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Film / The Spirit

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"My city screams. She needs me. She is my love. She is my life. And I am her Spirit."

This is for the 2008 film version of The Spirit; for the comic series, see here.

The Spirit is a 2008 neo-noir superhero film, written and directed by Frank Miller and starring Gabriel Macht, Eva Mendes, Sarah Paulson, Paz Vega, Jaime King, Scarlett Johansson, and Samuel L. Jackson. The film is based on the newspaper comic The Spirit by Will Eisner.

In Central City, rookie cop Denny Colt (Gabriel Macht) returns from the dead as a private detective, known only as "The Spirit," to fight crime. After he finds his nemesis, the Octopus (Samuel L. Jackson), in a mud hole, Femme Fatale Sand Saref (Eva Mendes) uncovers two chests in the water nearby. She tries to flee with both chests, but the Octopus shoots at her, snapping the line that connects the chests together. After a fight with the Spirit, the Octopus takes the remaining chest and escapes with one of his thugs.

The Octopus wanted the mystical Blood of Heracles to become immortal and Sand wanted the Golden Fleece of the Argonauts, but both ended up with the wrong one. The Spirit must track down and stop the Octopus before he trades chests with Sand, becoming immortal.

This movie provides examples of:

  • Accidental Misnaming: When the Spirit makes his appearance at the climax, he says, "Heracles? I always thought it was pronounced Hercules!" This line hangs a lampshade on the fact that the Romanized version of the name (Hercules) has generally replaced the original Greek (Heracles) in popular culture.
  • Action Film, Quiet Drama Scene: Yes, this movie can calm down for a minute or two sometimes:
    • There is a scene where almost immediately after his resurrection, Denny Colt pays a visit to the Commissioner to explain his intention of becoming a vigilante working outside of the law. Unlike the rest of the movie, the scene is played quietly and subtly.
    • There is another scene where Ellen reminisces about the supposedly late Denny as her father listens uncomfortably.
  • Actor Allusion:
  • Adaptational Badass: The Spirit from the comics was a Badass Normal whose death was Faux Death in the form of suspended animation. The Spirit in the movie actually died and was resurrected by the Octopus's serum, which in turn gave him a Healing Factor that renders him near-unkillable.
  • Adaptation Distillation: Removed a lot of elements of the original stories.
  • Almost Kiss: Spirit and Plaster of Paris, but they're stopped by the Octopus. The kiss for real later, after she turns on Octopus.
  • Alter Kocker: Commissioner Dolan, who lampshades this trope: "I'm just an alter kocker, ya gotta gimme something to work with here." When the Spirit has to explain to Officer Morgenstern what this means, Dolan complains "Jews these days don't even know their own language."
  • Amusing Injuries:
  • Anachronism Stew: Looking at the styles of fashion, cars and such, you'd think it was the 1940s, but there's modern technology such as laptops and smartphones. This gives you such odd scenes as the Spirit, who looks like Proto-Superhero in the style of the Shadow, looking at a cellphone video, a woman dressed in the best of 40's fashion filming him in her cellphone, and a 40s-looking reporter, with fedora and all... accompanied by a cameraman with a modern camera.
  • And This Is for...:
    The Spirit: This is for Sand! [hits the Octopus] This is for me! [hits the Octopus] And this is for Muffin!!! [roundhouse kicks the Octopus into a pillar with a Nazi Eagle on top]
  • Animal Motifs: The Spirit has a cat motif; he patrols the street like a black alley cat, has a fondness for cats, has several cat imagery/appearances, and he gets enraged at The Octopus for killing a random cat called Muffin. The Octopus also has an exaggerated octopus motif.
  • Ax-Crazy: Does not even begin to describe the Octopus.
  • Badass Longcoat: The Octopus wears one. In the denouement, he's wearing a badass long fur coat.
  • Back from the Dead: The Spirit came back from the dead a few days after being injected with the concoction that gave him his Healing Factor.
  • Belly Dancer: Plaster of Paris outfit.
  • Benevolent Architecture: The Spirit feels that he was reborn as the Genius Loci of Central City, and that it aids him as he fights for it. He does find plenty of convenient structures for him to Le Parkour his way around, and snow does tend to fall on Mooks heads just when he needs a distraction...
