With so many comic book heroes vying for screen time these days, it’s hard to know if you can expect someone who can laugh at himself (Spider-man) or a serious dude (Batman... at least in his latest incarnation…). This is especially true for myself, because I’m not the type to have read most of the graphic novels from which these defenders-of-good were born (this one is based on a 1940s newspaper strip created by Will Eisner). But in the first fifteen minutes of The Spirit it is obvious this action figure (played by Gabriel Macht) takes his role seriously. His arch nemesis The Octopus (Samuel L. Jackson) however, seems to think the script calls for over-the-top melodrama that pushes the definition of parody into new realms.
With guns blasting, we also get the point during those same opening moments, that neither of these guys can be killed. Both absorb so much hot lead that you wonder how they can continue to stand under the all the weight. As the story unspools we learn about the experimentation that led to Denny Colt, a former cop, becoming the immortal being now know as The Spirit. This research was conducted by none other than The Octopus, a diabolical mad scientist with a penchant for wearing a Nazi uniform.
And what would a superhero movie be without a love interest? In this case there are two. The first is the evil yet sexy Sand Saref (Eva Mendes), who once shared a childhood relationship with The Spirit, but has since turned into a conniving hussy. The other is the good doctor Ellen Dolan (Sarah Paulson), a woman well aware of this man’s habit of “chasing skirts” who can’t help herself from joining the throng.
The plot of this movie is rather inconsequential. Apparently, The Octopus is fixated on getting his tentacles on a vase containing the blood of Hercules because a sip or two will give him near god-like status. This of course, will be bad news for the citizens of the dark municipality where they all reside, so The Spirit must stop him.
Parents should be aware that the resulting wall-to-wall carnage features many on-screen shootings, and even though most of the targets can’t die, the visuals of a half dozen bullets going into a person’s forehead are still rather disturbing. Blood effects are aplenty, with characters seen impaled with knives and swords, although the shock value is somewhat mitigated by the production’s color effects and use of silhouettes. Some sexual banter is included, along with a rear shot of a completely naked woman. Moderate and mild profanities are almost as numerous as bullets, and there is also a glamorous depiction of cigarette smoking in this MPAA PG-13 rated movie with nary a note of warning. (In 2007, the MPAA said depictions of smoking would be noted in films not rated R.)
With over an hour and a half of watching two opponents, each immune to all life-taking devices, pointlessly engage in endless battles, gunfights and monologuing—the whole thing becomes tedious very fast. With artistic style seemingly given priority over purpose and motivation, any spirit that may have existed in the original comic appears to have died on the page.