The Spirit (PG-13)
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Okay. This is based on a comic strip from the 1940s, with which I have no familiarity, so I can't begin to compare the movie to the source material. Although from the skimming I did about the comic on Wikipedia, it sounded like it had a variety of styles and tones, which I think this movie captures. Which isn't entirely a good thing. I dunno... I like the look of the film... dark, noir, retro... there's a lot about it that looks like it's set in the 1940s, except for the fact that we saw a modern computer at least once and a modern cell phone at least once... I don't recall having noticed anything else that seemed modern, though. The way the movie was shot is kind of interesting... there were times I thought it was mostly done in black and white, with just a dash of color here and there (as in the title character's red tie), but there were also scenes that were totally in color, and thinking back on it I really am not sure whether any scenes were actually in black and white. It just gave one the sense of a black & white movie. Maybe. But there were definitely times when the color red was... very obviously added in a very unrealistic way, which was an interesting, almost trippy effect. Aside from that... there was often some kind of precipitation that contributed to the atmosphere. It looked like snow to me, but it could as easily have been rain. Either way, it didn't look very real. All of these things I have said so far, are things that I basically like, but am not entirely sure about that. I guess.
The hero does narration. Classic gimmick. Um... sounded kinda corny, though. As for the fight scenes, particularly the first big fight between the Spirit and his arch-nemesis, a local crimelord called the Octopus (Samuel L. Jackson)... well, that was just redonkulous. Listen, I gotta tell you, there was a lot of stuff about this movie that was mind-smashingly redonkulous. Like campiness on steroids. Or maybe acid. But there were also elements of the story that were decent. Bits that seemed serious. Certainly some things that were kinda interesting. So it's like most of the time it seemed like an absurdist comedy, and occasionally like a straightforward superhero-noir. (I should mention the movie bills itself as being from the creator- Frank Miller- of Sin City and 300, neither of which I'd seen when I watched this, but both of which I did eventually see. I knew enough about Sin City, though, to expect it to look a lot like this movie. But I also felt like the Spirit had a vaguely "Dick Tracy" vibe about it. Yeah, it's like a cross between Dick Tracy, Batman, and um... I guess the Three Stooges. If they were undead.) Anyway, I could understand if a lot of people are put off by the film seeming not to know what it's trying to be, serious or campy, but after awhile I really started feeling like it was trying to be both. Which is a pretty ballsy thing to try to do. Not easy to get right, and even if you do get it right, still possibly not such a good thing. Still, I kinda thought it worked. I guess.
But I haven't really explained the plot at all yet. Sorry. Um... so there's this masked hero called the Spirit. A few times throughout the movie we get bits of his backstory, in flashback. We see when he was like a teenager, and there was this girl he liked named Sand Saref (which is a funny name... like 1/4 funny haha and 3/4 funny strange; she's played in flashback by Seychelle Gabriel). But eventually... something tragic happens which makes her realize she wants to leave the city and never come back. At another point we learn about how the Spirit- whose real name was Denny Colt- had become a cop sometime after Sand left. And we learn how he died, and came back to life. (Not exactly a spoiler to say that; we see from the very beginning of the movie that Death, aka "Lorelei"-played by Jaime King- was always waiting to claim him, since he kept escaping her.) But anyway, the Spirit and the Octopus can both survive just about any injury, and quickly heal. Which allows them to go all-out in fighting each other. And um... well, there's a woman named Silken Floss (Scarlett Johansson) working for the Octopus, as well as an endless supply of thugs who are like clones or something, but all practically mindless. And there's a jewel thief recently arrived in town, by the name of... Sand Saref (Eva Mendes). She had two chests, one of which contained something she wanted, and one which contained something the Octopus wanted. I don't really know why there were two chests when she'd only been looking for one, but whatever. When the Octopus showed up, they each got away with one chest, but they each had the one the other wanted. So that was problems, and eventually they'd have to try to make a switch.
Also, the Spirit was romantically involved with a doctor named Ellen Dolan (Sarah Paulson). Dr. Dolan is the daughter of Police Commissioner Dolan (Dan Lauria of The Wonder Years). He knows the Spirit's true identity, but honestly I never could tell if Ellen did or not. But anyway, she loves him but also kinda hates him, because he always seems to be interested in any woman he meets. Oh, and there's a new cop in town named Morgenstern (Stana Katic; she was amusingly ridiculous in this movie, which was a guilty pleasure to watch after getting used to her as the more serious police detective Kate Beckett in Castle). Anyway, the Spirit and the Commissioner would have to try to stop the Octopus, but the two of them often argued (for various reasons, but mostly because Dolan could tell the Spirit was lying about not knowing Sand- who was, after all, a wanted criminal- and trying to protect her; also there was the matter of the way he treated Ellen). And at one point, Paz Vega (who I don't think I know from anything else) shows up as a sort of... sword-wielding belly dancer/assassin named Plaster (of Paris; pronounced "Paree," of course), hired by the Octopus to kill the Spirit. Which is when we get to hear the Octopus (dressed as a Nazi) explain a crucial bit of backstory concerning both the Spirit and himself, which he'd hinted at earlier, and which the Spirit had been anxious to hear him elaborate upon.
I feel like I've said a lot but I also feel like I haven't really spoiled anything. And I don't want to say any more about the plot, specifically. But it's weird and meandering, with weird characters, outlandish dialogue and narration, and... you know... it's all just... like I said, redonkulous. Like a kind of fever dream with random moments of lucidity. But it was interesting in an experimental kinda way. And funny. And occasionally weirdly cool (the action could go either way). So, yeah, it was a vaguely fun movie to watch. Someday I might even watch it again. Preferably either when I have a very high fever or am on some very strong drugs. Or both.