Lionsgate’s SPIRIT gamble fails

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The reviews are in — 15 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, a mere 6 percent among Top Critics — and the box office is in:

9. The Spirit (Lionsgate)
$2.1M Saturday… $6.5M 3-day weekend… $10.4M 4-day holiday
Not every comic book can become a hit movie. Movie analysts didn’t expect much life from this adaptation of Will Eisner’s graphic novels despite a flashy marketing campaign. Lionsgate shouldn’t have tried to brave the Christmas competition.


…and the verdict is…THE SPIRIT is a big flopperoo.

Before we go any further, at the risk of sounding like a namedropper, I consider Frank Miller a friend, so I’m not going to jump up and down or pile on. Call me biased or non-objective or whatever you want. I’m just being honest.

Is THE SPIRIT a good movie? No. Is it entertainingly and inventively bad? Yes. At the press junket, Samuel L. Jackson was at pains to point out that “the movie is not mean spirited”, which would seem to be an odd way of promoting a film, but it’s an accurate one. Supporters of the film have compared it to the parodic anarchy of ALL-STAR BATMAN AND ROBIN THE BOY WONDER, and I think that’s an apt comparison. For all its goofiness — some deliberate, some not — it’s a well-intentioned movie, with a kind heart…a lot like Frank, I think. As much as critics have ragged on the characterization, the film is fond of all the characters, even the villains. And it is visually inventive and imaginative. Plus, it has kitty cats. So…there’s a lot to look at.

Like I said, Frank is a friend, and I’m not going to write anything I wouldn’t say to his face (assuming I ever see him again). I will say that Lionsgate really shot everyone in the foot by thinking they could turn this cult movie into a Christmas film. It was originally set to be released on January 16th, in the wasteland of movie releases. At such a time, the film’s eye-poke awkwardness and weirdness might have been a welcome respite to winter doldrums and might have even made some money at the box office.

Instead, with a Christmas Day opening, it went up against a bevy of high-profile films by Oscar contenders, and just couldn’t make the grade.

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photo 25 hires Lionsgates SPIRIT gamble fails
But there is a lot that’s odd about this film. It was shot by Bill Pope (THE MATRIX, SPIDER-MAN) who’s the best in the business at action and CGI. This veteran was paired with a rookie director and, perhaps crucially, a rookie editor, Gregory Nussbaum. Stronger editing would definitely have made this a better movie, although not having seen the original footage, that’s just a hopeful guess.

On the plus side, THE SPIRIT has provided an opportunity for some of the most amusing cinematic putdowns of the year, like this classic from Roger Ebert:

“The Spirit” is mannered to the point of madness. There is not a trace of human emotion in it. To call the characters cardboard is to insult a useful packing material.


Jason Anderson of the Toronto Star:

At which exact point The Spirit hits rock bottom is a matter of debate. Maybe it’s when we first see our eponymous hero scampering across rooftops in a fashion less appropriate to a movie superhero than to a cast member of Guys and Dolls.


Kyle Smith at the New York Post:

FRANK Miller on the big screen is like Scratchy or wasabi or a bass player – he doesn’t work on his own. He needs a partner, or some diluting ingredients, or maybe a restraining order.

Finally, there’s going to be a lot of blowback about this movie, and fanboy glee over its failure is everywhere. I will quote a comment from Peter David from Blog@ in full, some may call it defensive, but it is also well-intentioned and good hearted.

What has Frank Miller done that he warrants a “comeuppance?” Seriously. What the hell has he done that he somehow deserves to have a movie that he spent several years of his life crafting, about a subject that he obviously cares passionately about, wind up crashing and burning?

You, who stands so bravely behind his words that he has to hide behind cutesy fake names, feel the need to label Frank Miller with condescending nicknames? You know what? Ants don’t get to condescend to eagles.

Presuming you even saw the movie: Perhaps you feel you didn’t get your money’s worth. Y’know what? I feel the same way. I paid admission, same as you. Same as everybody. I could have gone to a free advance screening. I was invited. Instead I chose to wait so that I could support the producers, who are friends of mine. But there is absolutely no way that I feel that Frank somehow had it coming. Because all Frank Miller has ever done is try to produce the best stories he is capable of, and he signs his name to everything he writes, which is more than I can say for you.

Even when Frank Miller falls, he falls from heights that most of us cannot hope to achieve, myself not excluded. If it’s too much to think that you should show at least a modicum of respect for someone who has devoted his life to this medium, then at least acknowledge that the reason you’re doing the happy dance over the failure of someone who has achieved more in his life thus far is than you likely ever will in the entirety of yours is because you’re unspeakably petty and ungrateful and ungracious.


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Comments

  1. Cory Strode says:

    Great writeup of the movie and reaction to it. I work part-time at a theater, and the reaction of people when they came out was that they just didn’t quite know what it was they had seen: Was it camp, film noir, a parody, a mix of styles?

    I thought it was a beautiful looking movie, but it should have chosen a direction and simply gone with it instead of mixing the noir and slapslick comedy with over the top performances.

  2. Blackeye says:

    I think it’s a good idea to blame Lionsgate for releasing it on Christmas. I’m sure that’s what makes the movie so ridiculously bad. The few positive things about the movie (the way it looks) have nothing to do with Frank Miller. So bad writing, bad dialog, bad acting, and a bad story make a movie well intentioned? I wonder if that will be good enough for Frank to get the Buck Rogers gig? How soon do you think before his name will be dropped from that movie. The thing that irritates me the most, is Frank had no business directing a movie of this high of a profile. He obviously was way out of his league. He also claimed to be a big fan of Will Eisner, yet he showed absolutely no respect to the source material. Does this man have an out of control ego? Unfortunately for him there aren’t enough geeks in the world that bow at his presence. “Look mom, the emperor isn’t wearing any clothes.” Hey Frank, I think it’s time to cover up. Can you honestly say, you feel sorry for this guy?

  3. Saw the Spirit over the weekend, more out of curiosity than anything else. Honestly, Frank Miller delivered the film I was expecting, given his storytelling style and his approach to movie-making. I was hoping that perhaps he’d find some greater inspiration in Eisner’s vision, but the two creative sensibilities are so far apart (despite superficial similarities) that any project that depended on integrating their two styles was pretty much doomed from the start.

    I don’t wish Miller ill, and I don’t disparage his hard work, but he was put in an impossible situation by the producers. He was given a task he couldn’t refuse and also couldn’t accomplish. Having him direct the Spirit movie was like asking Barry Bonds to be more like Willie Mays – it’s within his capabilities (unlike 99.999% of other people), but not his temperament.

    Maybe someone can hand the Spirit to a bunch of anime directors for a direct-to-video anthology like the Batman: Gotham Knight or Animatrix projects. Somehow I suspect that people with NO obvious connection to Eisner would have a better chance at capturing the essence of the Spirit than someone who has worked his entire career in comparison and contrast with the great master.

  4. SPOY-LERS(sp):
    I was one of those who was peeved that we’d see the Octopus, etc. etc. Then I realized that this is Miller’s version, not Eisner’s. For one, I think he did keep the core of Eisner intact by explaining and relishing in Denny’s orbit of fabulous women. I really liked them, esp. in the end sequence. But I think editing is the answer too — maybe another run and don’t have the big villain fight within the first ten minutes. Octopus was borderline Carrey-Riddler which maybe can’t be done anymore but some of it was still really funny. Loved the disposable goons (Huevos Rancheros, esp.)

    Thanks for posting P.David’s comments. Miller is an artist and just because it wasn’t an ink-by-number of Eisner just means he was willing to do something *new* which is the very definition of art. Could it have been done when Eisner was alive? Maybe not, but I bet Eisner would’ve respected it, even as he would argue it. No, I didn’t think it was a good movie either. It had great moments, but the overall narrative got lost along the way. And I think Sin City has killed the newness of the look a bit, though Miller did do ingenious things with it.

    And how about the almost countless references to early GA creators and ‘businessmen?’ How can he be demonized when he can hold a grudge for comics creators going back to the late thirties?

    Still, I would see a Buck Rogers by Frank Miller even if it was playing in one theater in Omaha at one 3AM showing with no popcorn and only flat TAB.

    And I would see a Darwyn Cooke animated Spirit under exactly the same circumstances. In twelve feet of snow. With a meteor on the way.

    Brad

  5. mark coale says:

    Even if the delivery truck stinks, if the pie tastes awful, it’s the bakery’s fault.

  6. James Van Hise says:

    The reason people are angry with Frank Miller and feel he deserved a “comeuppance” is perhaps because they have been so disappointed in his work beginning with The Dark Knight Strikes Again (which even some professionals described in unprintable terms). While some describe All Star Batmsn And Robin as a “parody”, it reads like it is written by someone who believes that anything they do is great because they’re the one who is doing it. When the writer deliberately scripts scenes in which the artist is instructed to draw up close underwear shots, one can only pause to wonder. I still don’t know what the point was in the comic to litter it with profanity and then cover the profanity with black boxes, which eliminates the effect entirely and results in something which looks silly. The Frank Miller whose work people loved and extolled in the 1980s has not been on view for some time, and the fan resentment of this merely came to a head with their reaction to the Spirit which encapsulates what people have come to hate in Frank Miller’s 21st century efforts. While Frank Miller has achieved the kind of success where he can write his own ticket, many people no longer want to pay for that ticket.

  7. Charles Knight says:

    “I will say that Lionsgate really shot everyone in the foot by thinking they could turn this cult movie into a Christmas film.”

    I think the bigger problem was the film was crap – I understood what was going on fine, I get what he was going for – but it was still crap.

  8. Has anyone ever asked in an interview with Frank Miller if his movie (and ASBAR) are should be seen/read as a parody or comedy or tragedy or drama?
    Because if FM intended for the former, he’s doing things right but I have a nagging suspection that FM meant for them to be the latter catergory. And then he’slost his marbles.

    Frank Miller: what is your intention lately?

  9. The Beat says:

    NB, Lionsgate also just turned out PUNISHER WAR ZONE, so they won the bad comic book movie sweepstakes for the year.

  10. I’m not sure I understand the thinking here, but here goes:

    Peter David is saying “We’re professionals, you’re fans, so we’re better than you.”

    Actually, no one is really better than anybody. THE SPIRIT movie is proof. Yeah, it’s nice to have a few thousand fans, but in the big scheme of things, comic book people are still a blip on the entertainment radar.

    As for eagles and ants, I’d say the eagle is WILL EISNER. The ant was packing an elephant rifle this Christmas.

  11. Charles Knight says:

    “Peter David is saying “We’re professionals, you’re fans, so we’re better than you.””

    Actually he’s got a point, I can’t *stand* the way that many modern writers pandering to the fans, desperately running from board to board to debase themselves in front of “Hulkfan1001″. I think some healthy contempt or indifference to the “community” is a good thing and someone pointing out “we actually did it, you just bitch and write terrible fan fiction” as a reality check is no bad thing.

