Here's my bad joke for the day: Frank Miller may have won acclaim for writing "The Dark Knight Returns" graphic novel but his directorial debut is certainly no "Dark Knight." Honestly, "The Spirit" is not only the worst superhero movie I've seen this decade (and I've seen "Ghost Rider", both Incredible Hulk movies, "Hancock", "Catwoman," and "The Punisher") it's the worst superhero movie since "Batman & Robin" destroyed that once-proud franchise. That movie featured the same hammy acting and cartoon sound effects, not to mention the over-the-top scene chewing by Samuel L. Jackson is easily on par with Ah-nold's turn as Mr. Freeze and Uma Thurman's as Poison Ivy. (Since they have so much in common does that mean Gabriel Macht will go on to super stardom like George Clooney did? Probably not.)
If you really want to know the nonsensical plot, in Central City USA there is a hero named "The Spirit." He's a former cop who somehow rose from the dead (how this happened is told later, though really it's similar in a way to "Robocop" which ironically Miller wrote the terrible sequel to) and now has the regenerative powers of Wolverine or The Crow and apparently augmented strength as well. Central City is plagued by a drug trafficker called "The Octopus" (Samuel L. Jackson, though from the Wikipedia page I guess The Octopus's face was never shown in the comics, which I imagine really pissed off the purists) who also has regenerative powers and augmented strength. In a fight as pointless as Jack Sparrow and the captain of the Black Pearl in the first "Pirates of the Caribbean" movie they whale on each other for a couple of minutes until they get tired--and we get bored. The Octopus is after a vase with a precious artifact that will supposedly make him a god--or close enough. The only hitch is that his dumbass henchmen (clones who all reminded me of that security guy on the "Jerry Springer Show" and have clever names like Pathos, Adios, and Amigos) steal the wrong case and end up with a treasure wanted by gold-digging treasure hunter (or whatever, I never really figured out how the hell she made her money) Sand Serif (Eva Mendes, who was also in "Ghost Rider" so if you see her name in the credits of a superhero movie just run from the theater). (As another stupid aside, do you suppose when he needed a name, series creator Will Eisner looked at his typewriter and thought, "Smith Corona is too obvious; how about San Serif--no, Sand Serif!" Probably not.)
Anyway, it turns out Sand Serif and the Spirit used to be childhood friends until she left town so she could make money for some bling. This is how he knows her ass so well that he can use a photocopy of it to track her down. (No, that is not a joke.) Eventually the Spirit has to somehow thwart the Octopus without implicating his former girlfriend. And in the process he makes out with every woman he comes across, easily winning the title as Horniest Superhero Ever.
Honestly this movie is a mess. The biggest problem I thought was the tone. It starts off serious with the noir-ish voiceover about the Spirit's connection to the city, but once the Octopus comes onto the screen it all degenerates into camp. Then it tries to establish some kind of emotional conflict with the relationship between the Spirit and Sand Serif. At the end I'm never sure if I'm supposed to take the movie seriously or view it as a 90-minute joke. The standouts in the genre like "The Dark Knight," "Spider-Man 2", or "Watchmen" maintain a consistency throughout. Even if they have humor like "Iron Man" it's never to the point of ridicule.
The movie uses the same green screen technique as "Sin City" (which Miller co-directed and was adapted from his graphic novel) but it never does much except add to the overall corniness like when the background turns to a rising sun like on the old Japanese flag when the Octopus uses a samurai sword on some of his henchmen. In "Sin City" the point of the technique was to help create a noir-ish atmosphere, but since this film doesn't capture that same atmosphere it's pretty useless.
Even the final confrontation between the Spirit and the Octopus disappoints. This is because having made both hero and villain pretty much invincible there's little point in having a big slugfest because there's no drama to it.
Honestly, I knew this movie was bad before I rented it but I didn't realize it would be THIS bad.
That is all.
My score: 0 stars
Metacritic score: 30