Posted: Sun Apr 20, 2008 2:35 am Post subject: The Spirit 2009
Since the teaser poster and trailer have come out this week, I figured I'd start a thread for the film.
Will Eisner's The Spirit
The Spirit (also known as Will Eisner's The Spirit) is an upcoming 2009 American film adaptation based on the newspaper strip The Spirit created by Will Eisner. Frank Miller wrote and directed the film, which stars Gabriel Macht as The Spirit and Samuel L. Jackson as his nemesis, The Octopus. Filming began in October 2007, with release scheduled for January 16, 2009.
The film series will not begin with an origin story, but will instead open with the adventures of The Spirit already having begun. The film will be more contemporary than the '40s and '50s era of the strip and will aim for a "timeless feel." The protagonist will be involved in a love triangle with Sand Saref and Ellen Dolan, the daughter of Central City's Police Commissioner Dolan. The controversial character Ebony White will not appear in the film.
MTV has the teaser trailer up here. They also have two small video interviews up on the same page. One is with Frank Miller and the other is with Eva Mendes. You Tube has the teaser up as well. I've embedded it here for convenience.
I really like the frank miller movies and the preview looks cool, and a lot like Sin City. I didnít know of him before these movies but look forward to more as I liked Sin City and 300 quite a bit. The men are generally macho and the chics hot. The stories are believable enough for fiction and interesting to me. Iíll pay close attention throughout the movie because each scene is well done before the next transition making me wonder how the story will continue/end. These are amongst movies I put on for background noise when I have stuff to do around the house on my off days. Iíve seen them so much, but like to pack a 4.5 gig dvd w/ 700meg movies like this and let them play all day long.
I haven't ever really cracked open an issue of The Spirit comic, so I wasn't sure if that's how it was supposed to look
It's not. That "my mother, my lover" bullshit is totally off as well. Miller ought to know better -- but then, given his current comics work on Batman, maybe he's of the mind that his approach is the only one that matters. Still, really no point in calling this "Will Eisner's The Spirit," because it isn't.
Nice use of Morricone's Untouchables music though.
Eisnerís name is in the credits more as a tribute more than anything else. Heís not really known outside of the comics industry and splashing his name across the big screen gives exposure to much wider group of people.
Since Daredevil, Miller has always filtered characters through his own hyper-noir approach. Personally, Iím glad he does.
Someday, I am going to have read All-Star Batman, just to see if the current Miller-backlash is really warranted. Even if its sub par, it could never overshadow The Dark Knight Returns.
Since Daredevil, Miller has always filtered characters through his own hyper-noir approach.
Yeah -- it hides the fact that he rarely has a worthwhile story to tell.
I liked his Daredevil stuff, thought Born Again was brilliant, and Dark Knight Returns and Year One are pretty much how everyone thinks Batman should be done. But Ronin was too convoluted, especially for its anticlimactic conclusion, and while his first Sin City story was great, each following story became more and more over-the-top, and less and less interesting. As for Dark Knight Strikes Again and his current Batman stuff, I doubt anyone thinks that's how Batman should be done, including Miller himself. I think Miller thinks he's writing satire -- the problem is that underneath it all, what he has to say isn't very compelling, and doesn't merit his sledgehammer approach. With each issue I get the feeling that he's just cashing the checks and pissing in DC's face.
Joined: 26 May 2005 Posts: 1994 Location: Progress City
Posted: Sun May 11, 2008 7:13 pm Post subject:
See, after reading Krispies' take on things, and hearing how the actual Spirit comic is not in the style portrayed in the trailer, I'm wondering if I will actually watch this at all.
unhide for opinionated drivel explaining my lack of enthusiasm.
Big fan of The Dark Knight Returns, Ronin was an okay read (when I was 15, haven't seen it since but I liked it back then), but there are a few moments of this guys that I couldn't really get into. 300 for instance (that was Frank Miller, wasn't it?), never really got into the book. Read it a while back, didn't really care too much, had some moments where the art looked really cool, but having had a history class or two, thought it was kind of stupid. Really liked the movie though, so I re-read the book. Still didn't care.
And then there is Sin City. Never even saw the book, but out of curiosity I watched it. And I think I'm the lone comics/movie fan in the world to say this, but I really thought it sucked. So seeing as this looks so similar, I am going to wait until some legitimate reviews come out before I decide wether or not I give a rats ass about this.
I had actually forgotten that Miller had anything to do with 300. Realizing that I had forgotten doesn't really change my opinion.
I'm not trying to talk anyone out of seeing The Spirit, though -- I'll probably go myself, unless future trailers grow increasingly retarded. After all, it's not like there haven't been comic book/superhero movies that, despite totally misconstruing the original premise, turned out to be awesome films in their own right. Like Hulk. Or Catwoman. Or Fantastic Four!
