Out of morbid curiosity, I watched Frank Miller's The Spirit last night. I knew from reading Mike Sterling's past comments on it to expect to place the emphasis on Frank Miller, and not The Spirit. Even so, I would say the number of times I uttered some variation on "What the fuck is -" topped 20. Like, "Why the fuck does Death want to make out with Denny Colt?", or "What the fuck is the deal with the Octopus and eggs?"
The answer, I guess, is "Because Frank Miller", but that maybe doesn't explain as much to me as it would to someone else. Parts of it seemed very much like a Frank Miller story, the look of the film with all the deep shadows, and things being mostly grey or white so what color there is really stands out. The Spirit talking about the city as a living thing (a female living thing, naturally), that provides for him and is his one constant.
But the tone of the film didn't seem to match the look. The film's look reminds me of Sin City, which for as hyper-violent as it could be, was trying to be sort of gritty and ugly. But the violence in The Spirit is almost cartoonish. The first fight between Spirit and Octopus, in the swamp, when Sam Jackson smashes our hero over the hero with a toilet he pulled out of the bog. The Spirit sort of sighs and rolls his eyes, and the Octopus screams, "Toilets are always funny!" Then the Spirit throws a double, cast iron sink at the guy and hits him square in the face. The way the two of them deal out all this punishment to each other, but just bounce back up. I know there's an in-story reason for that, but it feels like Looney Tunes, or like it would have fit better in a film that looked like The Mask.
I don't have any particular affection for the Spirit, so I'm not going to complain it was a travesty what was done to the character. The movie didn't really jibe with the hazy picture I have of the character (which is almost entirely formed from that Rocketeer/Spirit mini-series, and the covers of that ongoing Darwyn Cooke did for awhile a few years ago), but it's more the film didn't match itself. It looks like and the Spirit narrates it like, it's this deeply serious thing. But it's almost comically absurd. The incredibly wealthy fence who has a copier in his office for no other apparent reason than so Eve Mendes can photocopy her butt (for no apparent reason). The Octopus dressing up like a Nazi for his big "villain explains everything speech" (which still involves digressions on eggs and melting a kitten). Maybe that was the point, the ridiculousness of these characters in that world, but I might be giving too much credit. I thought to myself more than once that I hoped everyone involved was getting well-compensated to be in this mess. Or at least were having fun with it.
At least I can say I've experienced it now, for what that's worth.