There is nothing European about this. For the first three paragraphs.

*Oh yes: review of Frank Miller's The Spirit.

Personally, I thought it was way better than the Watchmen adaptation and more interesting than the Sin City or 300 movies, which I know isn't saying a lot, and actually doesn't make the Spirit a good picture or anything, but it's the best of a generally bad bunch by my estimate. In case you hadn't noticed, it also made the least money by far and lots of people really hated it, especially mainline film critics.

In retrospect, I don't think that's very surprising. The Spirit, for its flaws, is maybe the most successful translation of a comics artist's style to the screen, but it's absolutely Miller's contemporary, post-The Dark Knight Strikes Again style, with all due bob & swing between the operatic and the parodic; that stuff gets divisive easily, and Miller-the-director no doubt compounded matters by executing the whole thing in a willfully artificial manner that favors, say, shadowplay of characters vigorously pantomiming fights over anything resembling the slam-bang summer blockbuster visual formula that's powered the success of so many superhero pictures. It's an alien-feeling thing, even compared to the Sin City adaptation, which for its stylization lacked almost any sense of play.

Lots of curious, auteur-ish touches too, as if Miller senses he probably won't get to do any of this ever again, so he's gonna pack it all in. Several plain ol' bad choices too, and a few glaring limitations - the acting in this thing is all over the place, even by digital backlot standards, with performances ranging from the tics-turned-to-11 of Samuel L. Jackson to the faintly lost somnambulance of Scarlett Johansson to a profoundly bizarre turn by one Stana Katic as a rookie cop that seems blinked in from a parallel dimension's silver screen adaptation of Chantal Montellier's 1996:

I think Miller's lack of control does hurt it in the end. He actually has a few clever (if rather eccentric) spins on Will Eisner's original going on, chief among them the notion that the Spirit has such purity of purpose that he genuinely hurts people who love him, emotionally, and that kind of pain just doesn't register with him. He's truly amoral in that way, particularly with women, all of whom he falls in love with and none of which he'll ever devote himself to, save for his city, his mother, lover, etc.

The problem is, Miller doesn't keep his tone level enough to sell the sort of whisper of adult melancholy over happy costumed adventuring he seems to be shooting for - if anything, the movie comes off as a celebration of the Spirit's rather cruel treatment of Ellen Dolan (in particular), raising a glass to acting the heartbreaker, the only worthwhile woman one you can loom over paternalistically and scoop up like a faithful cat and protect like a man. Hey, maybe I'm giving Frank Miller too much credit and that was absolutely 100% his intended point, but I dunno... I think a good movie would have presented itself with more care.

Huh, this did turn into a sub-review, didn't it? Um, the main review is even bigger! Hope you like it!