Spirit, The (2008)

Rated: PG-13 for intense sequences of stylized violence and action, some sexual content and brief nudity.
Length: 108 minutes.
Grade: C+DCB=C-
Budget: $70 million (best guess)
Box Office: $45 million (20 U.S., 19 Intl., 6 DVD)

Written by: Frank Miller (Sin City, 300, The Dark Knight Returns comics) and based on the comic book series by Will Eisner.
Directed by: Frank Miller (Sin City)
Starring: Gabriel Macht, Eva Mendes, Samuel L. Jackson, Scarlett Johansson, and Louis Lombardi.

When a precious cargo shipment is mixed up, each of two criminal masterminds winds up getting the wrong half and scheme to get the part that is valuable to them. In the process, the man pledged to defending the city this happens in must try to stop them and their evil plots. Unfortunately one of them turns out to be his first love from so many years ago.

Entertainment Value: C+
I love Frank Miller’s work. It’s that simple. Whether it’s his Daredevil stint, Batman:DKR, or whatever, the man’s a creative genius. Unfortunately, this did not work for me at all. The feeling of it is clearly Sin Cityesque, but the plot just isn’t there, and the whole thing winds up being more creepy and crazy than great. That said, the style and some of the crazy characters are entertaining enough to keep this out of the D range. But mostly I was disappointed, especially since Sin City and 300 were both such masterpieces. Perhaps I had my hopes too high, and perhaps if I knew The Spirit comics better, I would have appreciated it more. But I don’t, and so I didn’t.

Superficial Content: D
Drugs/Alcohol B, Sex/Nudity C, Violence D, Language C, Illegality F
There is a lot of stylized and quite brutal violence. Let me repeat, lots of stylized and quite brutal violence. There are several sexual scenes involving partial nudity. The language is a bit more coarse than I expected. I was pretty surprised this got only a PG-13. It wasn’t quite Sin City, but it was certainly close enough to merit an R rating. Certainly R-15, if we had it, would be appropriate. Also, you should know that the previews are certainly unfit for a PG-13 rating, themselves being R rated in my opinion.

Significant Content: C
Money and power both corrupt. Violence solves problems. Death and avoidance of death is the main motivating factor in life. Everything we do is inspired by our efforts to immortalize ourselves. An obsession for good and justice is useful.

Artistic/Thought Value: B
This is not quite the ultimate film noir, but it certainly tries to be close. But again I feel this suffered from the defect of too many obscure ingredients to be great art. On the other hand, just as with Sin City, there’s plenty here to preach on if you were so inclined, particularly regarding idol structures and the tendency to want to make anything we’re good at into the thing of ultimate value in the world so that we will seem even more valuable on that scale.

Discussion Questions:
~Sand Saref is beautiful and seductive. What does she worship? The Octopus is smart and powerful (consider his science projects). What does he worship? If you had to preach a sermon on idolatry using this movie, how would you do it? Does The Spirit have an idol? Is this portrayed as a virtue or a defect?
~To what degree does the reality of death make our lives meaningful? Can you think of some examples of how death motivates us to do things to immortalize ourselves? How does Christianity solve this problem? How might someone who does not believe in the afterlife explain our powerful desire to be immortal?
~To what degree does enjoyment of this movie depend on a knowledge of Greek mythology and terminology?
~The movie clearly implies (much like Unbreakable did) that heroes and villains need each other and have intertwined lives. To what degree do heroes need their nemeses? What would heroes be without their villains? Does God need the Devil?
Overall Grade: C-
And that’s probably generous and derives in part from my reluctance to give anything Frank Miller does a D or worse. If you hated Sin City, you will certainly hate this. If you loved Sin City, you will still probably be disappointed by this. If you haven’t seen Sin City, well, go ahead and skip this, too. Christianity Today gave it zero stars, just so you know.

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