Special Edition Podcast

Special Edition – Frank Miller’s The Spirit

Show Notes

With Ron Richards still out of commission, Josh Flanagan, Conor Kilpatrick and iFanboy staff writer Paul Montgomery gather to discuss Frank Miller’s The Spirit.

Total Running Time: 00:24:08

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Flight of the Conchords



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  1. I exactly agree that it felt like a comic book.  Not the spirit of a comic book, not a good translation, but really there were moments that just very much felt like I was looking and experiencing the page with just maybe my imagination heightened a couple notches.  Not a Will Eisner, but perhaps a Frank Miller mini of The Spirit.

    Not a good movie, but enjoyable if you’re a big Miller fan.  Not bad, not terrible, not a disaster, not a trashing of a classic character… Alright.

  2. Also, The Robin thing… I don’t get that criticizing. It was just laying it on that the dude likes little boys. Does it really have to be more than that? Are you offended by the use of the old batman/robin joke?

  3. I agree, i don’t think it was a big deal at all.  I saw it as another reference to his old work, nothing more.

  4. Avatar photo Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

    Personally, I wasn’t offended.  I just think it was an awkward joke/reference.  Partially an issue with Eva’s delivery of the line.  

  5. The movie has not come out in Australia yet, and after this podcast I’m still going to go. Just a quick question.

    Didn’t Frank Miller direct Robocop 3? 

  6. @g0ofnewt: According to IMDB, it was Fred Dekker.

  7. Thanks, guys! I had been ignoring all other reviews hoping you guys would review the film before I decide if I’m going to go see it or not. Being married with kids and on a small entertainment budget, I have to choose theater movies carefully because I don’t get to see many in theaters. Thanks to your review, I think I’ll wait for the DVD release.

    Keep up the good work! 

  8. I agree with Josh and Paul in regards to not being able to stop analyzing the film from a distance and just getting into it. I couldn’t do it either. I kept thinking this was Frank Miller doing Frank Miller. The little bit of Will Eisner that broke through was fine for what it was but wasn’t enough to sustain it for me. I also agree that this was more of an experiment in technique than an actual film, which probably has a lot to do with Miller being a first-timer behind the camera.

    I can see how Miller fans would eat this movie up. It has everything that IS Miller’s style. But, like Josh said, a lot that doesn’t quite translate to film. I’m specifically thinking of a scene with him walking around in the streets in silhouette and we only see his red tie and white sneakers. He does a monologue that had me looking at the black spaces on the screen thinking a text box should be here and here.

    The scenes with Ellen Dolan and The Spirit were good and the flashback with the young Sand and Denny was much better than it had a right to be. 

    I was waiting for your guys’ opinion on this one and was not dissapointed. With 20/20 hindsight, I can see your points and even agree with some of them, but I don’t think I’ll be seeing this one again.

    Oh, and on Conor’s thing about this being just like a 1940’s film with modern techniques, I thought about Dick Tracy a lot when watching this and thought if they did this like that I think it might’ve worked better. I guess I just wanted some bright shiny color.

  9. Avatar photo Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

    I love how the guest host rambles on so.  He reminds me of an adorably befuddled Colin Firth!  

  10. For some reason, he reminded me of Red Tornado.

  11. Conor go watch the following 40’s Noir films:

    High Sierra, The Maltese Falcon, CASABLANCA, Shadow of a Doubt; Murder, my Sweet (Farewell, My Lovely); Notorious, and The Third Man. Then go tell me again that this felt like a 40’s Noir film.

    I’m sorry I know it’s opinion and you have a right to say these things…..but if your gonna tell me something ridiculous like that you need to have some idea what 40’s Noir is in order to tell me it’s like an homage.

  12. I love me some Third Man.  Best movie ever made.

  13. @Tork: Do you see hints of ‘The Third Man’ in ‘The Spirit’?

  14. There’s that whole speech Octopus makes about the futility of morality while referencing the advent of the Cuckoo Clock. 

    Wait, I think I made that up.

    I didn’t actually see it, to be honest.  Most of my impression of the film is based on the impassioned responses of friends who did. After the third or fourth rant about Sam Jackson in an SS uniform, I decided this movie probably wasn’t for me.

  15. Avatar photo Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

    I don’t know that those are the films to use for comparison.  In the context of the conversation, I think we were talking about the relationship between Spirit and the Dolans.  Which is more comical than the films you listed.  There’s almost a Damon Runyon quality to it.  Which is an earlier period, but the same idea.  You want more of a His Girl Friday/Philadelphia Story kind of flair.  

  16. @TNC: I never said "40s noir films," I said "40s films." Specifically, as Paul said, the Hepburn and Traceyesque HIS GIRL FRIDAY type banter.  I was speaking to the quick banter and relationship between The Spirit and the Dolans.

    Also, I have seen all those films.  I even own one or two.