  • Berserk Button:
    • The Octopus just loves his eggs... except for when they're thrown at his face. They never are in the film, but he considers any embarrassment or failure (as well as most attacks on his face) akin to one. And doesn't take kindly them.
    • Never hurt a cat in front of the Spirit.
  • BFG: At the film's climax both Mortgenstern and The Octopus wield huge guns.
  • Big Bad: The Octopus, The Spirit's Arch-Enemy.
  • Big Damn Kiss: Between Spirit and Sand near the end of the movie.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: At one point the Spirit looks directly at the audience and explains who Plaster of Paris is.
  • Bring My Red Jacket:
    The Spirit: Somebody get me a tie and it sure as hell better be red!
  • Broken Bird: While Sand always has a materialistic streak, the Spirit says "She was a very sweet girl but the world broke her heart." The death of her father and her bitter falling out with her childhood boyfriend (and hearing about his apparent death years later) 15 years ago left her angry, callous and sad. Now, she's a thief who tries not to kill anyone without a reason but is generally apathetic when people do get hurt.
  • The Can Kicked Him: During the swamp fight the Octopus bludgeons the Spirit with a toilet that was inexplicably in the mud with them.
    Octopus: Come on! Toilets are always funny.
  • Cargo Ship: invoked
    • The Spirit loves his Central City, he REALLY LOVES it.
      The Spirit: My city, I cannot deny her. My city screams. She is my mother. She is my lover, and I am her Spirit.
    • He's also very attached to his hat (who he repeatedly calls "Buddy") and his red tie.
  • Casual Kink: When The Spirit shows up to arrest Sand and holds up his handcuffs towards her.
    Sand: You gonna arrest me? Or do you have something else in mind?
  • Censor Steam: When Sand is standing naked in front of The Spirit, the steam from her shower obscures her nudity, only showing her Sexy Silhouette.
  • Cheek Copy: Sand prints a copy of her rear, The Spirit retrieves it, immediately knowing that it's her "perfect ass". And then he shows it to every bellboy at every swanky hotel in Central City to find where she's staying. A few complimentary comments later, it works.
  • Chick Magnet: The Spirit draws girls with ease, as pointed out by Ellen Dolan. So much so that it may as well be considered his second superpower. Hell, the personification of Death herself is a woman who has the hots for him.
  • Childhood Friend Romance: The Spirit and Sand Saref, who used to have a thing back when they were young and innocent.
  • City Noir: Central City.
  • Clingy Jealous Girl: Ellen is very jealous of The Spirit's flirtations and trysts with other women.
  • Cloning Blues: The Octopus' henchmen are all (extremely expendable) clones. So expendable in fact that, at one point, the only reason the Octopus doesn't kill some is because Silken Floss tells him "they're running out" and don't have time to make more.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: Plaster of Paris has her head in the clouds.
  • Cloudcuckoolander's Minder: Silken Floss plays this role, being more business-minded and realistic than the eccentric Octopus but going along with his schemes regardless.
  • Cluster F-Bomb: The Commissioner drops a PG-rated version when Officer Morgenstern turns up with her BFG.
    Dolan: Is every goddamn woman in this goddamn hellhole out of her goddamn mind?
    Morgenstern: No, sir, they're just equipped!
  • Cute Kitten: Sort of. The kitten is killed off right away...and the only remains are its eyes.
  • Cynicism Catalyst: As a child, Sand become disenchanted with the city's corruption following the death of her father.
  • Dating Catwoman: The Spirit with Sand Saref, his Childhood Friend turned Femme Fatale. He also has some of this with Plaster.
  • Death by Cameo: Frank Miller (playing a cop who died while helping the Spirit in the first act). Again!
  • Death by Origin Story: The Spirit himself was killed, then returned Back from the Dead thanks to a Healing Factor to become a hero.
  • Demoted to Extra: Officer Klink is a major Friend on the Force in the comics but a Spear Carrier in the film.