  12. Joseph says:

    I haven’t seen the film, probably won’t, and I am open to the possibility that it flopped because it’s a bad movie. At the same time, other than the no-brainer of opening a horror sequel on Halloween weekend the people at Lionsgate don’t exactly inspire confidence in their decision making skills when it comes to scheduling their films. Scheduling a hyper-violent Punisher film two weeks before xmas; another violent, highly stylized action film on xmas day; and the prior Punisher film (Thomas Jane) directly opposite Kill Bill 2 are pretty much set-ups for failure. I would have thought Thanksgiving weekend would have been a better fit for Spirit if they felt the need to open it on a holiday weekend

  13. Joenfuture says:

    After enjoying Sin City (and suffering through 300), the only potential audience I could (even begin to) imagine for a “new Frank Miller movie” would be some blood thirsty meth heads prowling for an R-rated good time.

    …. and so who was this supposed to appeal to??

  14. Blackeye says:

    Peter David is still trying to get back at all the people that picked on him when he was a child. I’m sure the bitterness is hard to overcome. That’s why he delved into writing fantasy. That world was a lot easier to face than real life. To belittle people because they have an opinion seems like he’s going against things he holds in such high esteem, like the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund. I hate people who are hypocrites, or just take pleasure in hearing their own voice. I understand why he would run to try to protect Frank Miller from all the big bad mean people. This isn’t the school playground anymore.

  15. In defense of Frank Miller, producer Michael Uslan hired Miller specifically so that he could give The Spirit the grim and gritty Sin City look. Isn’t that what Miller did?

    It seems to me that Frank Miller is getting a lot of grief for basically making a movie the way he was asked to make it.

  16. Tom Spurgeon says:

    The reason many folks move past not liking his movie to become angry with Frank Miller and believe he needs a comeuppance or needs to be punished is because a lot of them are being assholes and/or stunted people far too invested in a flattering fake-reality created around funnybooks when funnybooks made the wrenching shift from selling a few copies to a lot of people to selling a lot of copies to a few people.

    Sometimes people that make movies make bad movies. It’s no big deal. Sometimes people that have made tons of good movies make bad ones. Sometimes they’re so bad you can’t watch the earlier ones anymore (hello, Barry Levinson of the Toys/Jimmy Hollywood twofer). There are all sorts of reasons why bad art happens. Sometimes those people get to make another movie, sometimes they don’t. Getting mad at them doesn’t make them make better art.

    I’m sure The Spirit will be someone’s favorite movie. Every movie is someone’s favorite movie.

    I hope Frank directs the Steven Spielberg Oldboy next. Then Black Hole. Then Maus. Then a Wizard of Oz re-make. And when they stop giving him movies, I hope he tries whatever the hell else he wants to do.

    And if that happens, good for him for taking the shot given to him. My take-a-shot-at-a-movie — I have an idea of how to do Atlas Shrugged with the Muppets if anyone is out there reading that can make it happen — would almost certainly be much worse. Save your anger for the exploiters, not the artists whose only crime is to disappoint you artistically and however it is you feel you’re invested in their careers.

  17. Heidi: If you are “being honest” here, why do you insist on writing in doublespeak? Are you seriously trying to qualify what is largely considered to be a wretched film as “entertainingly and inventively bad” or defend Peter David’s childish assault on fans as “well-intentioned and good hearted?” [sic] Should we defend the mechanic who destroys our transmission when he was hired to replace a tire by informing all that he was “well-intentioned?” Does a wretched novelist who bangs out an unreadable potboiler get a fair pass because he “worked hard?” Is the drunk driver who mows down victims to be commended for his “idiosyncratic driving ability?” None of this verbal legerdemain would stand up in a court of law. It should likewise not constitute the crux of an ostensible “report.”

    I’m glad that you were honest enough to disclose your friendship with Frank Miller. That is a good first step. But a legitimate journalist does not attempt to cloak the truth in disingenuous modifiers. If you could not be bothered to report the truth — that Frank Miller’s film adaptation of THE SPIRIT is BAD, not “not good,” but B-A-D, to evoke Eisner’s fondness for drawing out words — then why didn’t you recuse yourself from this topic?

  18. it is plain and simple a bad movie but not worse than other more recent works by Miller.
    Wonder where went the guy who wrote the Dark Knight Returns.
    We hadn’t seem him around for years…

  19. The Beat says:

    Ed and Blackeye…and you see nothing at all childish about fans chortling with glee that a creator is getting a “comeuppance?”

    BTW, contrary to Ed’s declaration, this isn’t a court of law, it’s a Goddamned Blog!

  20. “I think some healthy contempt or indifference to the “community” is a good thing and someone pointing out “we actually did it, you just bitch and write terrible fan fiction” as a reality check is no bad thing.”

    They actually do it. So what?

    I think “healthy contempt” for the fans led to this awful movie, which shows some “healthy contempt” for Eisner, the greatest practitioner of this medium.

  21. I haven’t seen the movie. I don’t think I will. It didn’t look like something I’d enjoy. Having said that, I’ll also say that Frank Miller was very kind to me, when I was working his signing (age 17, let’s see that was fifteen years ago) and was asking him all sorts of questions about his work, and getting into the biz. His work is hit and miss for me, but when he hits, he hits it out of the park. Why would I want to boo him when he misses. Keep swinging Frank.

  22. Joe Lawler says:

    “I’m the Goddamned Blogman!”

    Sorry, had to.

  23. R. Maheras says:

    Tom wrote: “Save your anger for the exploiters, not the artists whose only crime is to disappoint you artistically and however it is you feel you’re invested in their careers.”

    Whoa, there.

    A customer has a right to expect a certain level of quality when investing in a product — especially when the creators and the financial backers promise it.

    “The Spirit” wasn’t just a marginal disappointment to some fringe group of Spirit fans who had unrealistic expectations, it was a terrible, terrible film by almost anyone’s standards.

    If there was a way to return Miller’s product and get a refund, I’d have done it already.

  24. “and you see nothing at all childish about fans chortling with glee that a creator is getting a “comeuppance?”

    That’s pretty childish. Of course, it’s equally childish to blast all of fandom for not liking his movie.

    Miller was hired to create a SPIRIT movie “like Sin City.” Ok, but I’m kinda suprised that he didn’t explain to the producers that such a decision might lead them down the wrong path. Why would Miller be so protective of SIN CITY — until Robert Rodriguez demonstrated that he could capture his stories panel for panel — then fail to preserve some of the qualities that made Will Eisner’s stories popular?

  25. Re: Rick Rottman’s comments –

    I agree. Frank’s experience as a (co-) director came from working with Robert Rodriguez on SIN CITY, and he wanted to do something similar here, using the methods he’d learned there. Because of that, I fully expected THE SPIRIT to look the way it does. And given that we’ve had recent examples of the bent his writing has taken (ASBAR) that isn’t a surprise, either.

    As a creator, I still have to see Frank’s effort with THE SPIRIT as a good thing, regardless of the overall critical response or box office take. One of the biggest motivations Frank has always had is for the creators to be in the best possible position to call their own shots and do things the way we’d like to do them. And for years, Hollywood has been seen as an entity that simply strip-mines creators and property for the good stuff and then abandons them when something shinier comes along.

    Frank got to move into both creator-owned work with SIN CITY in print, and creator-involved work with SIN CITY in film. And that (along with the success of 300) gave him the opportunity to be the principal creator of a film based on a revered work, created by a personal friend and mentor. He made it with techniques he believed in, in a manner he’d learned was efficient and exciting to utilize for filmmaking. And it made ten million bucks in four days.

    Whatever the end result, I’m still impressed as all hell by the effort.

    And Tom: I have some connections with Hensons. We’ll talk about your Atlas Shrugged/Muppets thing and see what happens. ;)

  26. …and you know what else? RoboCop 2 may not be a great movie, but it is a lot of fun. If THAT had been a comic, people would have loved it. :)

  27. I predict this movie will become a cult classic, and will be beloved for years to come, with space on the shelf right next to Buckaroo Banzai, Edge of Hell, Attack of the Killer Tomatoes, and other notably weird wonders of cinema.

  28. PS: I loved Robocop 2.

  29. It was a comic! Steven Grant! Juan José Ryp! Avatar! Based on the oh-RIGINAL Frank Miller screenplay!

    You Could Not Buy That For An Dollar!

    //Oo/\

  30. Does anyone know the production budget on the Spirit? With over 10 million made on it’s debut it could end its theatrical run with 20-25 million.

  31. Mark Coale says:

    I just hope that, no matter what side of the debate you are on, you can agree with me in hoping this is the last blog about the movie for a while, maybe when it comes out on DVD.

  32. “I think some healthy contempt or indifference to the “community” is a good thing and someone pointing out “we actually did it, you just bitch and write terrible fan fiction” as a reality check is no bad thing.”

    Problem is, Frank Miller’s recent work has been no better than terrible fan fiction.

    The Spirit movie has a character named “Dildos.” What a way to honor Will Eisner.

  33. Kat Kan says:

    I saw the movie today with my family. My sons liked it a lot. I did, too. Is it my favorite movie? No. However, as a casual Spirit fan (I’ve been reading the comics off and on for the past 45 years, I guess that’s casual), I liked the fact that Miller made the women (even totally over-the-top Plaster of Paris) a heck of a lot smarter than any of the men.

    Me, I want to see Ronin by Miller made into a movie. That would rock.

  34. You know you’ve screwed up when people feel the need to point out that you’re kind to children.

  35. Venkman says:

    Just to be clear: It doesn’t matter if a movie is good or bad, as long as it’s well intentioned?

    And how good were Miller’s intentions when he stomped all over Eisner’s most beloved creation?

  36. Well if that’s the case, how good were his intentions when he “stomped” all over Batman? What’s the difference? If Batman can be re-interpreted, why can’t Denny Colt? The very fact that we are arguing over intention at all makes it automatically more interesting than Punisher, right?

    Tom Spurgeon, I don’t know you and I rarely ever agree with you but that was one fine post. I’d see your Muppets movie in a minute.

    Brad

  37. wraith says:

    The poor box office performance of THE SPIRIT, is proof that the general non comic book reading public have no interest in watching superhero movies that are either (a) pretentious (b) artsy fartsy wannabe high art or (c) that try to be too clever for it’s own good.

    And just so I can say “I told you guys so” in the future, the WATCHMEN movie (if it’s ever released) is going to under perform at the box office.

  38. I like what the Spurg says there; normally I jump in with both feet but he made me pause to think:

    “Save your anger for the exploiters, not the artists whose only crime is to disappoint you artistically and however it is you feel you’re invested in their careers.”

    That sounds like something I do and it sounds like something I should attempt to put right in the coming year.

  39. I think the means validate the end result, to a degree. And intentions count.

    I believe Frank had the best of intentions with THE SPIRIT, and since he was a personal friend of Will’s, that matters. Not knowing Frank except in passing, I can’t say for certain how much that relationship weighted his creative choices – but I did know Will, and I know that intentions (and differences in creative approaches) did matter to HIM.

    I think Colleen’s right about how THE SPIRIT will be viewed in the future – and regardless of how anyone else might have made it, Frank’s the one who actually got to do it. A lot of people may not like it, and it might not make a ton more money. Sometimes things just don’t gell. But it’s still THE SPIRIT directed by Frank Miller, and I still think that the effort alone is commendable.

