Blu-Ray Review: ‘The Spirit’ Deserves Another Chance at Life in HD

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HollywoodChicago.com Blu-Ray Rating: 3.5/5.0
Blu-Ray Rating: 3.5/5.0

CHICAGO – Frank Miller’s “The Spirit” is far-from-perfect. The attempts at goofy humor fall flat, the script is wildly uneven, and Gabriel Macht is deadly dull in the title role, but there’s way more to like here than I expected after missing it in theaters and hearing all the horrendous buzz from its initial release. It may not be great, but “The Spirit” could surprise you too. It’s a mess, but it’s kind of a beautiful mess, especially in HD.

What do I like about Frank Miller’s take on the classic Will Eisner comic? It’s unapologetic. I always appreciate filmmakers willing to stick to their creative vision and there’s no denying that aspect of “The Spirit”. Miller is a visually intriguing director and “The Spirit” is just fun to watch in 1080P and with the incredibly low expectations I had going into it.

The Spirit was released on Blu-Ray on April 14th, 2009.
The Spirit was released on Blu-Ray on April 14th, 2009.
Photo credit: Lionsgate

The plot of “The Spirit” is easily the weakest element of the film and probably what turned most people off in theaters. Somehow, in HD, it’s not as important. For the record, The Spirit (Gabriel Macht) is a former cop returned from the dead to defend his city against the likes of the evil The Octopus (Samuel L. Jackson). That’s really all you need to know.

The Spirit was released on Blu-Ray on April 14th, 2009.
The Spirit was released on Blu-Ray on April 14th, 2009.
Photo credit: Lionsgate

It’s all just an excuse for Miller to use as striking imagery as possible. Shot like “Sin City,” in mostly black and white with splashes of color, “The Spirit” is a visual feast. Miller loves action and sex, two things hard to translate to a PG-13 movie, but he has fun with the violence, making it more comic-strip-esque than the graphic novel look of “Sin City” and he cast several gorgeous actresses including Paz Vega, Stana Katic, Scarlett Johansson, Sarah Paulson, Jaime King, and a movie-stealing Eva Mendes for the sex part.

The second half of “The Spirit” is too dull, as if Miller is more interested in the set-up than the followthrough, something that makes sense if you think about his emphasis on mood and atmosphere over concrete elements like plot. And I can’t get over the lack of charisma displayed by Macht. Luckily, the incredibly well-cast females around him make up for a lot of his shortcomings.

My surprisingly positive reaction to “The Spirit” could be at least in part due to the amazing video transfer delivered for the film on Blu-Ray. It looks absolutely breathtaking. This is arguably the best HD picture of the year to date and one of the titles that could be used to sell people on the HD revolution. The audio mix is good but not as notable as the oh-so-pretty picture.

The Spirit was released on Blu-Ray on April 14th, 2009.
The Spirit was released on Blu-Ray on April 14th, 2009.
Photo credit: Lionsgate

Special features include featurettes titled “Green World,” “Miller on Miller,” and “History Repeats”. They are all interesting and longer than your average EPK featuree, but the most interesting extras will be the alternate storyboard ending with voiceover by Gabriel Macht and Samuel L. Jackson and an audio commentary by Miller and producer Deborah Del Prete. The Blu-Ray release also includes a digital copy and BD-Live functionality, including Lionsgate’s MoLog function, an interactive application that allows users to insert and animate shapes, text, audio, and other graphics right into the film.

Ultimately, I respect “The Spirit” for being so committed to Miller and Eisner’s vision. There’s nothing half-assed about this production. Could and should it have been better? Of course. But it gets major points from me (and I think it will from a lot of other viewers) for not conforming to looking like anything else released last year. I think audiences will catch up with “The Spirit” on Blu-Ray and be shocked at the negative reaction when it was in theaters.

‘The Spirit’ is released by Lionsgate Home Entertainment and stars Gabriel Macht, Samuel L. Jackson, Eva Mendes, Sarah Paulson, Dan Lauria, Paz Vega, and Scarlett Johansson. It was written for the screen and directed by Frank Miller. It was released on April 14th, 2009. It is rated PG-13.

HollywoodChicago.com content director Brian Tallerico

By BRIAN TALLERICO
Content Director
HollywoodChicago.com
brian@hollywoodchicago.com

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