The latest version of Comic-Con Magazine has a pic of The Octopus on its cover and an interview with Miller. The cover and the interview are below.
(hidden for length)
Just about any comic fan worth his or her salt knows who Frank Miller and Will Eisner are. Miller burst on the scene in the early 1980s with an incredible run on Daredevil, turning the book into a top seller. He went on to create Ronin, Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, and Batman: Year One for DC Comics and Sin City, Give Me Liberty, Hard Boiled, 300, and other titles published by Dark Horse. Heís won numerous awards, including ones named after that Eisner guy, who created The Spirit and was one of comicsí most legendary creators and guiding forces (see page 14 for more on Will Eisner and his seminal comics hero).
In 2006, Comic-Con helped break the news that Frank Miller had signed on to write and direct the big-screen adaptation of Will Eisnerís The Spirit, at the first major panel heralding the start of production for the film. For comic fans everywhere, it was cause for rejoicing. Millerís own adaptation of Sin City, directed by Robert Rodriguez and using Frankís original comics as a storyboard, was a huge hit. And Millerís 300, directed by Zack Snyder, became the sleeper hit of 2007, boasting a $70 million opening weekend. Miller was poised to take on a new job, that of movie director, and the perfect property for him to tackle turned out to be someone elseís comic book hero.
We talked with Frank Miller on a warm, summer-like day in late March in Culver City at the offices of Odd Lot Entertainment, the company producing the film, which will be released through Lionsgate. Producer Deborah Del Prete could not contain her enthusiasm for the film and for Miller, who, she says, is crafting The Spirit ďusing the Eisner works he loves.Ē Millerís partners in crime, besides Del Prete, include cinematographer Bill Pope (director of photography for the Matrix films and Spider-Man 2 and 3) and visual effects supervisor and second unit director Stu Maschwitz, who both, according to the producer, ďgetĒ Miller and Eisner and were fans of their work before the film. The film uses the green screen technique that helped make Sin City and 300 such vivid worlds, but Del Prete revealed that the technology has developed quickly far beyond what those movies were capable of. Miller, for someone directing his first big film, was calm, cool, and collected.
CCM: Even though you did some screenwriting in the early 90s, Sin City and
your collaboration with Robert Rodriguez definitely put you solidly into filmmaking.
Was this always an ambition for you?
FM: No, not really. I had wanted since a kid to do comic books. Itís always been my first love, but when Hollywood came knocking with Robocop 2, I thought it would be a really interesting job. The way things worked out I really felt that screenwriting wasnít for me. So I went back to comics, back where I had more control and where I could do more my kind of stuff which I thought was generally aimed at an audience I assumed that was smaller. It wasnít until Robert Rodriguez courted me into doing Sin City with him that my stuff got tested as my stuff with my sensibility, with my point of view, and it turns out the audience is much larger than I expected. So since then, thereís been 300 and now Iíve got the solo gig on The Spirit.
CCM: Whatís the difference for you between doing comics and doing films? When you boil it down to its essentials and you take away the crew and the lights and the actors, youíre basically telling a story with words and pictures in a rectangle.
FM: Yep. And the big difference is the number of players involved. Cartooning is a wonderful exercise in solitude. I mean solitude as opposed to loneliness. Itís a wonderful place to go, the cartoon, and youíre by yourself. You get to dig very deep. A movie set is more like the battered bridge of a warship where you have to make decisions very fast, where people are around constantly and where youíre depending entirely upon other peopleís talents to follow your course, especially the cast. But everybody from grips to certainly the cinematographer is bringing so much talent to the table that itís a matter of giving everybody interesting problems to solve and all pushing toward the same direction.
CCM: When and where did you first discover Will Eisner and The Spirit?
FM: Well, I first discovered Will Eisnerís Spirit through the Warren editions that were published in the early í70s. I was a teenager in Vermont at the time. And when I came across them, I thought he was a brand-new cartoonist who hadnít been seen before. His stuff was so far advanced from what was coming out at the time. I thought he must be the new kid in town. And then I started noticing originally it appeared in 1942 in the corner and realized that I was studying the work of an established master. I didnít meet the man himself until I was working professionally. We were at a party at Neal Adamsí Continuity Studios and Jim Shooter introduced us. And I was like Shooterís new pride and joy, as far as I had just taken over Daredevil and was just beginning to write and draw it. Jim opened an issue of Daredevil to the first page to show what a good storyteller he thought I was. Eisner immediately told me I had used the panel wrong and we started an argument that went on for 25 years.
CCM: You had a long friendship with Eisner and it pretty much culminated in the book Eisner/Miller, which contained a weekendlong dialogue between the two of you in which you categorized it as ďthe climax of your decades-long debate.Ē What are some of your personal memories of Will?
FM: I think what Iíve most been impressed about by Will was what would come up when he would, in private, tell stories of comics history that werenít for public consumption.