  40. While it’s still in my head (and without reading the other comments yet, so if this repeats what others have said, I apologize)… Jeff Vandermeer just posted a blog entry quoting John Ruskin that applies, I think:
    “…while in all things that we see or do, we are to desire perfection, and strive for it, we are nevertheless not to set the meaner thing, in its narrow accomplishment, above the nobler thing, in its mighty progress; not to esteem smooth minuteness above shattered majesty; not to prefer mean victory to honourable defeat; not to lower the level of our aim, that we may the more surely enjoy the complacency of success.”
    And I was honestly thinking of Frank Miller when I read this. I’ve been disappointed with much of his recent work… but I can’t crap on the guy. I mean, he keeps shooting. There’s a lot to be said for that.

  41. … oh, and also? I kind of want to see the movie, now.

  42. Blackeye says:

    If nothing else Heidi, you have to be happy that people have so much passion about this particular topic. The one thing that seems evident is, the people who are defending the mess that is The Spirit, seem to have a personal connection to Frank. The rest just look at it as an amateur effort totally and disrespectful to Will Eisner’s vision.

    Also, I think you would agree, that profanity is what really is a reflection of childlike behavior and wholly inappropriate.

  43. Kat Kan: “I liked the fact that Miller made the women (even totally over-the-top Plaster of Paris) a heck of a lot smarter than any of the men.”

    That’s all it takes to make you like a bad movie? I didn’t think the women were smarter. This movie had a classic “idiot plot” — the events unfold because everyone in the movie is an idiot — except that there was no plot.

  44. My favorite comment I have read on The Spirit so far said, and I’m paraphrasing, “It’s like the best shit you’ll take this year. While it’s a very satisfying experience, it’s still a pile of shit that will leave you feeling hollow inside afterwards.”

  45. Kenny says:

    Didn’t Eisner give Miller Eisner’s blessing to make the movie however Miller wanted to make it? I swear I read that somewhere….

    I read a Jeff Smith interview recently that made a good point, at least indirectly. I inferred Smith thought Miller’s success with this movie was going to determine a lot regarding how much input comic creators will have in comic book movies going forward. It looks like that input won’t amount to much. (I wish I had a link! I tried to phrase it so I’m not taking Smith’s thoughts out of context, but I am giving him credit.)

    I don’t think Watchmen is going to do any great shakes at the box office either. It’s tracking horribly. It also looks like every bad comic book movie cliche, which is a shame considering the source material.

  46. I just don’t get how a comics creator could go so far to change the basic idea of the character. Not to get all Fanboy, but a major part of The Spirit’s motivation in this movie is figuring out what The Octopus knows about his powers. But The Spirit doesn’t have powers, and a guy who has to worry about dying is a lot different than a guy who doesn’t. I just don’t get it. Sure, it’s Miller’s Spirit, not Eisner’s, but that’s like giving Batman the ability to fly. Where’s the drama of him swinging across the rooftops.

    Oh yeah, and, other than a lot of pretty imagery, it just didn’t have any blood (metaphorically).

  47. Alan Coil says:

    James Van Hise said:

    “…the fan resentment of this merely came to a head with their reaction to the Spirit which encapsulates what people have come to hate in Frank Miller’s 21st century efforts.”

    Whatever Miller writes and draws is always among the best selling books the month it comes out. How can any sane person think a substantial number of Miller fans hate Miller’s work? Perhaps an overly vocal few, but nowhere near a substantial number. The All Star Batman book is always in the top ten when it comes out. How can it be that Miller fans hate it?

    And creators are damned no matter what path they take. If they do the same work they did 20 years ago, they are marginalized as anachronisms. If they continue to try different things, fanboys whine that they have changed.

  48. Tom Spurgeon says:

    I’m hoping that a version of Jesus Christ Superstar I’ll co-direct with somebody using the Warner Bros. cartoons characters can be a springboard to the Atlas Shrugged: The Muppets Take Galt’s Gulch project.

    Watchmen hasn’t come out yet?

  49. Hey Tom –

    Here’s the audition tape for Midas Mulligan’s part in MUPPETS SHRUGGED:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yM9N30V4wnQ

  50. Mark Coale says:

    “The All Star Batman book is always in the top ten when it comes out. How can it be that Miller fans hate it?”

    I would think that a good percentage of those sales are for people buying a book drawn by Jim Lee, and may not even care who is writing it.

    Personally, I think that number would be over 50, if not 60,%, but that’s purely a guess with no imperical evidence.

  51. Mark Coale says:

    And Tom’s constant references of the Muppets in outlandish adaptations reminds me of the MST line about “Jim Henson’s LAST PICTURE SHOW BABIES” from, I think, “Junior Rodeo Daredevils.”

  52. Clearly, half of Frank Miller’s brain has been removed and replaced with the pickled brain of Ed Wood. And it happened well before he made this movie. Frank-Ed-Wood has been lumbering around since the Sin City graphic novels.

  53. I simply don’t understand why saying “The Spirit is awful….” (which it is) automatically translates into “I hope Frank gets his….” (which I don’t). I realize on other threads in other places people might be taking the “He should know his place and stick to comics” angle but I think their may be a number of folks just giving their honest opinion of the work. I thought this movie was garbage but that by no means has me calling for Frank’s head or anything. He made a bad movie, so have plenty of other people. They’ll just have to do a lot more to get my money again. But folks should be able to say that and not have it be perceived as the final verdict in the trial of the creator.

  54. I am laughing at how so many of the Anti-Miller arguments here are basically “yeah, you can talk with all your words and everything, but it was a BAD MOVIE”, as if the fact that it’s “bad” is totally self-evident.

    No, “All men are created equal” is self-evident.

    Movie quality is subjective. Maybe YOU didn’t like it, but it’s not objectively bad, and saying that you think that’s so simply isn’t an argument for your case, whatever that may be.

    You know, I don’t think I’ll ever be seeing this movie because it really doesn’t look like I’d enjoy it, as it rips the original Spirit stories in the a**. However, that doesn’t mean that I’m myopic enough to think that Frank Miller made this movie specifically to piss me off. He thought he was making something great, or he wouldn’t have done it. That’s what Peter David was talking about as quoted above, and I couldn’t agree more.

  55. Blackeye says:

    To Patrick, Isn’t that even more frightening, that Frank thought he was making something great…wow, makes me wonder about the rest of his creative output now.

  56. I appreciate all the commentary on this, having been debating whether or not to go see the film. I loved the visual style in Sin City (which was too dark in material for me, despite the eye candy) and in 300, and so expected to enjoy The Spirit if only for the visuals. But I was also hoping to get some insight into Eisner’s story (which I’d been putting off reading until after watching the movie, so I wouldn’t have preconceived notions). From what I’ve seen here and from opinions several of my friends have voiced, I suspect I’ll be better off just reading the new collected editions of The Spirit and leaving the film alone.

  57. I *really* didn’t like the Spirit; feel asleep in the theater, actually. I’m sure it was approached w/ the best intentions – though I didn’t know Frank Miller knew Will Eisner, I live under a rock – but, in my individual opinion, it stunk. It didn’t feel like the Spirit stories to me, much at all; it was way Miller, little Eisner. Empty is exactly how I felt leaving the theater.

    As for writing about a friend’s work, that’s a toughie. I met an comic book artist whose work I greatly admired when I was very new in the industry. I suppose I was a little fangirlish when I met him; but nothing crazy. Maybe I stammered. Later I heard from a gossipy pal that he had thought I was crazy. Or something negative, the message got garbled. I was unable to enjoy their work after that, even when it proved likely the comment wasn’t true. When I’ve met a creator & they were kind, or warm, it reinforced my liking of their work. Hard to remove those pesky emotions.

    I know you *should* separate the art from the artist; a work should be judged on the result, not the intention. I mean, Picasso was apparently a total asshole in his personal life, but made great art.

    This may have been the movie Mr. Miller set out to make, & he may think it’s great, but I disagree. Vehemently. Doesn’t mean I wish failure upon him – just, I wish it had been a better film. I didn’t love 300 to pieces, but next to the awkward, clunky “Spirit”, 300 is practically Shakespeare.

  58. Rotten Tomatoes, which while I wouldn’t ever treat as a Bible of reviewing, still has some use as an aggregation tool for critical reception lists The Spirit at a whopping 15% positive reviews. (Punisher Warzone had 22%.)

    Here’s the blurb from a positive review:”In this erotic sleuthing laced with backward babes, Sarah does female doormat duty and Eva kicks butt when not baring it, while Scarlett’s shrewdie hangs with homicidal fatty clones, like an underworld Madonna bossing an obedient crew of paunchy boy toys. ”

    I hated the movie, and I actually liked Punisher Warzone. Both had a problem mixing ultraviolence with humor. The difference for me? When the humor popped up in Punisher, I laughed. In the Spirit, 85% of the time I was trying to figure out if Miller was trying to be funny, and you know… if you have to think about whether or not it was funny…

    (And when I say Miller was trying to be funny, my issues are with script and direction — he did both.)

    I do think that awkward handling of humor elements has been a problem with Miller’s work for awhile.

    I suppose if sombody talks to Miller, you could ask him if there were any “well, as long as I’ve got Samuel L. Jackson,” changes to the script at the last minute?

  59. Hey Eva!

    “…way Miller, little Eisner.” is a good way to sum it up. Early in the process I heard someone call it “Frank Miller’s Will Eisner’s THE SPIRIT”. If more people thought of it that way going in, they may have been less disappointed. Uh, or not.

    For my part, I was crushed to learn about the aborted attempt by Brad Bird and John Lasseter to make an animated movie of THE SPIRIT. Now THAT would have been a thing.

    But I think here, it may just be a case of someone doing their interpretation of something – and not doing it very well. Which sucks for me, because it’s totally derailed my effort to make my directing debut with “James Owen’s Evan Dorkin’s MILK AND CHEESE.”

  60. Blackeye: Yep, you’re right! I’m sure he also thought DK2 and ASBAR were excellent as well . Or at least, he _tried his hardest_ to make them so (I tried ‘em, didn’t enjoy ‘em). But yeah… His taste isn’t exactly above reproach these days, to say the least.

  61. R. Maheras says:

    Patrick wrote: “Movie quality is subjective. Maybe YOU didn’t like it, but it’s not objectively bad, and saying that you think that’s so simply isn’t an argument for your case, whatever that may be.”

    No, fundamental filmmaking is not subjective, and neither is fundamental storytelling. There are basic tenets of communication that need to be followed to ensure the audience is along for the entire ride, and that it understands the story the creator is trying to tell.

    “The Spirit” film failed in both categories.

    Imagine what an edition of “War and Peace” would read like with every fifth page eliminated by a maverick editor, and, for good measure, several random chapters swapped out with chapters from “The Great Gatsby.”

    I suppose one could argue that someone would like the resulting “creative” hodgepodge, but most reasonable people would not.

  62. Why is it even necessary for comics fans and pros to preface their feelings about The Spirit movie with where they stand with Frank Miller? Everyone seems ready to either defend the film or rip it into it based on their feelings of Miller and his work. At the end of the day, all that matters is whether Miller succeeded in making a successful film.

    I’m not into crime noir, so I’m no longer a regular reader of Miller. But I certainly don’t wish him badly, and more power to him to have the clout to do what he wants in comics and now in film.

