht) (who was gunned down in the line of duty) is now a masked crime fighter in Central City. He’s alive because he was a guinea pig for a scientist’s experiment on immortality.

He doesn’t remember how or why he’s come back from the dead, and hasn’t really cared until his arch-nemesis “The Octopus” (Samuel L. Jackson) tells him that they have more in common than The Spirit thinks. One of the odder things in the movie (which was never explained) is his need to be tended to by Dr. Ellen Dolan (Sarah Paulson) to help him recover – even though he supposedly has Wolverine-like healing powers.

The Spirit works closely with the police and in particular with the Commisioner (Dan Lauria), who happens to be Ellen’s father. He thinks the masked one is losing it due to his obsession with the Octopus, plus he’s not happy with the fact that the Spirit seems to both put out and be extremely susceptible to pheromones – falling in love with every woman he meets. Ellen pines for the Spirit and even though he romances other women right in front of her, she still can’t help herself.

The Octopus is looking for the key to immortality, and even though he’s most of the way there, he needs to drink some of “Heracles blood” to seal the deal. He has a bunch of cloned henchmen all played by Louis Lombardi who make the “Otis” character in the Superman movies look brilliant by comparison. They wear t-shirts each with a different saying on them – the first three guys have either “Pathos,” “Egos” or “Logos” on their shirt. Later on as more copies appear they have other single, and progressivly stupider, words on them.

Following the swamp fight between the Octopus and the Spirit that included a giant wrench, a toilet and… wait for it…. the kitchen sink, the t-shirt gag was a clue that perhaps director Frank Miller was going for an Adam West/1960s Batman TV show type of camp with the film.

See but here’s the problem: “Camp” is actually supposed to be funny.

And what happens when camp fails to be funny? You’re just left with “stupid.”

There is so much wrong with this movie that I can’t take the time to document it all. There’s cringe inducing dialog (“I had you beat like eggs.”), bizarre visual choices (most of the time The Spirit’s sneakers glowed white), and idiotic story points (Ellen tends to self-healing Spirit while a police officer is critically injured by multiple gunshot wounds). Oh, I could go on – a flashback scene where the Spirit is talking to a cat (and there were a lot of cats in the movie… not sure what the heck THAT was all about), Eva Mendes as San Serif making a photocopy of her “perfect ass,” etc., etc.

The ONE scene in the movie that actually made me laugh was when the Spirit was tied up in a chair and the Octopus was monologing (you know, explaining his evil plan right before the good guy gets free and thwarts the evil plan) and the Spirit asks: “Is there a point to all this? I’m getting bored.” It echoed my thoughts completely.

I’m truly dumbfounded that both the studio and the actors involved in this read this script and STILL went on to finance/become involved with the film. Even on paper this MUST have looked utterly idiotic. If they thought that writer/director Frank Miller (yes, he wrote AND directed this train wreck) would be able to make this work somehow they were sorely mistaken. This is a perfect example of that Hollywood myopia in which you can have dozens (if not hundreds) of people working on a film, watching dailies – and for some bizarre reason no one can tell it’s a steaming pile.

The only reason I’m giving this even half a star is out of deference to Sarah Paulson, who was probably one of the best things in the film (and that’s not saying much) and to Gabriel Macht, who I just pity for having the starring role in this film. Hopefully it doesn’t kill his career – he seems like he’s a decent actor. As to Samuel L. Jackson – Good Lord, man… don’t you have enough money? Can’t you be a bit more discerning in what roles you pick? Pretty soon no one will take you seriously as an actor.

Some people may say this is “fun”… me? I’d use the word “painful.” Avoid The Spirit at all costs.

It’s not even worthy of the “so bad it’s funny” badge – it’s just plain awful.

Our Rating:

0.5 out of 5

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  2. hands down, no question, the worst movie i’ve ever seen at the theatres. i feel like taking up the role of stan and kenny from southpark when they ventured to Gibson’s house to reclaim their cash for The Passion.

  3. The point of the movie was to be cheesy… i thought you would pick up on that because you’re usually pretty good at appreciating things like that. My view is that it was ‘making fun” of Comic Book vs. Film Noir… plenty of films have been made like this… umm pretty much any Mel Brooks movie does the same thing. The new ‘cool’ thing in hollywood is to make comic book movies. Every time something becomes popular there will be an amazing group that will make fun of it… the best groups do it in a respectful creative way rather than those stupid “scary movie”
    Go after the theme and the symbols and styles… comeon!

    my point is… The Spirit rocks in my book… any movie that combines Nazi uniforms, melting kittens and really big guns is alright in my book :D

  4. btw, all the rubs on Frank Miller and hurting his image… You can’t judge an artist on one work and without realizing what he was going for. Frank is still an amazing creative, look at this movie from a ‘film student’ point of view and maybe you can start to appreciate my line of thinking a little bit. plus Frank’s Batman rocks. so that’s all.

  5. dedpool, I think Vic specifically said in his review that he doesn’t mind when a movie is intentionally cheesey, and he even acknowledged that this is one of them, but he says that it even fails to be entertaining in that cheesey campy way as well.

    “See but here’s the problem: “Camp” is actually supposed to be funny.

    And what happens when camp fails to be funny? You’re just left with “stupid.””