He would describe something that by any standards was shocking, but he had that World War II sense of humor about it. He had impatience with anyone who ever felt sorry for himself. He never let himself feel sorry for himself. If you ever felt sorry for yourself around him, heíd ridicule you for it.
CCM: He was that rare breed that was both an artist and a businessman, which you usually donít find in the comics world. He was able to maintain the ownership of The Spirit and brought it back 15 years after it ended, and it basically has been in continuous publication for almost the past 40 years.
FM: Yeah, heís really an astonishing combination of the two. He did have one parent who was a businessman and one parent who was an artist and I forget which oneís which. And his instincts were as strong in either discipline.
CCM: Both you and Eisner have reputations for gritty, urban settings, and Eisnerís stories were definite products of their time. Your Sin City is set in more of a timeless era. Is The Spirit movie set in a specific time?
FM: It is not, and neither by the way is The Spirit comic. It looks like the 1940s because thatís what was around him, but Eisner never considered it to be a period piece. And one of the many connections between Eisner and me is our deep love of New York City, and New York City is impossible to trap in time. Itís so much of a Pompeii. Itís constantly rebuilding itself, but keeping its old personality at the same time. So as a cartoonist you want to write stories that are fun to draw. And as a director, you want to work on a story thatís got really good-looking stuff. Eisner clearly felt the same way. In writing and then shooting The Spirit, I filled it like I did Sin City with vintage cars and beautiful women. And the movie really is in many ways a love letter to New York City.
CCM: Is there a specific pallet to this film like there was for Sin City?
FM: There is. It is in full color, but itís less a naturalistic use of color than a psychological one, a dramatic use of color. I think color is a very powerful dramatic weapon, but too often when I watch a movie, I feel like Iím seeing the entire spectrum in every frame and my eyes start bouncing off it. So youíll see things getting red behind people when they get angry.
CCM: Whatís it like bringing the work of another comic creator to life, and how does the process differ from bringing your own work to film?
FM: You know, in a way I think that it was providential that I would, for my first directing job, have someone elseís work. Someone who I love dearly and whose work I would defend to the death because I donít know if I would have defended my own work as fiercely. I might have been more open to negotiation over the point of view. But this is, I believe, really true to the intent of Eisnerís Spirit. Itís not a slavish monument built to the comic strip. The old guy would come out of the grave and kill me like that. Itís what I believe that young Eisner might just have done with the brand new toys of today. Using the mythology that goes back to Zorro and The Shadow before to make an urban legend.
CCM: As a comic book writer and artist you get to cast all your own characters and decide what they look and sound like Has the acting process surprised you when
it comes to actors speaking your words differently than they might sound in your head?
FM: Thatís a good question, because working with actors has been the most fascinating and difficult and rewarding part of the whole job. What my actors have created in the movies Iíve worked on has been their creation. Iím there to prod, to put them in context, to let them understand the situation theyíre in, because we frequently shoot out of sequence. So I have to be the nag to remind them what theyíre thinking about and what happened ten minutes ago when, in fact, it hasnít happened and you know it wonít happen for three more weeks. But at the heart of it, it is the actorís job to create the performance. The director can be a helpful agent toward keeping the whole works together and toward picking the take where the actor really nailed the moment that is best for the story, because the story is everything.
CCM: Letís talk about the casting and what each actor brings to his or her role. Letís start with the femme fatales that Eisner was famous for and that youíre bringing together for the film. Eva Mendes as Sand Saref.
FM: Eva Mendes was an absolute wonder to work with. She turned out to be a perfect choice because she was as unpredictable as Eisnerís creation and as beautiful. And one thing I learned from Eva is that much of what acting consists of is silence, and actors can be at their most powerful when theyíre giving the very least. With Eva, sometimes it felt like I had to be a chemist dealing with a very volatile set of fluids in front of me that I wanted to avoid. But at the same time, it had to be the fire behind her eyes.
CCM: Paz Vega as Plaster of Paris.
FM: I had written her in the movie as a fever dream of a character and itís almost a psychedelic sequence when she appears, and up shows this magnificent woman and plays the part; she played the part to perfection. She was a dream to work with. Her part of the movie is small, but it might just be a piece of cinematic perfection. I know you wonít be able to take your eyes off it.
CCM: Jaime King as Lorelei.
FM: Jaime King and I go back to Sin City and sheís a good friend and I was very, very glad that she took the part of Lorelei because I couldnít imagine anyone better to play an angel of any kind, including the Angel of Death. And in one day of the shoot, we got a weekís worth of work out of her. She really is magnificent and captivating, and in playing she completely unearthed the character of Lorelei. Again you wonít be able to take your eyes off her.
CCM: Scarlett Johansson as Silken Floss.