    I think Heidi was fairly honest in saying The Spirit is not a good film. Having now seen it, I think that’s fairly clear. The critical pans, the low grosses, and the small crowds seem to suggest a consensus. Yes, I’m disappointed because I wanted the Spirit movie to work. Frankly, I could see a train wreck coming, but I was willing to reserve judgment until I actually saw the film — when comics make the jump to film, I know some changes and compromises are inevitable, and if Miller could find a way to make the character relevant and exciting to a new generation of fans, I would have been more than happy to see the film succeed on his terms.

    Of course, I wanted the movie to succeed — I love the Spirit and, let’s face it, seeing it come to film provides validation for my admiration of the series, as has the success of the Spider-Man, Iron Man, and Batman film adaptations for many comics fans. But just because I’m disappointed in the movie doesn’t mean I wish Miller badly, nor am I “angry” by the outcome.

    On the flip side, why do some people feel Miller needs to be “defended”? He’s met with plenty of success, so he certainly doesn’t need anyone to pity or defend him. His work speaks for itself, and probably more than most cartoonists working today he’s never needed to compromise his vision. He’ll no doubt simply move on to other projects. I suspect he is being held to some different higher standard because people feel he’s one of “us,” a comics person. But let’s face it, now his work is being judged by a whole new set of different measures that have nothing to do with comics, like mainstream audiences, movie critics, and box office numbers.

  63. From The Hollywood Reporter review:

    (THE SPIRIT) illustrates the limitations of the comic-book aesthetic on the big screen.

    If we didn’t realize this before, it’s now clear: Movies must obey the immutable laws of cinema and cannot unfold like so many moving panels. For all its bold digital drawings, a comic-book movie must observe the narrative rhythms, scene construction, character development and dialogue delivery that cinema has honed for more than a century.

    “Spirit” does none of this, and it is truly a mess.

    I have seen the movie, and after the initial gag reflex, I tried to think as to why it failed. Bad writing? Sure, but SIN CITY had that in spades as well, and that kind of worked for many people. But the thing that struck me most was that Miller never once mastered the 3D filmic aspect of direction. Like “Khaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaan!” in STAR TREK II, he is stuck in two-dimensional thinking, creating – quite literally – panels on the screen, in which he has people moving around, but mostly across the X and Y axis, never down into the depth of the Z axis.

    So essentially, you had a sequence of panels with movements in them, which was the equivalent of a really poorly done flash animation movie.

    Miller’s direction is virtually flat, he never outgrows his roots as comic book artist.

    If we compare that to Snyder’s adaptation of 300 (and by NO means is this a good movie), but you can see the difference during the fighting sequences, where Snyder not only moves the camera across the x-axis (in tedious after tedious slow motion), but he SNAP ZOOMS in… every time he wants to make a point, to SINGLE out a single soldier, a certain element of the scene, then SNAP PULLS OUT again.

    As for the perceived “glee” by fans that Miller’s finally “getting his”…

    I think (I may be wrong), but I think it’s because of an incredible feeling of being let down by him. No offense to Peter David, but if HE did a movie that tanked… or James Robinson’s adaptation of LOEG… we don’t give a damn, because both are mid-list talents (sorry), whose reputation are within a certain community, but who are not the show figures of the US comic book artform.

    For better or worse, Miller, Moore, Gaiman are the trinity that people outside the community KNOW… and that is how a lot of them see what comic books are (or should be)… and THAT is why Miller’s artistic failure matters so much to them.

    Here was a guy who had a big mouth, who fought for stuff he believed in (creator’s rights… don’t screw with the thing I created etc)… and the MOMENT he had the chance to do so, he screwed with another singular creator’s creation. Now, me personally, I have never been a SPIRIT fan, I find Eisner’s construction well done for its time and he pioneered a lot of techniques still used today in comic books, but I believe that it’s that sense of BETRAYAL … not of Eisner per se… but of what Miller was so vocal about, that gripes a lot of people.

    And if that is the case, that is truly understandable.

    There is a sense of masturbation in Miller’s later work, the sense that “I am doing this for ME, I am a GODDAMN artist, and I don’t give a &$%§ about the people who should shill out the money to pay for my stuff”… which again, and the Miller-apologists (can we call them that? Yes, I believe we can) make those points here on the board very vocally… and they can be summarised in the what David said: we’re pros. you’re fans. we’re better than you.

    Well, speaking as a pro… we may have the TALENT to construct things, but we should always keep in mind that we are here to ENTERTAIN those who give us the MONEY. We are selling LUXURY items, especially in THIS economy. They don’t NEED us. We are the ones who say “give me 10 bucks… and I will give you two, three… ten hours of a different world. I’ll make you laugh, I’ll make you cry, I’ll make you IMAGINE”

    In the words of the great William Goldman: “sure, you can make a movie, everybody can make a movie… that satisfies your own artistic needs… just don’t EXPECT anybody to show up and PAY for it then.”

    Entertainment is interactive. NOT in the way that marketing people try to sell it (watch the movie! Click on your remote! Buy the t-shirt!)… but in a much more fundamental way that comes from a trust BY a paying audience.

    So, we don’t have the right to piss on that from high above. We don’t have to give the audience necessarily what they WANT …

    (because yes, most people say: “I want to have something like STAR WARS”, but that is not what they MEAN… what they mean is “I want something that gives me the SAME FEELING I HAD when I FIRST WATCHED STAR WARS…”)

    … but what they CRAVE. Excitement. Emotions. If we don’t deliver that (and we may fail, we may), we put ourselves out there to be ridiculed, and rightfully so.

  64. michael says:

    secretly, I had hoped this would not fail as bad as it did, but then again, it seemed like a lot to overcome to me.

    First of all, the movie had the look of something that was largely ‘borrowed’ from other movies, so it’s not like this was an original concept, lookwise.

    Lastly, I didn’t know there was some sort of clamour for a Spirit movie in the first place, regardless of who helmed it.

  65. Personally, i want to see a Sin City-style adaptation (as in a direct panel to screen translation) of a Rob Liefeld’s comic. Actual men with giant tits and no feet flying around on screen bearing all of their 102 teeth. Random hills protruding on the freeway, and weapons appearing and disappearing between shots. Women with no spines and 6′ stilts for legs tottering across the screen. Just think about it. It would be in-cred-i-ble.

    Hell, they should have Rob direct it!

  66. He couldn’t do any worse than Miller.

  67. As for the topic at hand:

    What Peter David says holds no water. Because what he’s forgetting to take into account is that the vast majority of these anonymous “fans” that have no right complain are actually industry people posting with fake handles so they can say whatever they want. Your average reader isn’t going to follow this sort of industry minutiae. So if he really believes what he believes, he should hold all this anonymous “whining” in high regard.

  68. “Didn’t Eisner give Miller Eisner’s blessing to make the movie however Miller wanted to make it? I swear I read that somewhere….

    I don’t think Watchmen is going to do any great shakes at the box office either. It’s tracking horribly. It also looks like every bad comic book movie cliche, which is a shame considering the source material. ”

    No, Frank Miller wasn’t even approached until months after Eisner’s death. At the time he died other people were working on the film.

    Is Watchmen really tracking horribly? Sales on the graphic novel are through the roof, and though it’s only anecdotalI’ve had a lot of people ask me about the movie, tell me they’ve bought the book because of the trailers or asked to borrow it from me. Add in that it’s still 3+ months (at least) until release, and I’d imagine Warner is pretty happy with how things are looking.

  69. Ad hominem reasoning– “I hate this work, therefore I hate its creator”– is rooted in fandom of all but the most intellectual kinds. I’ve had fun with it myself. (Hi, Rob Liefeld!)

    Somewhat less vicious, but still sketchy, is the idea that we can assemble a portrait of someone simply by reading their work. (Hi, Lynn Johnston!) I feel like I have a good idea of what Frank Miller considers fun, but I don’t know how much he wrestled with the material. It’s really tempting to conclude that after Sin City and 300’s relative success, he just said “I know fun. People like fun. I’m going to bring them THE SPIRIT the way *I* see it, and we’ll all have more fun.” I don’t know for sure.

    It’s nice to see people coming out to say that Frank Miller is not a monster who wants to devour our collective dignity as readers of literate comics. But I don’t expect either of those big ideas to go away. Next week, we’ll get back to how Dan Didio is trying to kill all of Keith Giffen’s jokey characters because electroshock therapy has robbed Dan of the gift of laughter, and he wants to rob everyone else of it, too.

    I have to confess that, while I don’t want Miller to starve or anything, I was relieved that this movie failed. Even though I don’t know this either, I feel like there’s a message behind it, endorsed not by Miller but by distracted Hollywood executives, that you don’t need to read the source material– you just need ‘splosions, hot girls, stylish poses and superpowers. You know, “that comicbooky stuff.” We’ve had a great run of largely faithful adaptations of comics (and word-books, for that matter)– I’d like to see that continue.

  70. I enjoyed Frank Miller’s THE SPIRIT. Silly yet sassy. A live-action Looney Tune.

  71. I haven’t seen THE SPIRIT, and I don’t intend to. I was never a Miller admirer, going back to when I first heard of him as a teen(In a TCJ special issue about him, of all places), though I’ve read the occasional piece that I liked okay, I guess. It seems to me that a certain amount of the attacks are based in frustration that he’s making us all look like idiots—“THAT”S one of your all-time favorite, classic comics? REALLY?” It’s kinda like the piece in GIANT ROBOT where Adrian Tomine was discussing his dislike for Gedde Watanabe. For comics folks, Miller has become our very own “Long Duk Dong”.

  72. Joe,

    Thanks for the clarification on Eisner not having given Miller his blessing on the film. Looks like I got that one wrong….

    As for the Watchmen film, I don’t think graphic number sales translate into movie sales. When I say it’s tracking poorly, I’m referring to an article I saw on Nikki Finke’s site about interest only being at 3% for the film. (I don’t have a link because I don’t save links, but look on deadlinehollywooddaily.com).

  73. I feel Tom Hart is saying everything right.

    I’m disappointed more than anything else because this means comic book people are going to have less of an opportunity to be decision makers on movies.

    The other thing that disappoints me is how a lot of the reviews seem to be saying, “Movies aren’t comics; movies need plot, scene construction, and character development.” It’s a shame, because the entire medium suffers from this failure.

  74. Is Peter David defending it because he wrote the novelization for this movie too?

  75. “Thanks for the clarification on Eisner not having given Miller his blessing on the film. Looks like I got that one wrong….”

    As I understand it, Will Eisner gave his blessing to do something “different” with the character when he signed over the rights. Just because Frank Miller wasn’t approached before Eisner died doesn’t mean Eisner didn’t recommend Miller to the producers or encourage Miller to throw his hat into the ring.

    “When I say it’s [Watchmen] tracking poorly, I’m referring to an article I saw on Nikki Finke’s site about interest only being at 3% for the film.”