  17. Avatar photo Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

    The Spirit, as a character, ought to live somewhere between a suave Cary Grant and Jimmy Stewart when he’s playing confidence.  Like Jimmy in Rear Window.  When you think about it, the character has real range.  He’s sometimes an aw shucks bumbling kind of guy just barely making it out alive, a shameless womanizer, and a dark and mysterious pulp hero.  Part Batman, part Jimmy Olsen.  That’s how I see it anyway.    

  18. Well I just didnt see any of that. All I saw was a bad comic book film made by a person who obviously lost his touch when it comes to writing.

    I didnt notice you didnt say ‘noir’ conor. Sorry about that, but you did say 40’s films and this Spirit film is technically a noir film…So I just put two and two together. Still I’m not seeing any type of noir in this film, just looney toons action and plot.

  19. Or you can see The Thin Man movies instead. If you want murder and comedy: Kill or Cure (1962)



  20. @Champ.  I don’t think you can say that Miller has lost his writing touch because of this movie.  I think that alot of us would have accepted this dialogue (especially the monologues) had they appeared on a printed page.  Like someone (I believe Josh) said, many of Miller’s works sound hokey and awful when read out loud, but they work great in print. 

    I really think that Miller had great ideas in this film, just incredibly poor execution of said ideas.

  21. @Anson: Well for the last couple of years Miller have wrote two things:

    All Star Batman & Robin and The Spirit. I know a ton of people defend the Batman book for it’s ‘humor’. But to me, if that is the best stuff he can write in the last 5 years…..then to me that feels like he is losing his edge as a writer. Plus, he’s got a Batman book (whenever it comes out) where he fights Al-Qaida…..come on….that is something I would not read.

    Even if the Spirit film was in comic form, I’d be pissed I spent that much money for a bad story.

  22. I’m actually fairly excited for Holy Terror!  I figure either go big or go home.  I’ve actually been enjoying All-Star for the most part.  I totally understand why it doesn’t jive with most people, but for some reason, it seems to be right up my alley.  I love the dialogue that takes place between Bruce and Dick.  I know it’s not the perfect book, but I get a kick out of it, and it still has Jim Lee art. Beautiful Jim Lee art. 

     I agree that The Spirit had a really weak story.  The whole Octopus creating the Spirit thing was just pointless and ate up far too much screen time.  I’ll agree with the iFanboys in saying that I loved some of the Spirit’s interactions with the women.  Seeing as the Teen scene was one of the best in the film, I’m gonna go out on a limb and say that Frank Miller’s future is in directing Teen Drama.  High School Musical 4:The College Years, directed by Frank Miller!  Any takers?

  23. I’d pay good money to see that, but only because I think the teen-dance numbers would look great shot mostly in white and red siloquettes on black stages. It’d be like a Frank Miller Rave.

  24. Yeah, I kinda want to check this out, but, I fear as Paul said, that I wouldn’t watch, but, observe.  Having said that, I’m a HUGE Miller fan, much like Conner, so I think I’ll probably enjoy the bombastedness and over the top nature of the film.

     By the way, Miller also had a dying cameo in Daredevil.  Man with pen in head, I think is his credit.


  25. Kyle Baker’s funny review of THE SPIRIT

  26. Interesting reviews, I thought it was going to be more savage honestly.  My thoughts after seeing the show and then listening to the podcast.  This is from someone whose only really read the Darwyn Cooke Spirit stories, so I’m not that protective of Eisner.

    a) it’s interesting that one of the things that most people have liked about the film is the 40s’ aspect of the banter, which was something that people seemed to like about the Iron Man movie too claiming that the Pepper/Tony relationship was very much like the Thin Man films. 

    b) I think Miller gets the characters right.  I just think that they’re in a bad movie.  By right I don’t mean that they’re faithful to Eisner, I don’t know the characters that well, but I mean that they’re interesting enough that I’d watch them in a good movie.

    c) How much you’re going to like this film depends on how much Miller’s worn out his welcome with you.  This is really concentrated Miller, like trying to drink Coke syrup from a soda fountain before the water and carbination has been added, and if you’re a big fan of his you’re going to have an easier time than I did since my Miller tolerance level is quite low.

    d) This movie was always going to fail, at least when Miller was given writing and directing control.  And by fail I mean not make any money, Miller might be a genius, but he needs someone to direct that and it seems like he didn’t have anyone above him here who could say, "Well you know Frank let’s really consider this Nazi thing."  The producers clearly hoped that like most recent comic book films the picture would reach a non-comic book audiance, but it looks like that clearly did not happen.

    e) This movie just completely perplexed me in ways that modern movies don’t.  The closest movie watching experiance that comes to mind for me was seeing Buckaroo Banzai the first time, in which I just sat there scratching my head and asking myself, "Really, he’s also a rock star?"  That could suggest that The Spirit might have some legs as a Rocky Horror Picture Show type cult film.

