re:View – The Spirit (of a greater movie, half-heartedly revived)

So, I finally got round to watching The Spirit – which I was totally dying to see from the moment it was announced, and then totally missed in cinemas (along with pretty much every film that was released during my MA Year from Hell). Well, looks like I haven’t missed out, at least on this one. It’s kind of…bland. (And that’s not even a pun on the signature Frank Miller colour scheme.) I’m not even sure what it’s trying to be. It’s too clichéd to be meant seriously, and not clichéd enough to work as a spoof. And not funny enough, either.

Same for the characters. Sure those superhero movies need their ensemble of stereotypical Good Guys and Bad Guys and In-Between Guys, and Nice Girls and Evil Girls and the staple Batshit Crazy Girl… And in my humble understanding of the genre, the more extreme the opposites (and personality disorders), the better. But The Spirit‘s characters aren’t even evil or crazy enough to actually make you care which side they’re on. No development. No twists. They might fool us for a scene or two – especially the ones with an affinity to the Bad camp – with a little eccentric flair brought on by some stunning, absolutely fabulous costume design. But in the long run it all feels more like some weirdo fashion designer’s latest showcase than anything else. The costume changes are just a bit too random and incoherent to do anything for the characters, who stay rather lifeless behind all the paint and goth fluff.

The film does have some really pretty noir visuals, though. I mean, of course it does. It’s Frank Miller after all. But even the imagery gets a bit stale with déjà vu as you keep going, ‘Oh yeah, seen that before.’ The graphic novel sequences? The token colour objects? The white blood on black? It was original in Sin City. And now it’s just so Sin City. Or more like, so trying to be Sin City.

The Spirit‘s many women are probably the best thing about the film. They’re gorgeous. Really, really beautifully designed – although, again, designed as in nicely styled pictures, not as in carefully carved-out characters. Eva Mendes, Scarlett Johansson, Sarah Paulson and Stana Katic play them brilliantly – within the narrow space the plot allows them. But they could have more of an edge, a little more darkness. I mean, seriously. The Femme Fatale isn’t even bloody fatale. AT ALL. Also, none of them is quite a skinny little Nancy Callahan. But then this is not Sin City either…

Anyway, if there’s one reason for watching the film – apart from being a fan of Frank Miller’s, film noir or the colours black, white and red – this is it:

Verdict: Eva Mendes. Dressed in…diamonds. Does anything else matter, really?

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