    “tracking” is a load of crap, but it’s a load of crap that’s usually reliable. The problem with this stuff is that their info comes from surveys which ask “Which upcoming movie are you most excited about?: Wolverine, Star Trek, Harry Potter, or Watchmen?”, and most people are going to pick one of the other 3. Even the comic book fan would probably pick Wolverine over Watchmen because Wolverine comes with a proven track record from the X-Men films. Watchmen is largely an unknown quantity, and it has the ability to be a huge hit or a miserable failure. However, I do agree that it will likely underperform for the following reasons: It’s expected to equal or exceed the grosses of 300 which was more marketable and had a wider demographic (though not by much), it’s expected to gross at least half of what The Dark Knight did (all comic book movies are not created equal), and/or Alan Moore/Watchmen GN fans are going to watch the midnight shows and hit the web with their complaints before anyone else has a chance to see the movie and somebody is going to say something which the legitimate news media finds to be an ideal soundbite causing negative buzz throughout opening weekend which will hurt the grosses. And there’s probably a million other reasons why it could underperform which have nothing at all to do with the quality of the film itself. If you look at the releases scheduled Jan-Mar of 2009, you won’t find anything on the scale of Watchmen. There are interesting films like Push and Knowing coming out, but they don’t give me that same feeling of astonishment that I had when I saw the Watchmen trailer. So, yeah, it might be “tracking poorly” right now especially when compared to other upcoming films of 2009, but when the release date gets closer and the marketing campaign kicks into high gear and people can compare it to what’s already out and what else is being advertised at the time, I’m pretty sure it’s going to “track” a whole lot better.

  76. I saw Frank Miller’s Spirit.

    I don’t think he totally needed to reign it in, but he went WAY too over-the-top with The octopus character. Most of the gags and visuals she used for the Octopus and his henchmen left even me bewildered, and I’ve watched and read the most odd stuff out there. When Miller wasn’t going all the way to 11, I loved the dialog and I think the casting was really good, especially for the Dolans.

    Really, there was no need to take it so far to an extreme. I think Miller could have played it straight and scored a decent audience at theaters. I’m not surprised that it was killed by negative buzz and criticism.

  77. Alan Coil says:

    Patrick Dean–

    No. Peter David didn’t write the novelization, if there even is one.

    And Peter David is not defending the movie. He didn’t care for it.

    http://peterdavid.malibulist.com/archives/006654.html#more

  78. Fanboy Menace says:

    “The reason people are angry with Frank Miller and feel he deserved a “comeuppance” is perhaps because they have been so disappointed in his work beginning with The Dark Knight Strikes Again (which even some professionals described in unprintable terms). While some describe All Star Batmsn And Robin as a “parody”, it reads like it is written by someone who believes that anything they do is great because they’re the one who is doing it. When the writer deliberately scripts scenes in which the artist is instructed to draw up close underwear shots, one can only pause to wonder. I still don’t know what the point was in the comic to litter it with profanity and then cover the profanity with black boxes, which eliminates the effect entirely and results in something which looks silly. The Frank Miller whose work people loved and extolled in the 1980s has not been on view for some time, and the fan resentment of this merely came to a head with their reaction to the Spirit which encapsulates what people have come to hate in Frank Miller’s 21st century efforts. While Frank Miller has achieved the kind of success where he can write his own ticket, many people no longer want to pay for that ticket.”

    Excellently stated, James Van Hise. I agree completely.

  79. Fanboy Menace says:

    “Is Peter David defending it because he wrote the novelization for this movie too?”

    I’ve been trying to get to the bottom of that one for days, Patrick.

  80. The Beat says:

    I think Peter is, as I am, just defending a real human being from a virtual village full of fan-entitlement fueled torches and pitchforks.

    It’s fine to dislike or castigate THE SPIRIT as a crap movie, or Frank’s skills as a director. But no ad hominem attacks. Or As Sean Colins put i on his blog: “Harry Knowles and Heidi MacDonald both point to problems with the editing as among the film’s more insurmountable, which again is different from the fanboy buzz about the film, which seems more related to a desire to make Frank Miller suffer personally.”

  81. Katie Moody says:

    This is quite a thread already … I must have missed it when someone hollered “dogpile.”

    David’s point was clearly that Miller attempted to do something great. He may have failed (I haven’t yet seen the movie), but that’s not something people should relish, as Miller’s a creator worthy of our respect.

    And as much as I wanted this film to be fantastic, I have to agree. The director attempted something grand, but didn’t have the experience or editor to achieve it. If anything, I would fault the studio for not surrounding a new director with an experienced team that could’ve polished the kinks out.

    Better to have occasional bombs among ambitious filmmaking than have a full roster of bland movies. Give me Baz Luhrmann and Frank Miller any day.

  82. Fanboy Menace says:

    I think it is also very important to ask why fans are responding in this way, Heidi. Just blindly condemning it in defense of an industry legend isn’t really any better in my opinion.

  83. spike says:

    There is, among a certain percentage of the fan community, an inappropriate sense of entitlement and a tendency to personalize work that doesn’t appeal to their sense of aesthetics/politics/interpretations of what their favorite character “should” be like. Just look at the Scans Daily community. That said, it’s fair game to criticize The Spirit as a film and as a piece of entertainment product. Me, I couldn’t even sit through Sin City for more than five minutes when it played recently on SciFi, because it just seemed kind of silly and unengaging (is that a word? the spell-check says no). But now I’m interested in seeing The Spirit, if only to see how big a train wreck it is (although I probably wouldn’t want to pay full price and will wait to Netflix it).

    Anyone who’s familiar with Frank Miller’s recent work should have had a fair idea of what the Spirit movie was going to be like. Miller’s certainly been consistent with his aesthetic fetishes, so you have to expect a certain level of hypercartooniness. It could very well be that Miller’s intent was to do a live-action Looney Tune, as Dean suggests, and maybe the movie might have been more palatable to general audiences as an animated film. It would seem that a comic-book movie embracing the ’60s-Batman TV show high camp is no longer in favor, even if rendered in a “dark” palette. But hey, this film may achieve a certain immortality among MST3K enthusiasts.

    Also, I think audiences have been trained in receiving your standard Robert McKee 3-act story schematic when it comes to movies, and willful rejections of plot structure or character development will inevitably put people off.

  84. The Beat says:

    Fanboy Menace, your handle answers that question.

  85. The point is, we HAVEN’T made our own movie based on a Will Eisner creation and until we do we can’t criticize it or passionately dislike it.

    GET ON THE BALL, PEOPLE. MAKE A MOVIE.

  86. Also, I think audiences have been trained in receiving your standard Robert McKee 3-act story schematic when it comes to movies, and willful rejections of plot structure or character development will inevitably put people off.

    That is an interesting argument that has been brought up here. It is also an argument, though, that can be objectively discarded as invalid. Just to take one of the movies that is still in limited release and has been universally liked/lauded/loved by critics, as shown by its 94 percent favourables on http://www.rottentomatoes.com

    (I am choosing this as a means of direct comparison with those numbers Miss McDonald has put forth at the beginning of her blog post. This is not to indicate my full support of this particular measurement. However, if one makes a comparison, valid or not, one should at least have the courtesy of using the same methodology)

    The movie? Danny Boyle’s & Loveleen Tanda’s SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE.

    Structurally, that movie does not follow the McKee model at all, regarding it supra-structure in an almost puzzle-like way, where one zips along, looking forwards and backwards, and all of the characters’ motivations are filled in at their appropriate times, when they bring the most effect to the audience’s mind.

    Before somebody says, that would be the editor’s job, no. No, it isn’t. That is the writer’s and the director’s job to lay down the story’s suprastructure… it’s the editor’s job to connect then the single scenes in such a way that they come with the right pacing, and even THAT – the further you move away from the McKee foil – is the director’s job to supervise.

    So, despite the fact that the movie has been in only 614 theatres in the US, it’s screen average is 7,006 US dollars on the whole according to IMDBpro, and its total gross as of today is over 20 million according to BoxOfficeMojo.com

    In comparison, THE SPIRIT’s per screen average shows an attrition per day… just in its third and fourth day of release that is hard to ignore.

    It suffered a 17 percent drop on Saturday (from Friday) and a whopping 21.8 percent on TOP of that, from Saturday to Sunday. It’s per screen average on Sunday was 614 US dollars.

    So, the direct comparison of those two movies, just from a pure technical and structural point of view, discards the above mentioned argument that audiences in general are coming with a Pavlovian reflex that kicks in every time somebody does a non-linear structure.

    Quite the contrary, I do believe that one of the issues facing creatives these days is that their product is dealing with a growing part of an audience that is very well-versed in “the dance”, as we might like to call it. They know the moves, they anticipate the moves, and if one goes through the motions, one better hope for a giant robot fight to appear to take their minds off of things, because the McKee structure is worn thin, again does not take into account that while the movie is running, the viewing itself is an interactive experience as the audience brings EVERY other movie, every other book, every other comic book, every TV show to this particular instance of viewing… everything that they know will be compared – subconsciously, mostly – to those entertainment product that they have been bombarded with.

  87. John DiBello says:

    Wow, a whole lotta people who aren’t Peter David, commenting on what Peter David means and is thinking. I luvs me the internet.

  88. I think Devlin Thompson hit the nail on the head. Miller really has become our Long Duk Dong and that’s a criticism you can actually attribute to him, the man, and not just his work (which of course, has been objectively crap lately).

    It’s incredibly embarrassing whenever he makes a public appearance. It would’t be normally, but he’s always prefaced as being a “master” of the medium or some such hyperbole and then goes on to spout madness like how Iraq declared war on us. He was even drunk the last time I heard him on NPR! And then on top of that, dropping this amatuer hour of a movie, ensuring that another cartoonist will never gets a crack at another movie? Come on! I think there’s some justification on throwing him a stink eye or two.

  89. spike says:

    Thomas-

    I don’t disagree with your points. Wanted to clarify some of my above post though, because I don’t see your views as a polar opposite to mine, nor do I wanna engage in a kind of tit-for-tat argument.

    I don’t think there’s a mindless kind of Pavlovian conditioning to conventional screenwriting. I agree with you that audiences are increasingly aware of the filmic superstructures, and are more sophisticated in their interpretation of them, which is why high camp really only works among modern audiences in an ironic, metatextual way. They have to be in on the joke, and I think that might be one of the failures of The Spirit, that Miller wasn’t successful in conveying what the joke is to his audience (the above sentence is an opening to all kinds of snark, I know). Now, I haven’t seen The Spirit, but judging on my reading of DK2, and what little I’ve seen of ASBAR, and the ongoing debate over whether his recent work is parody or not, I suspect that this is an ongoing problem with Miller–his ability to clearly articulate what he’s doing, and what his stories ARE, even.

    I probably wasn’t clear myself, but I wasn’t exactly saying that audiences can only digest a linear narrative. Of course, a filmmaker or writer can achieve plot and character requirements non-linearly, and generally movie audiences appreciate novelty from the formula when it’s done well and rewards them with a satisfying story experience. But I do think that there are requirements that plot and character are addressed and presented in a way that fulfills audience expectations. Basically what you’re saying in your last paragraph. So, if Miller’s choice was to go with an undercooked plot and broad caricatures in the service of creating a live-action cartoon, hey, it’s not as easy to succeed at that as he may have thought. There is irony in that The Spirit–the creation of a master storyteller–failed because of the storytelling deficiencies of Miller.

  90. “Well if that’s the case, how good were his intentions when he ‘stomped’ all over Batman? What’s the difference?”

    Besides the results, you mean? In the case of TDKR, the work was good.

  91. spike says:

    Toby-

    I would love to see that live-action Liefeld movie. It would be terrifyingly hilarious.