  • Distracted by the Sexy: When the Spirit arrives at Sand Saref's place with the intent to arrest her, he becomes obviously flustered when he sees her stepping out of the shower wearing only a towel. Made worse when his clumsy request for her to surrender causes her to drop her towel.
  • The Ditz: Ethos, Pathos, Logos, Dialos, Thermos, Huevos, Rancheros, Tacos, Matzos, Fatsos, Nervos, Dildos, etc... Thankfully, Louis Lombardi (who plays all the clones) is only credited as being "Athos, Etc." in the end titles.
  • The Dragon: Silken Floss is the Octopus' enforcer.
  • Driven to Suicide:
    • Pete, Spirit's uncle, shot himself when he accidentally killed his cop friend, Sand's father.
    • Sand also does this to Donenfeld threating to expose his
  • The End... Or Is It?: Silken Floss, along with Adios and Amigos, escapes into the fog with the Octopus's finger.
  • Evilutionary Biologist: The Octopus is trying to find the secret to immortality and godhood. He actually created the Spirit in one of his experiments when he brought a dead cop back to life. The Octopus' Mooks are also apparently artificial creations.
  • Exact Words: Sand plays with the Spirit with this when he comes to arrest her while she's wearing a Modesty Towel
    The Spirit: I'm bringing you in. Hands behind your head.
    Sand: You sure about that?
    The Spirit: Don't make me repeat myself. Hands behind your head.
    Sand: Your wish is my command. [she raises her arms and the towel slips to the floor]
  • Expendable Clone: Played for Black Comedy with the Octopus clone army of expendable henchman. Eventually he has to be told to stop bumping them off as they don't have time to clone new ones.
  • Eyes Are Unbreakable: The Octopus taunts the captive Spirit by having a fluffy white kitten melted alive in front of him. The kitten's entire body liquefies - fur, bones, everything - but its innocent blue eyes remain perfectly intact, afloat in a basin of liquid kitty.
  • The Faceless: Subverted as while The Spirit's mask doesn't necessarily completely obscure his entire face, he is never seen without it. All scenes with Denny Colt even only hides it in silhouette. Also completely averted with the Octopus, who always was Shrouded in Myth in the comics and here makes a full appearance.
  • Fair Cop: Stana Katic as Morgenstern.
  • Female Gaze: Say what you want, this movie is at least fair and balanced in its Fanservice. The very first scene is of Gabriel Macht shirtless.
  • Femme Fatale: Damn near every female character, most notably: Sand Saref, Silken Floss and Plaster of Paris.
  • Fridge Brilliance: In the scene with the Octopus' failed clones of his henchmen, one in particular should be of special interest to him, being just a head on a foot. Why? Because octopodes are cephalopods, Greek for "head-foot".
  • Friendly Enemy: Oddly enough, the Octopus shows shades of this during his first fight with the Spirit.
  • Friend on the Force: Several. He's pretty much an open secret.
  • From a Single Cell: Both the Spirit and the Octopus already have this, but the Octopus strives for Complete Immortality.
  • Funny Background Event:
    • On the Octopus' "butcher's chart" of the Spirit, there are dotted lines going around his mask and tie.
    • Morgenstern's facial expressions when the Spirit is talking to the commissioner.
  • Gold Digger: Sand Saref, ever since she was a little girl.
  • Gratuitous French: A lot of Plaster of Paris's dialogue, which frustrates the Octopus.
  • The Grim Reaper: Lorelei Rox.
  • Groin Attack: The Octopus on the Spirit. With a 9 foot lug wrench. Ow. Good thing for the Spirit that it'll heal.
  • Handsome Lech: The Spirit is portrayed as a total skirt-chaser, when he was more of a Celibate Hero in the comics. More to the point, he would appear embarrassed and chagrined by the advances of Femme Fatales.
  • Hammerspace: The Octopus' guns in the final shootout. The first six might have possibly be hidden inside his coat, but...
    The Octopus: I'm the Octopus! I've got... [pulls out two quadruple-barreled shotguns from behind his back] ...I've got eight of everything!
  • Healing Factor: The Spirit is given one of these in his Backstory, rather than just make him a Badass Normal.
