Category Archives: the spirit
Yeah, I know, I’m late to this party as this Starz TV series originally aired at the beginning of this year. Having just recently obtained Starz I had an opportunity to catch up via OnDemand, watching all thirteen episodes in the space of a week, despite Comcast mucking with the HD. It wasn’t that I was really that bored or had lots of time on my hands, the series was really that compelling.
Now period pieces of this type I am usually all in or all out. I’m not a sword and sandal guy, and I don’t really dig gladiator movies. They seem just a bit too gay bathhouse for me. Reality check – I haven’t even seen all of Kirk Douglas’ 1960 Spartacus by genius Stanley Kubrick. I guess I should fix that. On the other hand, I am a big fan of movies and programs about Rome and the history of that time. I loved “I Claudius” and HBO’s “Rome” for instance. “Spartacus: Blood and Sand” falls solidly into the latter category. I loved it.
At first glance, I didn’t think I was going to like it though. There is a lot of the slow motion blue screen CGI effects that made things like 300, Sin City and The Spirit so visually unique. While the comparison to 300 is obvious because of the time period and the violent content, I did not mean to compare “Spartacus” to the others. This has nothing to do with Frank Miller, because this TV series is actually good.
“Spartacus: Blood and Sand” is visually thrilling and something we haven’t ever seen on television before, and that alone makes it must-see, but there is also a compelling story, addictive characters and performances that are better than most on TV. In all aspects, this is must-see-TV.
Just one of those performances you will only be able to see in this thirteen episode series unfortunately. Title actor Andy Whitfield was stricken with cancer and will not be returning to the series in its second season, but will make a brief appearance in the prequel series, “Spartacus: Gods of the Arena” that begins in January on Starz. He will be hard to replace, but rest assured I will be on hand for whatever comes next. This is truly great television.
Whiteout ~ This is yet another comic book movie whose source material I have not read. Yeah, I know, I feel like I’m letting you folks down. Whiteout is based on the graphic novel by Greg Rucka (who also is executive producer here) and Steve Lieber. Rucka is a writer who runs hot and cold for me. He’s either very good or very bad.
Gabriel Macht of The Spirit and Alex O’Loughlin of “Moonlight” and the inexplicable new “Hawaii Five-O” (the less said about Feed the better for his nerd cred) have both done their share of time at comic cons. One is loved and one is hated, you guess who is who. Kate Beckinsale is always a pleasure to watch, even here as a casual action star, as opposed to her usual roles. This might seem like an interesting cast, yet none of the above manage to rise even above calling it in.
Whiteout is half-mystery, half-thriller and all predictable unfortunately, but all in all, it’s a nice diversion for about a hundred minutes. Good if there’s nothing else on. Hey, I might even check out the comic, but praise more than that, I can’t manage.
The Spirit ~ No, this is not the 2009 film where Frank Miller killed Will Eisner a second time, this is the 1987 ABC telemovie and pilot featuring Sam J. Jones (Flash Gordon) in the title role. Word is that Eisner himself nixed the series because he hated this version so much, and only allowed it to be aired once due to contract restrictions.
It is however available on YouTube, which is where I recently saw it. I’m ashamed to admit it, but when this originally aired, I didn’t know who the Spirit was. I know, for shame.
The TV movie isn’t really that bad when viewed in comparison to Miller’s travesty. It is camp in a way that fans of the 1966 “Batman” series could appreciate, only less humor and more bad sets and acting. It is still an enjoyable watch, and eons better than what Miller did. At least Jones dresses like the Spirit. Shame there wasn’t a series, had I been aware, I would have watched.
That’s right, this is Frank Miller’s The Spirit, not Will Eisner’s, that’s for damn sure. Frank Miller hates superheroes. I’ve said it before, and I’m pretty sure I’ll say it again. Frank Miller hates superheroes. If The Dark Knight Strikes Back is Exhibit A, then surely this film, 2008’s The Spirit is Exhibit B. I have read and heard that Eisner and Miller were great friends. I can only suppose that they fought before the former’s death because I think this interpretation of his hallmark character may well have him spinning in his grave. Frank Miller’s The Spirit is a hate mail for not just comic book fans but movie goers as well.