  27. I’ve not read anything of Kyle Bakers, but based on his hilarious review alone, I’m gonna try to pick up whatever he’s worked on that was great. Thought as I click around on The Internets, it sounds like he does  mostly/all great things.

    The Spirit was better then Daredevil. And Ghostrider. And I probably liked Spirit more then Wanted. I felt like I was crazy with The Spirit making "Worst of 08" on several AICN movie lists and generally depised more then a lot of crappy movies this year. I went in bracing for "Teh Suck" and ended up enjoying it. I’m glad to hear a few reviews that made me feel not-so-alone.

    It wasn’t completely without charm, and I honestly feel like Miller could make good movies if he had some more film-mileage under his belt. He’s a good storyteller. And every shot that didn’t work for me, I could close my eyes and see it as a panel on a comic book and end up admitting that on paper it probably would.

    That is just me though.

  28. I find Paul’s voice is sexier than I imagined it would be.  Back to listening!

  29. I never realised, like you guys said it in the podcast, on how over the top Frank Miller really is.

    After reading Dark Knight Returns, 300, Ronin, and Hard Boiled….I couldnt have guessed Miller was always this crazy son of a bitch.

  30. @TNC agreed – I think Miller’s always been derranged.

    I let my little brother read Dark Knight Returns a few weeks ago and his response was "Yeah man, it was really good but seriously, everything Batman says is so intense and crazy. When he said all that stuff about breaking that Mutant’s legs, I laughed out loud. Batman is crazy."

  31. Good show guys.

  32. No matter how much I like Frank Miller, Hard Boiled is messed up.  I can’t think of any other words to describe that book.

  33. I really want to read Hardboiled except I’ve had some of the settings and situations described to me. I’m not sure I want to have that in my home…


  35. Is this the level of discourse we can come to expect?



  37. I havent listened to the podcast yet guys, but I gotta admit, I was really, REALLY, bored watching this movie.  Just a few days ago, I saw ‘The Curious Case of Benjamin Button;’ a movie that’s almost 3hrs long, completely engrossed in the story and its characters.  ‘The Spirit’ was barely over an hour and a half and I kept looking at the time waiting for it to be over.  I liked Gabriel Macht and would enjoy watching him in a better made Spirit film, but I just felt the entire movie was poorly directed and very……odd.

  38. I’m excited to see what Macht does after this.  I think he did a great job with what he was given.  It’d be interesting to see him under a different director with a stronger script.

  39. This made me laugh mightily.

    "Too call the characters stiff is to insult a useful packing material" Roger Ebert


  40. What is it about bashing that people enjoy so much?

  41. Roger Ebert is an artist when it comes to clever criticism.  He’s like Don Rickles.  I hope to be insulted by him someday.

  42. A couple of weeks ago, in the spirit of Christmas, I think Roger Ebert hit the nog and got a little satisfied with himself and posted a blog entry consisting of nothing but his favorite movie insults he’s written: http://blogs.suntimes.com/ebert/2008/12/in_the_meadow_we_can_review_a.html I was rapt and delighted.

  43. Well Ebert has a book out that has the reviews of the worst films he ever seen. I believe it’s called ‘Your Movie Sucks’. lol

  44. I disagree with the reviewers saying this movie is better than Punisher Warzone. Is it better made technically? Oh sure. Has better actors? Definitely. A great creative team behind it? Not arguing.

     But one thing Punisher had on this is that I was able to just tune my brain out, travel back to the gore-ific 80’s actioners I grew up on, and just bath in the bloo, guts, and self-righteousness of it all. It was ludicrously horrible in so many ways, but the violence and the fact it took itself so seriously at least allowed me to have a bit of nostalgia between the bouts of ultraviolence.

     The Spirit? I was literally physically uncomfortable and irritated watching this film. It’s not like this movie was a snooze fest, seeing as there’s so much action, but there was some odd combination of stilted dialogue, overly directed acting and odd editing and cinematography that, when added together, simply made it unwatchable to me. Me and my two friends actually left an hour and a half through and sneaked into Marley and Me because it was the only movie getting underway at the point in time.

    Suffice it to say, Marley and Me is better than both of the movies I mentioned above.

  45. I definately see you guy’s points about the film.

    One thing I think I can argue, though, is the randomity of the Nazi stuff. I think he uses it as a sort of "black hat" for most of his minor characters. As for Octopus and his assistant in uniforms while talking to Spirit, I think it was subtlely connecting the experimentations that Octopus had done on Spirit’s corpse to the Nazi scientists doing wierd experiments on the bodies of the "undesirables" they slaughtered.

    The rest I can agree with–it’s basically a flawed movie by a talented guy with little experience in a new field, and if one’s enjoyment of the film depends greatly on whether one enjoys his style.

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