Usually, my Thursday Cinema consists of period movies, and I sit here with my little blog and point out all of the historical inaccuracies. Today, I’m not going to do that. Instead, I want to spotlight a film that has its roots in the golden age of comic books, and was transformed for the silver screen in today’s modern age, The Spirit.
Created by comic book legend Will Eisner, The Spirit began in 1940 and lasted through 1952, but has been republished as well as reinterpreted, after Eisner’s death, and new issues are available today. The storylines of The Spirit were often comical – as was the comic book tradition then – but also had some “hard-boiled” noir aspects as well. In 2008, graphic novel writer and director, Frank Miller brought The Spirit to the big screen. This interpretation would be greeted by a rather dismal reception. Many, not knowing the roots of The Spirit, expected to see another Sin City. The Spirit was however quite the opposite, it was filled with humorous tongue-in-cheek quips and very comic book moments, including having the Octopus’s henchmen’s names printed on their shirts.
That all aside, The Spirit is very interesting in terms of its art direction and production design. One moment it looks as if it could take place in 1949, men wear broad brimmed fedoras and women wear seamed stockings, but the next moment a modern TV camera is used, and a cop is whipping out a cell phone. Cops still wear their caps, and drive old Buicks, but the SWAT team is all up-to-date with modern helicopters and technologies. In the special features for the film, they said that despite the style of The Spirit, it is always modern and the technology keeps with the times. Additionally, in pickings props, they said they flipped through books and picked what looked the coolest.
If you want my opinion the film itself, I loved every moment of it. I laughed so hard I cried. I saw it with my dad and there were times where he and I were the only ones laughing. I grew up on the old 1960s Batman staring Adam West – hell, I was obessed at 16 months old, but that’s a whole other story. The point is, he and I got what the film was doing, the campy jokes and slapstick moments were deliberate, because that is simply how comic books were back then. And I will shamlessly admit that I saw it three times. The second time was with a few friends who also had watched West’s Batman, and got the slapstick. So, if you dig style, and 1960s Batman humor, you should love The Spirit.