Scenes begin seemingly at random and end abruptly. Actors plays characters at full bore. Dialogue has the crude energy of '30s Hollywood melodramas but rarely any wit or engaging subtext. All emotions are forced, and relationships get explored half-heartedly.
Gabriel Macht is sturdy but dull as the restless Spirit. Samuel L. Jackson chews the graphic scenery as Octopus, while Scarlett Johansson seems to get lost in that same scenery as his weirdly docile sidekick Silken Floss. Eva Mendes plays jewel thief Sand Saref as one-note temptress, while Paz Vega as a French assassin and Jaime King as an underwater nymph go for the same effect. How many vamps can a movie contain?
...One thing about "The Spirit" is that it's never dull. Then again, the same can be said of Chinese water torture.
Unadulterated Miller is like comic-book David Mamet, ripping the competition for fanboy fealty. "You'll believe a man can't fly" and somebody's as "dead as 'Star Trek.'"
Shot on that "Sin City"/"300" computer-generated set, it's not a place for an expansive story or subtle acting. But everybody looks gorgeous in this dark, funny cartoon of an action movie.
Which is to say, this is colorful. This is wild and kind of funny. This is adventurous, even. But don't try this again.
Minnespolis Star Tribune:
I suppose "The Spirit" could be worse, though it stretches the imagination to say just how. It's not easy to make a thriller that's both incredibly convoluted and intensely boring, laboriously narrated yet befuddled, but Miller — creator and co-director of "Sin City" — triumphs on all these counts.
If we lived in a reality where the dead could rise from the grave to enact vengeance against sins unforgivable, golden-age comic scribe Will Eisner would have good reason to revisit Frank Miller.
...The noir sensibility that Eisner invented is mutilated into graphic novel pornography, producing a film that will rest in peace as a cult failure that's as laughable in its misexecution as it's tragic in its failed potential.
"The Spirit" is not a typical movie, and thank goodness. It would have been an insult to Eisner to have created a standard big-budget action film. Under Miller's guidance the result is a loyal and loving tribute.