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Film / The Spirit

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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 returns from the dead as a private detective, known only as "The Spirit," to fight crime. After he finds his nemesis, the Octopus, in a mud hole, Femme Fatale Sand Saref uncovers two chests in 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 appereance 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:
  • Adaptation Distillation: Removed a lot of elements of the original stories.
  • 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... accompained 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 Muffins!!! [roundhouse kicks the Octopus into a pillar with a Nazi Eagle on top]
  • Ax-Crazy: Does not even begin to describe the Octopus.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: At one point the Spirit looks directly at the audience and explains who Plaster of Paris is.
  • 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.
  • Cheek Copy: The Spirit's preferred method of locating Sand. And 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.
  • City Noir: Central City.
  • 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.
  • Death by Cameo: Frank Miller. 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.
  • 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.
  • The End... Or Is It?: Silken Floss, along with Adios and Amigos, escapes into the fog with the Octopus's finger.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Hammer Space: 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-barrelled 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).
  • 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; and 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 showoffy 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.
  • 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:
  • Love Triangle: 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
  • 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.
  • Married to the Job: Pretty much everyone, as Ellen points out to the Commissioner. The Spirit even monologues as if he was 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.
  • Meganekko: "Silken Floss is the most beautiful woman in the world. And she will remain so as long as she never takes those fucking things off."
  • 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.
  • 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: Scarlett Johansson, Eva Mendes, Paz Vega and Jaime King (and, why not, Sarah Paulson). It's a Frank Miller film. You work it out.
  • New Powers as the Plot Demands: The Spirit's brand new super healing powers, not present in the comics.
  • Not So Different: No matter how much they fight, The Spirit's origin story is inextricably liked to The Octopus's experiments.
    The Spirit: [to the Octopus] Why do you KEEP saying that?!
  • Pimp Duds: The Octopus's last outfit.
  • Public Domain Artifact: The Golden Fleece.
  • 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.
  • Scary Black Man: The Octopus. Because he's BAD!!!
  • 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!
  • 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.
  • Sharp-Dressed Man: Both the Octopus and the Spirit.
  • 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.
  • Sliding Scale of Silliness vs. Seriousness: Starts pretty serious, but then it rapidly becomes silly.
  • Spam Attack:
    The Octopus: There's shot to hell, there's shot to hell, and there's just plain ridiculous...
  • 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.
  • Twinkle Smile: And wash your teeth...
  • Victoria's Secret Compartment: Silken Floss at the end puts the Octopus' finger there.
  • Who Wants to Live Forever?: The Spirit hopes that he can die... someday...