Will Eisner’s The Spirit comics, which debuted in 1940, are masterful achievements, groundbreaking in their use of shadow, space, rhythm, timing, humor, action, and just about everything else. The masked character was so popular, he has endured up to and past Eisner’s death in 2005. Frank Miller is also a comics legend, known for revitalizing the Daredevil series in the 1980s, and creating one of the greatest comic books of all time, The Dark Knight Returns. He also wrote several screenplays and co-directed the movie adaptation of his comic Sin City. In 2008, he was ready to write and direct his own movie, and what better than a feature film version of The Spirit?
The result, opening on Christmas Day of 2008, disappointed just about everyone (except me). It’s a completely visually insane trip, with Miller indulging in his own most imaginative whims. He freely mingles his own imagery with Eisner’s and comes up with something halfway between, and gorgeously mutated. Gabriel Macht is fairly boring as the hero, and the story and dialogue are ridiculous, but the supporting cast (Scarlett Johansson, Samuel L. Jackson, Eva Mendes, Sarah Paulson, Jaime King, Paz Vega, etc.) lends some colorful charisma to this artificial, elastic pastiche. It also has less of a violence fetish than the Sin City or 300 movies, opting for style and movement over blood and gore. Stick around for the end credits to be treated to some original Miller artwork.