Friday, January 30, 2009
I was kind of tickled by Frank Miller's The Spirit. Not the instant classic that I've deemed the 2-dimensional Sin City (2005) to be, what could have been a fun campy tribute to the pulpy comics of yore ala Beatty's Dick Tracy (1990), Losey's Modesty Blaise (1966), or Vadim's Barbarella (1968), turns out to be a colossal misfire of the first order in late 2008, post-Dark Knight. How dare this movie be produced after the comic book hero genre got serious? Of course, if you can manage to not be so fanboy about it, it's really a magnificent piece of eye candy. And Miller has fun expanding on the traditional comic book tropes of duality between hero and villain, identity, etc. The Spirit (Gabriel Macht) and the Octopus (Samuel Jackson) are both ciphers on the page, infused only by whatever personality the actors, their costumes and their surroundings bring to them. The Spirit is the remnant of deceased officer Denny Colt. His various girlfriends are all facets of an idealized woman, and depending on which one he's with, one wonders if Colt has allowed his heroic identity to take over to release him from any ties he once might have had to a fiance played by Sarah Paulson. In the original comic book, the Octopus was never seen outside of a gloved hand at the corner of a page frame. So imagine the fun for Jackson and Miller to craft the character by allowing him to dress in every outfit from Samurai to Nazi officer. But I can't help feeling uncomfortable at the Aryan-ness of the whole enterprise. In addition to the Octopus, every person of color is on the wrong side of the law, including Italian Louis Lombardi as the clones, Spanish Paz Vega as Plaster of Paris, and the Cuban-American Eva Mendes as Sand Saref. And the rest of the denizens of Central City are all lily-white. Even more discomfort do I later feel in light of this little tidbit I discovered.