  • Hurricane of Puns: The Octopus seems to have a very Mr. Freeze-esque way to talk about eggs.
  • Hypocrite: Just before the climax, Sand and the Octopus are planning on exchanging their respective MacGuffins. Sand tells her latest cohort to blow the Octopus' head off the moment the transaction is complete. But the moment she arrives, she lectures Silken Floss about how the Octopus can't be trusted and will undoubtedly betray her (despite it never having been so much as hinted that either one is unsatisfied with the other).
  • Ignore the Fanservice: The Spirit attempts this when Sand drops her towel in front of him. He is quick to turn his back and ask her to put on a robe, but he's obviously affected by her.
  • Impossibly Cool Weapon: With just a hint of BFG.
    Dolan: Is every goddamn woman in this goddamn hellhole out of her goddamn mind?
    Morgenstern: No, sir, they're just equipped!
  • Incoming Ham:
  • In Name Only: The comic book The Spirit is about a Badass Normal with no powers, who is a Celibate Hero that gets nervous around women and wears an ugly, off the rack blue and white suit. This film is about a revived dead guy with a Healing Factor, who is a Handsome Lech in a stylish, tailored, black-on-black suit. In the comics his enemy, the Octopus, is an intimidating and powerful gangster obsessed with not letting anyone see his face. In the film, he's a lower-tier scientist with ambitions of godhood who is incredibly vain and show-offy about his good looks. It's like they were trying to do the exact opposite of the comics. The irony? Will Eisner gave the rights to Michael Uslan, the producer, on the understanding that Uslan wouldn't give the project to anyone who "didn't get it". There were further ironies in the fact that Frank Miller was a big fan of Eisner, one of Eisner's friends, and showed himself to be capable of understanding the concept of the Spirit as indicated by his Daredevil work.
  • Interrupted Intimacy: Ellen and The Spirit moment in her office is interrupted by her father and Morgenstern.
  • In the Style of:
  • Karma Houdini: Sand Saref, Plaster of Paris, and Silken Floss... y'know, all the beautiful evil (if only mildly so) women.
  • Kick the Dog: The Octopus, in a scene oddly reminiscent of the scene with the shoe in Who Framed Roger Rabbit.
  • Kind Hearted Cat Lover: The Spirit has a crapton of cats at his home.
  • Kiss of Death: Quite literally. The Spirit actually being dead for hours is symbolized by him and Lorelei Rox having a long, passionate kiss.
  • Large Ham:
  • Leave Behind a Pistol: Sand Serif does this to Donenfeld after he betrays her, threatening to expose his pedophilia unless he kills himself.
  • Le Parkour: The Spirit does this in Central City.
  • The Lost Lenore: Denny Colt to the likes of Ellen and Sand.
  • Love Dodecahedron: The Spirit is in one of these with Ellen Dolan and Sand Saref, and every other woman in the movie (except maybe Morgenstern). And death incarnate. And the city. Let's re-emphasize: the Angel of Death is in love with the Spirit!
  • MacGuffin: The items in both chests, the Blood of Heracles and the Golden Fleece.
  • Mad Scientist AND Mad Doctor: The Octopus
  • Magical Realism
  • Male Gaze: The film shamelessly indulges in this, although, given that the director is Frank Miller, this isn't particularly surprising. Eva Mendes gets the most of it with a full nude shot from the rear when Danny catches Saref in nothing but a towel.
  • Man of the City: The Spirit. He starts off the movie by monologuing how he only lives to protect the city. She is all he needs to survive, and all he wants. He lives for the city. He will die for the city, and nothing else. His attitude is an unholy amalgamation of this trope, Cargo Ship, and Married to the Job.
  • Married to the Job: Pretty much everyone, as Ellen points out to the Commissioner. The Spirit even monologues as if he were married to the city.
  • Meaningful Name: The Spirit receives vivid hallucinations about a female personification of Death aptly named Lorelei Rox after the dangerous Lorelei Rock which became associated with legends of Sirens.
  • Memento MacGuffin: The locket given to Sand Saref by The Spirit when they were children.
  • Men Are the Expendable Gender: If you are a female character, it doesn't matter whether you are good or bad - you'll survive the film (and get away scot free if evil). Male side characters, on the other hand, are totally fair game.