Was the Sin City sequel not ready for a Christmas release so the studio grabbed Frank Miller and forced him to rush this piece of crap into theatres? That’s my only guess, because it certainly looks more like Sin City than any possible version of the Spirit. Again I am pulled back to the Miller/Eisner friendship. What did they talk about? Surely not the Spirit because obviously Miller doesn’t have a clue what that’s about.
For those not in the know. The Spirit is an amazing comics character created by Will Eisner specifically for the newspapers, a stroke of brilliance at the time as it wasn’t a newspaper comic strip, but a weekly comic book insert that came in the Sunday paper. The Spirit stories were known for their imaginative and innovative graphic design and storytelling structure – decades ahead of anything that was going on in ‘real’ comic books of the time. Eisner was truly a genius ahead of his time, and one of the masters of the artform.
The character of the Spirit himself was ex-cop Denny Colt. Exposed to a weird chemical he appeared to be dead but was really in suspended animation when buried and written off as dead. Crawling out of the grave, donning a mask and using his now officially dead status as a cover, he became the Spirit and defended the people of Central City from all manner of villain, many of them female, and frequently rivaling the rogues galleries of Batman and Dick Tracy in their strangeness.
How Frank Miller took that and got this movie is something I will never understand. It reminds of “Smallville” in one way – some of the names are familiar but nothing else is. Frank Miller’s Spirit is super-powered where the original never was. He shares an origin with archenemy the Octopus in that a chemical exposure left them both with ridiculous Wolverine-like regenerative powers. They can’t die, and so engage in cartoon-like combat with anvils and infinite bullet holes. I think even Tex Avery would think these scenes overindulgent.
These aren’t the only differences. Most annoying that Miller’s Spirit is all in black, except for the red tie. The Spirit really doesn’t have a costume for heaven sakes, so why is it so hard to get it right? In the comics, simplicity itself, blue business suit, blue hat, blue gloves, blue mask, and red tie. Well, at least he got the tie right. This is a CGI motion capture film, you can’t tell me that blue wouldn’t work, or for that matter, look terrific. Is it really that hard? Comic book superheroes come in colors, for some reason Hollywood mutants forget that. Miller, having worked in the industry, should know better. But then again, it’s probably on purpose, he does hate superheroes, remember?
The casting is interesting. I liked Gabriel Macht in the title role, a lot. It’s a shame he couldn’t be the real Spirit because he would be terrific. Too bad Frank Miller has made it so no one will ever want to make another Spirit movie ever again, so bad the stigma will be from this. Dolan is miscast, and the women are all breathtakingly beautiful, if only on hand most of the time as sex objects. This is Frank Miller after all. Are we sure this isn’t the Sin City sequel? I know he hates superheroes, but I wonder what his problem with women is as well. Maybe he hates everything as everything gets the short end of the stick in this flick. Including Miller’s own cameo –P.U.
Louis Lombardi provides a bit of odd comic relief. Funny only if you are into S&M or the Three Stooges I suppose. He plays multiple clones who are henchmen to the Octopus, killed and mistreated left and right, and assures that Lombardi will never get a serious role again, much less any part of any “Sopranos” or “24” reunions. The clone names, printed on the fronts of their shirts, provide a bit of an inappropriate injoke that can distract from how bad this flick is.
Samuel L. Jackson as the Octopus is a curiosity when you consider, that in the comic book version, you never see the Octopus, never. It’s the trademark of the character. The question is not why was this done, but – can Samuel L. survive this? Can his career recover from this offensive cartoon of a movie? Over the top doesn’t cover the madness of his performance. I’m sure many directors will unfortunately think of his role as the Octopus when considering him for work and just take a pass. I love Sam, but he stepped in it this time.
Frank Miller hates superheroes, and he must really really hate the Spirit. Maybe he saw what a success The Dark Knight was and decided he had to kill this beast before it got too big, too popular. He had to drag comics back into the literary gutter where he thinks they belong. Well, Frank, after seeing your interpretation of the Spirit, all I can say, is “Good job.”