  6. yes i acknowledge that he said that but MY opinion is that it is…well not really typical ‘funny’ but its so awkward that it makes you look at these elements in other films and comic books and you laugh to yourself because it makes all those themes look ridiculous. such as:

    1- falling in love with every woman he meets… so often in movies and comics the main character seems to be chasing every girl and the girls just fall for it no matter how dumb it seems.

    2- the bad guy has a ridiculous plot that most times its really really impractical. (this is emphasized in the spirit with the nazi uniforms and the killing of the kitten cuz comeon that’s just wrong! only nazi’s would kill a kitten!)

    3- all the visual elements and lines have inheret meaning towards the theme of the film. (Frank Miller in my opinion was using his famous “Sin City” elements to highlight these visual themes that he was spoofing, red means rage or passion, dark is sinister, yellow is cowardly etc. and the horrible lines were highlighting these points, such classic cliques lines were used that you could read or hear the old batman series in the golden age… “this is a job for SUPERMAN!” etc.)

    this is what i’m getting at. and being a huge comic fan and movie buff I LOVE the use of these elements to ‘make-fun” of these types of movies without resorting to lame humor like the examples i used of Scary Movie and others.

  7. I have no problem with your opinion, nobody has a problem with that, everyone is entitled to their own opinion. My response is because of this line from you:
    “The point of the movie was to be cheesy… i thought you would pick up on that because you’re usually pretty good at appreciating things like that.”

    Where you’re assuming that Vic doesn’t realize that it was supposed to be campy and cheesey. I was pointing out to you that he did, but still didn’t find it entertaining. We all cleared up now?

  8. yes we are. I guess I meant that I was disappointed that he didn’t see it from the same view as I took it (like the lil list I gave before) I’m not offended by any means I just want people to give the movie a chance from a different perspective.

  9. @D-E-D-P-O-O-L

    I understand exactly what you’re saying, I just don’t believe Millar succeeded at doing what you say he was aiming for. Not even close.


  10. A poor poor excuse for a movie. Here’s my review:

  11. I know this thread is an old one, but I see nowhere else to post this… I’m gonna make an odd prediction about “The Spirit” once it becomes available as a DVD rental. I think this movie will do incredibly well via NetFlix, and even as a DVD sold over the Internet by Amazon and its ilk. Why? This movie turned into something no one wanted to be seen going to the theater to watch. The catch: it was on everyone’s radar. Movies like this (“Spice World” comes to mind) do great as something sold or rented online. The Internet provides the opportunity to indulge curiosity without having to be publicly humiliated.

  12. I’m not a cat, I’m not THAT curious.

  13. I’ve watched the first 30 minutes of this abortion and I have to applaud your review. It fits. When I read it, my thoughts were echoed. It’s amazing, your thoughts match my thoughts!
    You might say we’re kindred… ehh… spirits?

    Don’t pay to watch this movie

  14. Thanks, Paul. Stick around, I think you’ll like our site. :-)


  15. HEY!!!!! i thought The Spirit was funny!!! granted the first time i wached it i was like ” what the hell???” and went almost comatose for the next hour but i wached it again and laughed my ass off ( much like what happend when i wached “Zoolander”)
    so dont bash the movie i think it is artistic and funny, and the Spirit is HOT!!! XP

  16. This makes me want to see it… or at least part of it. Half a star?!? That’s pretty darn bad.

  17. It was painful to make it past the 15 minute mark, but I did. I wanted so badly to find something to like about this movie after seeing Sin City but alas there is nothing whatsoever positive to say about this.

    Whimsical, bad acting, horrible plot, and wtf with Samuel Jackson lol.

  18. I completely disagree. I thought The Spirit was brilliant. It wasn’t all that deep, no, but the visuals were amazing, the plot was semi-silly in a comic book way but engaging, and the sense of humour was very dry and peculiar. It totally resonated with me and I’d give it four stars any day.

    It’s something you have to see for yourself. It’s very personal – if you love the style and humour, it’s the perfect film. If you don’t like the style, you’re going to hate it. It’s a very polarizing film, insofar as anyone I’ve talked to loves it to death or hates it.

  19. I know this is 3 years old, but I’m watching The Spirit on IFC right now. I remember seeing it in theaters and liking it just fine.

    Took a gander online to see what kind of ratings it got and I’m pretty surprised that this movie is so powerfully hated by almost everyone equally, almost suspiciously like it’s just a fad.

    I recently wrote an article on my own blog trying to digest why Blade Runner was so hated. Yes, we all know that today Blade Runner is considered one of the greatest films of all time. But, upon first release and for years after it was hated critically and commercially.

    Now, I’m not comparing The Spirit to Blade Runner itself, just the situations. I wonder if in 15 years this movie will be rediscovered and have a more cult/nostalgic response.

    Do I think this is a great film, no way. A slightly above average and unique film, yes. Compared to some of the godawful movies that make it to theaters, I would say this movie is a whole lot more interesting with an obvious throwback to the first Batman movie, Dick Tracy, even Who Framed Roger Rabbit.

    @Vic – So, I’m wondering if in retrospect you would give the film a little slack because you might realize it was fresh in your mind at the time so it seemed like one of the worst films ever (now thinking of far worse recent movies that you’d give a half star so the ratings might seem inconsistent – is 0.5 the bottom or can you rate 0?) or do you feel the exact same way now?