Kenneth Hite (princeofcairo) wrote,
Kenneth Hite

This Is Not A Funny Story!

Y'know, I'm beginning to suspect that there's a pattern behind all this.

Tim Burton's Penguin is a wannabe gothic theatrical impresario with torturous daddy issues.

Bryan Singer's Magneto is an artistic genius with (perhaps justified) persecution paranoia, who continually tries to build something lasting out of discards.

Brad Bird's Syndrome is a self-made genius who desperately wants to be accepted as an equal by his iconic peers.

Marvel Studios' Obadiah Stane is a malevolent corporate pirate who steals intellectual property with abandon.

Frank Miller's The Octopus is a power-worshipping psycho who turns Denny Colt into a monstrous revenant freak.

The interesting thing is how much of Miller's movie still worked, despite all the gratuitous damage and misunderstanding. Filming virtually the entire movie with no blue in the palette (except for the Lorelei Rox scenes -- a reinvention by Miller that I actually kind of approved of) makes no kind of sense, especially given that the Spirit wears a blue suit. But it works. (The other place they put blue? Gabriel Macht's eyes, which look brown in the publicity photos. The color-enhanced Macht, by the way, is a terrific visual match for the Spirit. It's like they sent an Eisner sketch to casting directors.) Miller's cityscape isn't Eisner's at all, but (again) it still works. Even giving the Spirit a sort of quasi-parkour (more Daredevil, really) doesn't jar too terribly badly. And some of it, Miller still gets right -- the fight scene at the beginning, while honkingly wrong for the film, is true to Eisner's original cartoonish fight choreography. The "Wildwood Cemetery" establishing shot is something that we could count on Miller not getting wrong, although (like the fight) it's misplaced in the film itself. Blending P'Gell and Sand Saref into one character is understandable, though only barely forgivable.

As an Eva Mendes delivery system, though -- top notch. A+. I feel like someone complaining the syringe they're shooting up with is the wrong color.

But it is the wrong color, and it's not just the absence of blue. Dolan is wrong (too confrontational). Ellen is wrong (too spineless). The Octopus is wrong, wrong, wrong (too flamboyant, wrong m.o., actually visible), and I could have lived the rest of my life happy without seeing Samuel L. Jackson in blackface. (Silken Floss, surprisingly, is pretty much right, although Scarlett Johansson apparently read her part off the storyboards in looping.) Sand Saref, as discussed above, is half-right for Sand, half-right for P'Gell. Officer Morgenstern is just horribly, horribly, horribly wrong, even though she doesn't appear (to my knowledge) in the original comic.

The fantasy is the wrong kind of fantasy; the violence (mostly) the wrong kind of violence. The jokes mostly don't work and almost always suffer from rotten framing, timing, and presentation. And the whole conceit is wrong. I'm sick of movies about ironically questioning the thing the movie's about. If you're going to pose a movie as an ironic commentary on comic-book conventions, don't film it in comic-book storyboards, don't have first-person narration (which Eisner's Spirit didn't, of course -- that's all Sin City), don't give your hero superpowers he doesn't have in the original material, absolutely don't have Samuel L. Jackson mugging for the cameras pulling cartoon guns out of his hat like the Judge in Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, and don't be vastly flatter and less human than the seven-page comic insert you're indicting for its alleged two-dimensionality. If you're going to ironically question the Spirit, do it like Eisner did in his own comic, with that beautiful old New York Jewish sense of the ridiculous. I am a bigger Frank Miller fan than most people these days, but he has no sense of the ridiculous.
Tags: comics, film talk
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