  92. Wow, a whole lotta people who aren’t Peter David, commenting on what Peter David means and is thinking. Wow, a whole lotta people who aren’t Peter David, commenting on what Peter David means and is thinking.

    Wow, commenting on the words used by a writer.

  93. Fanboy Menace says:

    “Fanboy Menace, your handle answers that question.”

    I thought it was a silly play on ‘Phantom Menace’ way back when I starting using it. But if you want to talk about a screen name instead of addressing the point I made then I guess go for it.

  94. Scratchie says:

    If Peter David and others are honestly confused about why people are angry at Miller or feel he deserves a “comeuppance”, I think it has something to do with the fact that he was given a unique chance to present one of the most historic and highly-praised works in the history of the comics medium to the general public and blew it badly.

    It was a unique chance due to the current confluence of interest in “Comic Book Movies” in general and in the work of Frank Miller specifically. This provided an opportunity to present a “Spirit” movie to millions of people who had never even heard of Will Eisner or his creation, and instead of coming away from the movie with the slightest inkling of what made that strip, those neophytes are forever going to associate “The Spirit” with a broad, campy farce.

    At a time when Miller probably could have gotten a movie made out of virtually any of the comic books that he’s produced himself over the last 30 years, he decided that the best way to bring one of the most singular and distinctive artistic creations of the twentieth century to the big screen was to discard almost everything that made it unique and turn it into a “Frank Miller movie”.

    I think that might have something to do with it.

  95. Spike –

    I don’t disagree with your points. Wanted to clarify some of my above post though, because I don’t see your views as a polar opposite to mine, nor do I wanna engage in a kind of tit-for-tat argument.

    – oh dear god, no. I consider this just an interesting debate (and I have finished my work for today), so there won’t be any tit-for-tats from me. I believe that if everybody is civil to one another, real name or handle, one can have an intelligent debate everywhere, be it in a room or on a message board.

    Now, my personal problem with Miller’s movie …

    (and with all apologies to Ms. McDonald, who appears to have made the main culprit the editor, but who is unfortunately quite unable to follow up her criticism by stating that “stronger editing would definitely have made this a better movie, although not having seen the original footage, that’s just a hopeful guess” … during which she contradicts her own argument. Again I apologise, but it can either be definitely a better movie or a hopeful guess . It cannot be a hopeful guess definitive.)

    … is that I do understand what jokes he is trying to go for in numerous instances. Like Roger Ebert, for example, I GOT the fact that the monocle-wearing Nazi-dress-up fetish doll Sam Jackson was very likely a reference point to Strohheim. The only problem was: it wasn’t funny. It wasn’t funny, because none of it was based on characterisation, none of it was based on any funny plot or even slapstick, because even slapstick comes from characters and situations… even in the most Looney Tunes-like way. Chuck Jones delivered more character in five minutes of WHAT’S OPERA, DOC? than Miller delivers in his entire movie.

    And that is Miller’s fault. He wrote it. He directed it. He extensively storyboarded and made detailed animatics for his actors to see prior to them shooting the movie, even to the point that Gabriel Macht said in one interview that he would change the way the character moved as to approximate the animatics.

    That type of approach shows a very deliberate, very controlled environment, which also means that the majority of the look, the pacing and the overall structure was there before they even entered the editing booth. And even then… who was in control of the editing booth?

    Now, there is nothing wrong with the approach per se…

    …but then it is Miller’s responsibility to take for everything that is on the screen… since Miller’s name and the monetary and perhaps even artistic (that is a value judgement) success of the adaptions of SIN CITY and 300 were an integral part of the movie’s marketing campaign. Miller… unchained, so to speak.

    Just to compare it to that other “comic book” movie by Lionsgate this winter. I didn’t hear anywhere that it was “Lexi Alexander’s PUNISHER WAR ZONE”. I may have missed it, though. Maybe she was part of the marketing campaign somewhere, but then it totally went over my head.

  96. Trying to read the Newsarama exchange, I can’t for the life of me figure out how a diatribe against anti-Miller schadenfreude managed to turn into a diatribe against Internet anonymity.

  97. I dont know whats with the negativity around this movie. I have never read the Spirit at all but i liked the movie. Theres a lot of hot chics in it too so I dont see how a guy could at least not like it for that alone.

  98. It would seem that a comic-book movie embracing the ’60s-Batman TV show high camp is no longer in favor, even if rendered in a “dark” palette.

    I’d like to see someone in an interview ask Miller about his more recent interest in camp, to see what he says…because while he has said that he likes to allow his writing to occasionally drift into satire, he seems pretty adamant that what he’s doing is not camp. When they previewed footage at SDCC, it was reported that that the panelists insisted the movie was not campy, even after the footage was to the contrary.

    I honestly believe that Miller really doesn’t realize what he’s doing is camp…but maybe the word showing up in almost every review for The Spirit now will cause him to re-evaluate what he’s trying to accomplish. Or maybe not.

    I’d also love to see someone in an interview ask him about how he waited so long to allow anyone to adapt Sin City for film, because he thought Hollywood would change it dramatically and screw it up, until Robert Rodriguez showed Miller he’d be willing to create a movie so faithful that it followed the story almost panel by panel…and why when Miller himself was given the offer to direct an adaptation, why he decided to change it dramatically rather than trying for the same faithfulness that Rodriguez honored his creations with. Did Miller really think he was honoring Eisner by doing just the opposite of what Miller himself wanted to happen with his own creations? Am I the only one who’s noticed how backwards that is?

  99. spike says:

    No worries, Thomas. Civility in all things is always preferred, especially on the internet. I think if some of the rage out there went toward some calm, rational analysis of Miller’s failure it would go a long way toward more interesting reading, at least.

    Ultimately, Miller is responsible for the movie. As the writer/director, he had more control over the final product than most filmmakers. Sure, moviemaking is a collaborative effort, and the problem with many movies is the “created by committee” factor, once studio execs get their paws on a production, on every level, from script to final edit. Of course, in Miller’s case, it could be argued that he’s had too much control since he’s achieved his auteur reputation, although I don’t know if that was the case on The Spirit.

    It’s clear, though, that what was expected of this movie was that it be a “Frank Miller” movie. For better or worse, Sin City and 300 gave him clout and a bit of creative capital, and the Miller brand had value, moreso than the work of Will Eisner did, on a purely commercial level. Not that that’s fair, necessarily, but this is Hollywood. I don’t begrudge him for taking the opportunity that was presented to him–succeeding in Hollywood by any measure is difficult and rare. So, while Miller is responsible for the movie, it’s not as if he sucker-punched Lionsgate, or Michael Uslan. He gave them what they wanted, and it didn’t pay off for them.

    For a while now I’ve thought that Miller’s best comics work had a strong editorial hand behind them (mainly Denny O’Neil, frankly). His more recent work is a lot more slack, on a story level, than his earlier stuff, much more reductionist and reliant on shock effects over real characterization. Combine that with this trend to do an exact comics-to-film translation and it’s no wonder that the end result feels empty. You CAN’T do a one-to-one transliteration from comics to film. It’s a disservice to the strengths of both media. I’m sure The Spirit is probably very nice to look at, but it has to service story and character. That is, unless all you want is a spectacle to watch, preferably under the influence, in which case god bless you. That’s probably how I’d watch that Rob Liefeld movie.

  100. 1. It’s Lions Gate.

    2. For Sin City, it was a novelty and an interesting choice. For The Spirit, it’s now Frank Miller’s style. I don’t think it works that way, but I’m not saying it’s horrible either.

    3. “Did Miller really think he was honoring Eisner by doing just the opposite of what Miller himself wanted to happen with his own creations? Am I the only one who’s noticed how backwards that is?” More than one person has said (maybe it was only actually 2, but that’s still more than one) that Will Eisner encouraged (via the producers) the individual directing the adaptation of The Spirit to do something different with the film. Frank Miller did something different. It’s not a big deal. Write to Lions Gate and tell them you didn’t like it (in something resembling a polite fashion). Tell them you want to see a more faithful adaptation. Maybe they’ll listen.

    4. I’m betting that the reason this is now Frank Miller’s “style” of filmmaking is because he uses the actors like action figures and draws the setting around them with post production special effects. It’s just like making a comic book to him but different enough to make it a new experience worth trying out. The Spirit is basically Frank Miller’s adaptation of Will Eisner’s The Spirit, and instead of it coming out from Dark Horse on paper, it’s coming out from Lions Gate on film. I believe this is an important distinction, and as an idea and an experiment, it’s really cool. However, as in the comics industry, it’s quite often the strange ideas and experiments that don’t really have the great sales numbers.

    5. To further bang my head against the wall of this topic, it’s not camp and it’s not serious. It’s Frank Miller. So is All Star Batman and Dark Knight Strikes Back. I think he deserves what he does to be called simply “Frank Miller”. He has earned it. Like them or not, Sin City, The Spirit, All Star Batman, and Dark Knight Strikes Back are all simply “Frank Miller”, and I have no doubt that they’re exactly the way he wants them.

  101. R. Maheras says:

    I hate camp, even though, in the past, I’ve enjoyed it when it was done well.

    Why do I hate it? Because it is fundamentally disrespectful of the comics medium. TV/film camp, ala the “Batman” TV show, originally spawned from the belief that the basic medium of comics is not really worthy of serious consideration.

    Which is why I was so angry with Miller for taking a camp (or quasi-camp) approach for “The Spirit”

    If the the films “Iron Man” and “Hellboy II” were steps forward for the comics-related film, “The Spirit” and “Batman & Robin” were huge steps backward.

    What mystifies me is why Miller, allegedly a student of comics history, seemed to be so unaware of this when he opted for the camp approach with [i]The Spirit[/i].

  102. “Did Miller really think he was honoring Eisner by doing just the opposite of what Miller himself wanted to happen with his own creations? Am I the only one who’s noticed how backwards that is?”

    No … I pointed out the same thing, way back toward the beginning of the posts.

  103. The way I see it there’s a large misunderstanding going around between the hollywood industry… that comic book fans will automatically flock to see whatever character is flavor of the month now. If anything, comic book fans (well, any fandom geek, really) tend to be more critic. If you’re basing a movie in well-known, succesful material, it’s not enough to just put on some matrixy cg effects, a bunch of lame on-liners, “badass poses” etc.

    It doesn’t matter if the movie is based on a comic or comic book characters or whatever, simply make a good movie and people will see it. Good script, good casting, memorable scenes. I want to be entertained, goddammit, not to have an spiritual experience. I don’t even care who the hell is Frank Miller, and a very large percentage of movie-goers everywhere haven’t even heard his name. I mean, I’ve been making comics for 10 years now and I didn’t know his work until a couple of years ago.

    I just returned from seeing “The Day the Earth Stood Still” and I’m still appalled at how fricking BAD this movie was, and dismayed at the thought that people are actually being paid to write that horrible.

  104. Miller’s “The Spirit” was totally into some part of the atmospher I would not want to be in, but are we going to act like Will Eisner’s Spirit was something serious and without goofy moments? Come on, I read one comic where Ebony ends up with an African spear and shield in his hand.