  • Men of Sherwood: The local cops help the Spirit with his investigations, and some are willing to give him rides. While a few of them are easily killed or injured when the villains catch them alone. The climax has Chief Dolan, Officer Morganstern, and dozens of uncredited cops come in guns blazing, kill most of the Octopus's men and wound the Octopus himself. They take no apparent casualties in the process despite the number of bullets being fired their way.
  • Modesty Towel: When The Spirit first finds Sand he catches her stepping out of the shower wearing only a towel. When he asks her to surrender and put her hands behind her head, she coyly complies, dropping the towel in the process.
  • Money Fetish: Sand Saref, an ultra materialistic Femme Fatale with a taste for the prettiest and most expensive things around. (and has been this way since her origin story!), even to the point of going after the Golden Fleece.
  • Mr. Fanservice: In a movie chock-full of Ms. Fanservices, Gabriel Macht does a pretty damn good job at compensating alone for the other side.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Most of the female characters would qualify. It's a Frank Miller film. Notably:
  • Naked First Impression: The first time The Spirit and Sand Saref meet as adults quickly turns into this when she drops her towel in front of him.
  • New Powers as the Plot Demands: The Spirit's brand new super healing powers, not present in the comics.
  • Pimp Duds: The Octopus's last outfit.
  • Please Put Some Clothes On: The Spirit busts in on Sand Seraf after she just got out of the shower and tells her to put her hands up. She calmly agrees, and since she was holding up her Modesty Towel, it falls. Embarrassed, he turns around and says "Okay, put on a robe or something, but no tricks!"
  • Public Domain Artifact: The Golden Fleece.
  • Pulling Themselves Together: This is how The Octopus and The Spirit are revealed to be practically immortal.
  • Punch-Clock Villain: Silken Floss claims she isn't evil, she's just there to pay for college...
  • Purely Aesthetic Era: The film looks very noir. If it weren't for the cell phones and laptops, you could easily mistake it for taking place somewhere in the first half or the middle of the 20th century.
  • Putting on the Reich: The Octopus and Floss, during the Spirit's interrogation. Why? Because Frank Miller, that's why.
  • Psychopathic Manchild: The Octopus has DEFINITE shades of this. See the death of Muffin for a perfect example.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: The Commissioner, who delivers a What the Hell, Hero? at the Spirit after the Octopus kills two of his cops, but gives him one last chance.
  • Red Shirt Army: The Octopus' cloned henchmen.
  • Rise from Your Grave: The Spirit does this one in a Flashback showing his origin.
  • Running Gag:
    • The Octopus and Silken Floss wear different (and ridiculous) costumes every time we see them, most memorably the previously mentioned...uh, military wear.
    • And the Octopus's apparent egg fetish...
    • The Spirit would like to remind you that he's "NOT ON DRUGS!!"
  • Satchel Switcheroo: Played straight with the two chests. When the Octopus and Sand each scramble to get a chest during the first fight, the Octopus ends up with the golden armor that Sand wants and she gets the immortality source that he wants.
  • Scary Black Man: The Octopus. Because he's ''BAD!!!'
  • Scenery Porn: There are some gorgeous shots of the snowy urban landscapes in the first couple of minutes of the film, as the Spirit waxes on about being a Man of the City.
  • Screw the Rules, I Have Supernatural Powers!: What the Octopus plans on doing once he gets his MacGuffin.
    The Octopus: When my buddies here find Sand Saref, I won't need profits, I'll have the blood. Then, if I want something, I'll just take it! That's what gods do!
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here: Floss flees in a van as the final standoff between her boss and the Spirit gets more tense and dangerous.
  • Secret-Keeper: A flashback reveals that not long after he crawled out of his own grave, Denny Colt paid Commissioner Dolan a visit to explain his plans to become The Spirit. Dolan is clearly saddened to not be able to tell his daughter about this as she wistfully remembers Denny, who she still believes to be dead.
  • Self-Parody: Frank Miller claims this was his intention.
