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Trailer Probe : The Spirit
© Joe Crowe
April 19, 2008

Movies of geekity interest should be only two minutes long. This is because trailers are so good. They make us laugh. They make us cry. They work so hard to make us happy.

Trailer Probe rates the geek explosion content, a measure of how much it combusts our cortex with a volley of geekitude. In every case, we do not know how good the movie is.

Dork disengagement level is reasons you won't like it, for those who haven't a moment to waste on a trailer they may not freak out about.

The Spirit

Reason to watch: You like Will Eisner's Spirit comics. You thought Sin City was pretty good. You like some things Frank Miller does. In other words, you know your stuff.

Also, you like red ties.

The monologue is dramatically good. The action is just The Spirit running, but it's a fun run that captures the character. The music is Pulp Fiction style instrumental, and it establishes nicely what the tone of the movie should be: noirish yet upbeat.

The stuff in the movie looks neat. That is what we want.

Dork disengagement level: Maybe you did not care for Sin City. This looks just like it because, well, it is.

The Spirit is a crime-busting detective, and I don't know that the trailer explained any of that. The character is new to some folks, so this trailer has to sell it, and if the Sin City and Pulp Fiction didn't do it, they have nothing else for you.

It also might give you Dick Tracy movie flashbacks.

The Spirit really looks more like The Shadow here. The black suit is cool. But it ain't blue. This could be a no-skull-shirt Punisher style party foul.

Geek explosion level: 700,000 geek parts per million.

Trailer Probe panel comments: I think that preview would have been pretty awesome without the voiceover. The voiceover simply sounds like Frank Miller being Frank Miller the Bad-Ass Who Is Unaware He Is Simply Frank Miller. -- RevSF staff writer Andrew Kozma

I'm a little worried, myself. Third-rate Micky Spillane voice-over narration works great for Sin City, where such comic books are rare and wondrous when they come out.

But this is a movie, and translating that voiceover dialogue into the real world sounds pained and hackneyed. I always thought that a gentler, more omniscient voice (seriously, Morgan Freeman or something) worked best for those thought provoking Spirit stories. Obviously, this movie can't be about jet packs, or random thugs who have ten minutes to live and only bump into the Spirit for a few seconds, or any of the other gems from Eisner's body of work. It's going to be the origin story, closer to the early strips, and it'll need to introduce that character to a wider audience.

Here's what scares me, though: has anyone been reading that turd of a Batman book he's been writing? It's an embarrassment. I can't believe anyone is letting that go by unchecked. It's from this current phase of his career that we're getting The Spirit Movie. Will it be visually arresting? Yeah, sure, of course. These days, that's a given. Enough road has been paved that other people can tread upon superhero soil and get by. I'm scared to death that he's going to screw up one of the best-loved creators' best-loved creations. And there's a real good chance he'll do it, too.

I'm worried. -- Mark Finn

Since I thought the Sin City movie was all style and zero substance, I'm firmly with Finn on this one. It doesn't help that Miller hasn't produced anything worthwhile in over a decade. The voice over sounded inane and forced. As Finn said, things that may sound/look cool in a comic don't always work on the big screen. There is nothing that makes me believe this movie will be any better than the 1987 TV adaptation. -- Rick Klaw

Mark, my response to that would be to ask what you expected the movie to be? Despite the cinematic touches of the comic strip, I don't personally feel the property is really suited for cinema in the 2000s, or ever, for that matter. It's wrapped in 40s nostalgia, so translating it to something that might be accessible to audiences 60 years later requires a fairly large amount of reinvention. Eisner's own scripts were heavy on imagery and light on plot, with the Spirit often being reduced to a supporting character in some of the stories, so outside of making a silly romp with the villains, I'm not sure where else a creator might go with this property.

Sure, they could have taken a few of Eisner's stories, put the actor in a bright blue suit and mask and played the nostalgia angle making it truthful to the comic strip, but the movie would have bombed just like every other attempt to make the past look hip.

By the same token, I don't disagree with you at all regardling Miller's shortcomings. His film work has been second rate for the most part, and Sin City worked (for me, at least) because of Rodriguez, Tarantino and having other more experienced directors there to make the decisions. Left alone, Miller tends to amp up characterization and follow story tangents for too long, often at the expense of his overall plot, so I'm not even sure that he's up to the task of making a movie on his own.

My prediction is that, like Dick Tracy, another movie struggling to find a cinematic direction for a dated comics hero, that the movie will be heavy on visuals, light on plot and that most of the characters will be overdrawn. I think it will still be worth a watch, even if it's just to consider it an interesting experiment. -- Jay Willson

What I REALLY wish is that they wouldn't make the movie at all. It's not like Eisner's family needs the money. No one is burning a hole to make this movie. The time to have made it would have been the late 80s / early 90s. You're right. This will be Dick Tracy in a domino-mask. And no one will give a shit. At least people know who the Green Hornet is. I think what would have worked was an animated movie, square-jaw style. Darwyn Cooke certainly did a credible job on updating the character. He even managed to make Ebony non-offensive. I have no such confidence in Frank Miller. -- Mark Finn

Despite my attempts at putting a positive spin on it, I don't fault your logic at all. It's a comic book property that might have been better served at just staying in a comic book. It's all about Eisner's vision anyway, and Eisner's vision was a drawn comic book, not a movie.

This all reminds me of listening to James Robinson talk about how faithful he was trying to be to Alan Moore's League of Extraordinary Gentlemen during his writing of the screenplay for the movie. I left the session feeling as though the property would be well served by a writer that I really respected. Then I saw the movie.

In respect to your points, Miller's intended "faithfulness" to Will Eisner could very well end up placing the Spirit movie in the very same pile of movie crap. I love the character too much not to see it, however. I'm just too damn curious. -- Jay Willson

I like the CGI tie. I think that may be the first one in movie history. -- RevSF comics editor Jay Willson

RevolutionSF senior editor Joe Crowe wishes he owned a tie.

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