    I think my problem with this adaptation is that if Miller did this as a comic, I would be happy to know that most comics fans know something of the original Spirit. As a film adaptation, now people might walk away thinking “what was this Will Eisner guy thinking? He must have been on something.”

    I don’t think that it makes people wonder about Eisner, wonder what they have missed by never hearing of “The Spirit.”

  105. “I just returned from seeing “The Day the Earth Stood Still” and I’m still appalled at how fricking BAD this movie was”

    I liked it. Needed more John Cleese, though.

    “As a film adaptation, now people might walk away thinking “what was this Will Eisner guy thinking? He must have been on something.”
    I don’t think that it makes people wonder about Eisner, wonder what they have missed by never hearing of “The Spirit.” ”

    1. I think most people don’t care. How many people do you think knew that 300 was based on a graphic novel after watching the film despite “based on the graphic novel by Frank Miller” being plastered all over its marketing materials and in the credits? I’d say maybe 10% of the audience and of that 10% about 90% already knew before they watched it.

    2. Then you should tell them what they missed by giving them some collections of The Spirit by Will Eisner. Will Eisner’s The Spirit is still safe and sound on the bookshelves, and the only way people will know anything about it is if it ends up in their hands for reading.

    At least The Spirit did twice as much as Punisher War Zone. That’s fairly impressive to me. Punisher was a sequel with name recognition. The Spirit basically came out of nowhere. The grosses are not that bad, considering.

  106. Rafael says:

    Lionsgate: Frank Miller to direct THE PUNISHER.
    Simple fix, all is good with the world.

  107. I think Miller would be awesome on a Punisher movie. At this point, anything would be better for the Punisher as a film franchise.

    I can talk to people in my circle of friends, and people I know through the internet; but the stranger sitting in the same aisle as me who is confused by Sam Jackson chopping fat guys in half with a katana goes off and I don’t get to say “hey, if you didn’t like this, try this alternative.”

    Speaking of Punisher, I think that Punisher has had three separate, very different adaptations and I think Spirit should get another one, maybe a half decade down the road. Blue suit, Ebony White, the whole classic thing.

    That’s not to say that Frank Miller’s decisions to change The Spirit were wrong. I think the black suit and the glowy sneakers were just fine. Also, most of the writing was spot-on. At times (when The Octopus wasn’t on screen) I felt like Miller was doing the Spirit right.

    I think the Dolans were the best cast roles in the whole movie.

  108. Alan Coil says:

    Thomas R. Hart said:

    “In comparison, THE SPIRIT’s per screen average shows an attrition per day… just in its third and fourth day of release that is hard to ignore.

    It suffered a 17 percent drop on Saturday (from Friday) and a whopping 21.8 percent on TOP of that, from Saturday to Sunday.”

    Thomas, that’s true of almost all movies. 1st day is almost always much bigger than 2nd day, 2nd day is always bigger than 3rd day.

    Dark Knight, as reported by Nikki Finke on deadlinehollywooddaily dot com, opened with 67.9 million on Friday, 48 million Saturday (down 29%), and 39.4 million on Sunday (down 18%).

    High School Musical–16.9 million on FR, 15.3 on SA, 10 on SU.

    Twilight–35.8 on FR, 21 on SA, 13.6 on SU.

  109. I don’t know about you guys but I could watch a entire movie of Eva Mendes photocopying her ass.

    Any hands for any one who stayed through the credits – to see Frank’s storyboards spersed through the credits?

    I thought I’d never live see the day when the name “Jim Shooter” would show up listed as a movie credit.

    Nice to see Bob Schreck and Diane Schutz’s name mentioned, though.

    To be honest, I think one rush to the Frank Miller dogpile for me personally has to be the way he is so reveried by the right wing media because of last summer’s soundbytes having him comparing the Dark Knight movie to George W. Bush’s war on terrorism. I mean, local radio talk show host Larry Elder on KABC ( he’s now resigned from the station) once spent two hours on his show talking and analyzing about Frank Miller’s rallying behind Dubya’s war cry policies of torture and war profiteering ( although the soundbytes did originate from a NPR interview)

    You would think that comic book creators would have a liberal view on these kind of things.

    So, I saw this a couple of nights ago at the Rave – which is a all digital theater complex in the newly built Town Center just a few blocks from the Mandalay Bay on the Strip in Las Vegas. I was supposed to have a date accompany me from my myspace page.

    Well, she flaked on me – and I suspect it was all due to Frank Miller’s assocation with the film.

    So, Frank – I want to thank you for ruining my love life.

    Plus – since she happened to be African American – I think the sight of Samuel J. Jackson parading around in a Nazi uniform probably would have been too much for her to handle.

    ….at least it was for me.

    However- not having my date show up meant I could gourge out on a big plate of Nachos without feeling guilty. However Jackson popping out of that curtain garbed as a gestapo almost made me pull a George W choking on pretzel bit – EXCEPT when you’re choking down on a tortilla strip drenched in thick syrupy cheese- IT HURTS EVEN WORSE!

    I also – like someone mentioned elsewhere – I too, checked out the Day the Earth Stood Still remake on the IMAX on the Palms – and my dad asked me which of the two movies did I enjoy more and I had to admit hands down that I was more easily entertained by The Spirit – because it was a ‘life and death’ struggle to get through.

    ~

    Coat

  110. The Xenos says:

    Well, I’m rather glad that’s over. Maybe now Miller can go back to doing his own works as movies or, heaven forbid, go back to making goddamn comics. I love Miller’s work and what little I’ve seen of Eisner’s Spirit seems fantastic. I just don’t think these two great tastes went together well at all. Does anyone think The Spirit will ever get redeemed? Maybe Brad Bird or Darwyn Cooke can make an animated film someday. This seemed like a waste of a Spirit film. I’m not quite glad it bombed, but.. meh. I don’t know. It just didn’t seem right for a while and this seems like a logical conclusion.

  111. Dark Knight, as reported by Nikki Finke on deadlinehollywooddaily dot com, opened with 67.9 million on Friday, 48 million Saturday (down 29%), and 39.4 million on Sunday (down 18%).

    High School Musical–16.9 million on FR, 15.3 on SA, 10 on SU.

    Twilight–35.8 on FR, 21 on SA, 13.6 on SU.

    First of all, happy new year, Alan :)

    As for your argument, in itself, that argument is hard to counter. Unfortunately, though, the examples you are giving, provide no statistical comparsion to a movie like THE SPIRIT, especially since TWILIGHT and HSM 3 were what are called front-loaders, with an extraordinary interest by a quantifiable group that advance ordered the tickets to be there on opening night. The same can also be said of DARK KNIGHT, which – due to numerous parameters – had become the most anticipated movie of the year up until that point (and one can argue, even after)

    A rather large drop-off on a daily basis, even up to 40 percent, is well within the realm of calculation there.

    In order to give such a statistical argument some validity, one must find a similarly marketed movie with a similar target audience and similarly obscure material that has what one could call “geek recognition”, but is by and large unknown to a wider audience.

    Thankfully, the year provided us with such a movie, which – while not completely 1:1 in all of its parameters, can well serve for such a comparison.

    The movie? MAX PAYNE.

    Now, I am saying the parameters are not 1:1, mainly because that movie opened in 1,000 theatres more and had the benefit of being relatively lonely there on its opening weekend. But it is close enough.

    MAX PAYNE

    FR: Average per screen / $2,086

    SAT:AvS/ $1,928 (= -7.6 %)

    SUN: AvS/ $1,211 (= -37.2%)

    In conclusion, one could very well call THE SPIRIT a miniature front-loader with an incredibly tiny range of appeal in the first place, which in itself is something that relieves Miller somewhat of his responsibility and shifts it towards Lionsgate and Michael Uslan for choosing a property that had no reason to be in the theatres in the first place, from a commercial point of view.

    Then again, one could also very well say that of a little-known vampire hunter named BLADE in 1998, dumped in the wastelands of the end of August (where movies like BABYLON AD are dumped today), same property value, same target audience, and if we extrapolate Snipes’ value as a movie star based on 1998 figures, it’s not quite Gabriel Macht/Sam Jackson/Eva Mendez/Scarlett Johannsen… but it is kind of close enough.

    Unfortunately, I can’t obtain the direct daily figures at the moment, but the opening weekend at a 2,322 screen run equals an Average per Screen of $ 7,353 …

    (ah, numbers :) we can play this all day, I swear we can)

    Hollywood has only two rules. 1) make me money, lots of it OR 2) win me awards, lots of them. Michael Bay and Brett Ratner have careers because of rule no. 1, the Coen Brothers because of rule no. 2 (and no, awards are more than just the Academy kind)

    What Miller has achieved, and that is no small feat… he has made a movie that both failed critically AND commercially on a level that – and please let me point out again that I do not have anything against him personally, I don’t know the man, he is probably a nice chap – has left an enormous commercial and creative crater that will be seen for a long time and from quite a distance.

    What makes this so significant? And why are people harping on so much about it? It’s not, I believe, because it was a bad comic book adaptation… there have been many of those and even more bad novel adaptations, it is because of the man who did this.

    If it had been, e.g., Brett Ratner screwing up Conan (he might, who know?), the level of anger would have been, “eh, that’s Hollywood, they don’t know what they are doing anyway”, which was kind of the reaction that followed the adaptations of FROM HELL, V FOR VENDETTA and LOEG.

    It’s the fact that one of the most prestigious, most commercially valid comic book writer & artist – for the first time, I believe (please somebody correct me, if I am wrong) had unprecedented control over the movie-making proccess. Let me re-iterate. He wrote it. He directed it. And unless Lionsgate took the final cut away, he was in control of the editing booth.

    And he made it a creative, critical AND commercial failure.

    I wish him all the best, personally, I really do, but he does have the face a serious problem now, even in his core audience. In other words: if the reaction of “man, this is the guy who did DKR” is replaced by the joke “I am the goddamn XYZ”… you’re in trouble.

  112. It’s the fact that one of the most prestigious, most commercially valid comic book writer & artist – for the first time, I believe (please somebody correct me, if I am wrong) had unprecedented control over the movie-making proccess. Let me re-iterate. He wrote it. He directed it. And unless Lionsgate took the final cut away, he was in control of the editing booth.

    Actually, I can correct myself. In 2004, very renowned (and one of the bestselling) European writer/artists Enki Bilal did a 23 million Euro version (in 2004 dollars, that would be 29.9 million) of his own graphic novels “La Foire aux immortels” and “La Femme piège” called IMMORTEL. As far as I know he had also a huge chunk of control over the product, having adapted it himself and directed it completely against green screen.

    Commercially speaking, it was a huge disaster, as the movie grossed in Europe approximately 4 million Euros (about 6 million 2004 US dollars). Critically speaking, it met a similar fate as THE SPIRIT, and the review by Tasha Robinson at the Onion AV Club… could pretty much be the same as one for Miller’s movie.

    Immortal, the third film written and directed by French/Yugoslavian comic-book artist Enki Bilal, falls into the usual traps of a highly visually innovative cinematic technological experiment: It’s stunning from start to finish, with every calculated frame a poster-perfect image, but it’s also busy, cold, and soulless, with a story that doesn’t unfold so much as it mechanically lines up grungy-gorgeous sequences for perusal like paintings in a museum exhibit.

    http://www.avclub.com/content/node/25462

    … but perhaps it wasn’t on everybody’s radar in the US, the favourable rating giving on Rottentomatoes was 43 percent (as I stated earlier, I am not really comfortable with the RT system as a basis of argumentation, but will use it here as to work from the same base level)

    http://uk.rottentomatoes.com/m/1144306-immortel/

  113. The Beat says:

    Marjane Satrapi, Persepolis.