    • The Spirit pounding The Octopus into the mud does bring to mind Junior and the Mutant Leader., and The Octopus' Feudal Japan decor sewer base does bring to mind Miller's Ronin and Daredevil (the latter having inspired another parody).
  • Sexy Silhouette: When Sand is naked in front of the Spirit we get a full frontal shot of her but the steam from her recent shower covers her nudity.
  • Shameless Fanservice Girl: When Spirit tells a towel-clad Sand to put her hands behind her head, she coyly does so, causing her towel to slip off her body. She stands there flaunting her nudity to the flustered Spirit, who is quick to turn and ask her to Please Put Some Clothes On.
  • Sharp-Dressed Man: Both the Octopus and the Spirit pay attention to their wardrobes.
  • Shoulders-Up Nudity: Sand when she raises her arms to surrender to The Spirit, causing her Modesty Towel to fall to the floor.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Iger Street, Old Man Kurtzberg, Ditko Delivery — all names of comic book artists. An Eisner drawing of the Spirit is shown as well.
    • According to the movie credits, the "butcher's chart" of the Spirit was drawn by Geoff Darrow.
    • Denny rises from his grave in a manner similar to The Bride.
    • The Spirit at one point finds himself tied to a dentist's chair by the Octopus and Silken Floss, who are dressed as Nazis. It's probably NOT safe.
    • When the Spirit is hanging from a sculpture and is in danger of falling, one of the observers says "You'll believe a man can't fly."
  • Sliding Scale of Silliness vs. Seriousness: Starts pretty serious, but then it rapidly becomes silly.
  • Small Girl, Big Gun: While Morgenstern looks like an ordinary rookie cop at first, later she pulls out a massive Hand Cannon of a gun.
    Commissioner Dolan: Is every goddamn woman in this goddamn hellhole out of her goddamn mind?
    Morgenstern: No, sir. We're just equipped.
  • Spam Attack:
    The Octopus: There's shot to hell, there's shot to hell, and there's just plain ridiculous...
  • Something Only They Would Say: The Spirit figures out that Sand is after the Golden Fleece based on her Money Fetish and fascination with The Argonauts from when they were teens. Sand is distressed because literally the only person in the world who would know this is Denny Colt, who is supposed to be dead.
  • Surrounded by Idiots: The Octopus can clone expendable henchmen, but can't make them smart. He tried to make a smart clone once. But the results were just... plain damn weird.
  • Theme Naming: The Octopus' henchmen's names, Ethos, Pathos, Logos, etc. Towards the end, it starts getting weird (the last two are Adios and Amigos). Particularly more obvious when Huevos was standing next to Rancheros.
  • There Is No Kill Like Overkill: Because the Octopus and the Spirit are practically immortal thanks to their Healing Factor, they have to unload a lot on each other. In the end, the Spirit has to spread the Octopus all over the alley with a grenade to stop him, and even then, it's implied that he'll be regenerated from the finger that Silken Floss recovered.
  • This Is Gonna Suck: The Spirit wakes up Strapped to an Operating Table.
    The Spirit: [sniffs] What smells dental? [Beat, as he looks around to see Nazi decorations] Dental and Nazis, great.
  • Toilet Humor: The Octopus knows that toilets are always funny. So he picks one up and smacks the Spirit with it.
  • Toplessness from the Back: Sand is shown naked from the back before she steps behind her dressing screen after The Spirit tells her to Please Put Some Clothes On.
  • Twinkle Smile: And wash your teeth...
  • Used to Be a Sweet Kid: Sand Saref was wide-eyed, playful, and caring before her father's death changed her into a Broken Bird.
  • Victoria's Secret Compartment: Silken Floss at the end puts the Octopus' finger there.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Detective Sussman is last mentioned as being in the hospital fighting for his continued mobility after being shot through the spine and lung during the first action scene and his final recovery status is unclear
  • Who Wants to Live Forever?: The Spirit hopes that he can die... someday...
  • Worf Had the Flu: The Spirit has a fairly inconsistent Healing Factor (exactly what the extent of the injuries he can handle before falling into a temporary near-dead state is unclear) that is Hand Waved by the Octopus expositing to the audience that his serum, which gave both of them the power, is unstable.