  114. I walked out after 30 minutes. A movie without life or charm, it is like a movie under the veil of 40mg of Valium.

  115. Scratchie says:

    “Seriously. What the hell has he done that he somehow deserves to have a movie that he spent several years of his life crafting, about a subject that he obviously cares passionately about, wind up crashing and burning?”

    Made a terrible movie?

    You’re welcome.

  116. All Frank Miller needed for this movie was an editor, someone to tell him that you don’t have to cram all this insanity in this movie. He said in an interview that he believes that Eisner would have liked what he did with The Spirit. The man certainly knew Eisner better than any of us, but I don’t see how this was completely in step with what Eisner did.

  117. Scratchie says:

    Here’s a nice antidote/counterpoint to David’s hero-worship:

    ‘Miller is the highly lauded writer/artist behind such graphic novels as “Batman: The Dark Knight Returns” and “Sin City.” To many nerds, his work is considered groundbreaking, and I suppose that’s true in the sense that Miller single-handedly made comics even dumber. Unlike Alan Moore, whose work was targeted at actual adults, Miller’s collection of growling, swearing, constantly bleeding, big-titted badasses were aimed squarely at perpetual adolescents. Allowing Miller to re-imagine Will Eisner’s quiet, understated comic book is like allowing Jeff Dunham and his hateful, one-note puppets to star in a remake of “Dr. Strangelove.”’

    http://www.theweekender.com/movies/In_the__lsquo_Spirit_rsquo__of_cinematic_crap_12-30-2008.html

  118. Peter David says:

    Uhm…that “antidote” mostly says that anyone who liked “Dark Knight Returns” or “Sin City” is kind of a moron. That’s some definition of “nice” with which I was previously unaware if you happen to be a comic fan, but okay, if you take pleasure in it…

    PAD

  119. Steven R. Stahl says:

    How many comics has Miller scripted, with the art done by someone else, besides issues of DAREDEVIL? If he was generally the writer and penciler on his books, the combination could partially explain his focus on cinematic effects in movies.

    SRS

  120. Scratchie says:

    Peter David wrote:

    ‘Uhm…that “antidote” mostly says that anyone who liked “Dark Knight Returns” or “Sin City” is kind of a moron.’

    Um, that’s not really what he wrote, and I’m a little surprised that a professional writer can’t tell the difference between saying “XYZ certainly inspired a lot of dumb comics in its wake” and “Anyone who likes XYZ is a moron”. But then again, I’m just an “ant”, so what do I know?

    ‘That’s some definition of “nice” with which I was previously unaware if you happen to be a comic fan, but okay, if you take pleasure in it…’

    Well, what if you’re a comic fan who prefers not to have his intelligence insulted on every page?

    What if you’re a comic fan who doesn’t think “dark and violent” == “sophisticated realism”?

    What if you’re a comic fan who actually knows what “film noir” means?

    What if you’re a comic fan who’s just sick of one-dimensional characters, unfunny sledgehammer “satire” and juvenile attitudes towards sex?

    Just take a look at the IMDB message boards for the new Spirit movie. Here’s what the *fans* of this movie are saying:

    -> “Of course it’s bad, it’s supposed to be bad.”
    -> “It’s supposed to be stupid, it’s a comic book.”
    -> “It’s supposed to be cheesy, it’s a comic book.”
    -> “It’s supposed to be campy, it’s a comic book.”

    There’s your Frank Miller Legacy right there. The next time you try to convince a layman that comic books are not universally stupid, cheesy, campy or intentionally bad, you’ll have Frank Miller to thank for your trouble.

  121. Peter David says:

    Uh, no, that really IS what he wrote. He didn’t merely attack the comics; he attacked the people who liked the comics in language that–if I used it–would get me pilloried. Some excerpts:

    “Unfortunately, I do know better to realize that Frank Miller isn’t a pen name. For those unfamiliar with the world of comic books (and therefore aren’t filled with a combination of self-loathing and Cheetos),”

    Comic book fans in general hate themselves and eat junkfood. Nice.

    “To many nerds,”

    Comic book fans who liked “DKR” or “Sin City” are nerds.

    ” Unlike Alan Moore, whose work was targeted at actual adults, Miller’s collection of growling, swearing, constantly bleeding, big-titted badasses were aimed squarely at perpetual adolescents.”

    Comic book fans who liked “DKR” or “Sin City” are perpetual adolescents.

    Self-loathing, junk-food eating, immature nerds. I think “kind of morons” pretty much distills it to its essence. He basically launched an ad hominem attack on anyone who liked “DKR” or “Sin City,” which naturally he’s entitled to do. But for someone who seized upon my “ants” comment with such fervor, it’s rather astounding that you make excuses for someone who indisputably despises fans of Miller’s earlier work.

    PAD

  122. Scratchie says:

    Feel free to continue focusing on his stylistic flourishes rather than the actual question of whether Miller’s work and the imitations it has inspired has been beneficial or not for comic books as an art form in the long run.

  123. Scratchie says:

    PS: Isn’t this Frank Miller we’re discussing? The guy who writes his contempt for his fans into his scripts?

    “Detail her bra; it’ll drive them crazy, Jim.”

    “She knows what she’s got. Make them drool.”

    “Ok, Jim. I’m Shameless. Let’s go with an ASS SHOT [his caps, not mine]”

  124. Peter David says:

    “Stylistic flourishes?” He attacked anyone who liked “Dark Knight Returns” or “Sin City.” Bottom line, Frank Miller made a movie that didn’t work and bombed. Lots of people have made movies that didn’t work and bombed, including people who went on to win Oscars. It happens. Just as I was moved to wonder what Frank did to deserve such personal animosity and reveling in his failure, I am now moved to wonder what comic fans did to deserve such hostility simply for liking some comic books. Hostility that you clearly will bend over backwards to excuse while simultaneously obsessing about my own “stylistic flourish” of ants and eagles.

    I’m going to continue focusing on the point I brought up in the first place. You, on the other hand, are free to complain that I’m not focusing on what YOU want to focus on. If that’s all you have, then I’m done with you.

    PAD

  125. I just have to say that a lot of the reviews and talk of The Spirit failing as a result from not following the long-established ‘rules’ of successful film creation reminds me of the narrow-minded approach to judging the merit of a poem that was rightly criticised by John Keating in Dead Poets Society.

    I detest the opinion that this movie is proof comic books and films should never cross paths. Film and all artforms are forever evolving and branching out whether you like it or not.

    I believe we forget films are just another form of art, and that at the end of the day each film wont appeal to everyone, just like a Picasso isn’t everyone’s cup of tea.

    A bad movie is just another way of saying that the film didn’t appeal to your interests or your individual perception of films in general. That’s the reason why some people’s all time favourite film is Schindler’s List, while other people place Terminator 2 at the top of their personal top 10 list. Everyone has their own personal definiton of what a bad film is.

    For example, a lot of people will disagree with me but all the James Bond films prior to Daniel Craig did not appeal to me at all. For me they were bad films according to my taste. The latest two I love. But I still respect the fact that people like the older films and understand the reasons why they like them.

    Theres no right or wrong opinion. Even if the majority of people think a movie is bad, it’s only ever going to be a bad film to them and them only, so there’s not much point arguing too much.

    In terms of The Spirit. I loved it for the campyness and one-liners and the over-the-top plotline and controversial art style. Other people hated it for that. Think about that for a second.

    Now, I’d seriously get bored if all comic book movies took The Dark Knight approach. I love realism and drama, but if that’s all that existed I’d be craving for fun, humours, outrageous rides like The Spirit a lot more. Brings me back to the days of Dick Tracy and The Phantom. I’d certainly see less films if there were only serious adult dramas to see and not any action films, comedies, kids films or anything that mashes those 3 together.

    It also may interest people that my 50+ year old mother loved and enjoyed The Spirit movie very much.

    It’s also funny how people complain The Spirit looks too much like Sin City, when the majority of films photographically look pretty much like eachother; realistic and not stylised.

    And Bladerunner was considered a bad film back in its day. Now it’s a masterpiece.

Trackbacks

  1. [...] “What has Frank Miller done that he warrants a “comeuppance?” Seriously. What the hell has he done that he somehow deserves to have a movie that he spent several years of his life crafting, about a subject that he obviously cares passionately about, wind up crashing and burning? You, who stands so bravely behind his words that he has to hide behind cutesy fake names, feel the need to label Frank Miller with condescending nicknames? You know what? Ants don’t get to condescend to eagles. Presuming you even saw the movie: Perhaps you feel you didn’t get your money’s worth. Y’know what? I feel the same way. I paid admission, same as you. Same as everybody. I could have gone to a free advance screening. I was invited. Instead I chose to wait so that I could support the producers, who are friends of mine. But there is absolutely no way that I feel that Frank somehow had it coming. Because all Frank Miller has ever done is try to produce the best stories he is capable of, and he signs his name to everything he writes, which is more than I can say for you. Even when Frank Miller falls, he falls from heights that most of us cannot hope to achieve, myself not excluded. If it’s too much to think that you should show at least a modicum of respect for someone who has devoted his life to this medium, then at least acknowledge that the reason you’re doing the happy dance over the failure of someone who has achieved more in his life thus far is than you likely ever will in the entirety of yours is because you’re unspeakably petty and ungrateful and ungracious.” – Peter David taking the SPIRIT nay-sayers to task. (via The Beat).  « Weekend links: Videos (and an article) from my favorite screenwriters. [...]

  2. [...] Some of the recent reactions to Frank Miller’s Spirit movie made me think about this phenomenon though. As Peter David commented on Blog@Newsarama and Heidi MacDonald somewhat echoed on The Beat, “Even when Frank Miller falls, he falls from heights that most of us cannot hope to achieve, myself not excluded. If it’s too much to think that you should show at least a modicum of respect for someone who has devoted his life to this medium, then at least acknowledge that the reason you’re doing the happy dance over the failure of someone who has achieved more in his life thus far is than you likely ever will in the entirety of yours is because you’re unspeakably petty and ungrateful and ungracious.” In other words, he deserves the respect that his many successes have earned him. In a way, I think all comic creators deserve that kind of respect. In working with writers, pencilers, inkers, colorists, and letterers I’ve come to realize that they all work their butts off. The myth of artists blowing off deadlines to go play video games is for the most part just that… a myth. The majority of writers and artists I know in the comic industry are working ALL of the time. Twelve or fourteen hour days are not uncommon. They work weekends and nights. [...]

  3. [...] THE BEAT Blog Archive Lionsgate SPIRIT gamble fails Posted by root 16 hours ago (http://pwbeat.publishersweekly.com) I will quote a comment from peter david from blog in full some may call of the spider man iron man and batman film adaptations for many comics fans as dean suggests and maybe the movie might have been more palatable to general i think the dolans were the Discuss  |  Bury |  News | the beat blog archive lionsgate spirit gamble fails [...]

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