FM: When I first met Scarlett Johansson, I sat down, we had three hours together for lunch and I thoroughly enjoyed the conversation with this fascinating, frighteningly intelligent woman with one of the most disturbing senses of humor Iíd ever seen. And I kind of walked away from the table going, ďWell, why havenít people been writing that for her,Ē because sheís generally . . . I mean yes, sheís beautiful, sheís very beautiful, but thereís so much else there. So I went home and I rewrote the Silken Floss part with Scarlett in mind, not knowing whether sheíd take it or not. But I thought that Eisnerís character could easily afford to have had a misspent youth and to meet her when sheís in her early twenties and she later becomes the icy astrophysicist of the comics. But this is her wild time. So we see a very young Silken Floss. Scarlettís comic timing and execution is . . . I can compare it only to a young Lucille Ballís. Itís absolutely wonderful. I think that weíve just begun to see what kind of arsenal sheís bringing to the game.
CCM: The Spiritís love interest is definitely not a femme fatale, but more a product of Eisnerís time. How does Ellen Dolan, played by Sarah Paulson, differ in the film?
FM: Well, Ellen Dolan was a real journey for me, because Iím known for writing very tough, dangerous women. And Eisner certainly was known for the same. And this story certainly needed Ellen in it because The Spirit kept quite a wandering eye and itís got to be wandering from somewhere. There has to be a center, there has to be an anchor in his life. He is a bit of a rascal. The problem was that Eisnerís character (of Ellen) was unfortunate in just how much a part of its time it was, and here I got a bitóa lotóbolder because I felt that since she was his anchor, she should also have a professional role related to that. I made her a surgeon. So after The Spirit continuously gets shot and stabbed and beaten, thereís someone there who puts him back together. Originally, she turned into quite the femme fatale in my hands because I tend to go that way with women charactersóyou know, hurling scalpels across the rooms and so on. But between Deborah Del Prete, the producer, and Sarah Paulson, the actress, she started having a voice of her own. And one night when I wrote what was supposed to be an expository scene, she started talking to her father and speaking of her deep devotion to The Spirit and how it was a commitment that was unshakable and unquestionably feminine. And I realized thatís a character who actually really talked to me and that she didnít need to run off and kill a lot of people to prove that she was powerful. Sarah proved that.
CCM: Mainly seen only with his signature gloves in the comics, The Octopus is The Spiritís nemesis. Obviously with Samuel L. Jackson playing him, weíre going to be seeing a lot more of him in the film, right?
FM: Yeah. When I first met Sam Jackson, I told him that I was sitting across the table from an atom bomb and that I needed it to only go off twice in my movie and I needed for him to keep the radioactivity down until his eruptions. With The Octopus, I felt that, yeah, we had a pair of gloves in the sense of a nemesis that was kept deliberately out of sight and undefined by Eisner. The only way to take the work of a short story writer and to adapt it to the long-form of a screenplay was to flesh out his nemesis because, you know, at first I felt that Eisner was of the school of Raymond Chandler another favorite novelist of mine. I realized he really owed a lot more to O. Henry, and his short story sensibility needed some healthy expansion. So with Sam, I had the perfect nemesis for The Spirit. And what I hope to do is the kind of villain that Iíve always wished theyíd do in the Batman movies. Sure heís very strange and eccentric, but I think heís going to scare the crap out of you.
CCM: Last but not least, Gabriel Macht as The Spirit. Any actor playing the role is going to have to have equal measures of danger, humor, and sex appeal to bring Denny Colt to life. What convinced you that he was the guy for the role?
FM: We auditioned a lot of people for The Spirit. One of my preconditions coming onto the project was that we find someone who was not well known to play the part. I didnít want it to be a vehicle for someone who was familiar. My model, in a way, was Chris Reeveís Superman, meaning some actor Iíd never seen before who I got to meet as Superman. I want the audience to meet The Spirit as The Spirit. Gabriel stood out because, first and foremost, Hollywood produces a great many, very good male actors, but very, very few who are able to portray men as men. Heís a terrifically trained actor, and he and I sat down in his trailer the first day he was on the set and we made a pact, really, because I said that either weíre going to be partners or weíre in for three long months because Gabrielís job was the most important job there. He was the captain of the cast, and in my office I had a quote from Raymond Chandler hanging over my desk, which said, ďHe is the hero. He is everything.Ē This sort of story is really a piece of architecture where everythingís built to portray the hero. And at the center of it has to be one hell of a performance, and I really think I got it out of Gabriel.
CCM: You shot The Spirit utilizing the same green-screen technology that was used in Sin City and 300. Are the backgrounds youíre laying in going to have the peculiar Eisner cityscape feel to them and also some of your Sin City?
FM: The backgrounds in The Spirit that Stu Maschwitz is working on are, I think, gloriously real. Theyíre emotionally true to the movie. Any Eisner fan will recognize certain references to his work that are planted in there. You know, as I told him from the start, weíll do the most magnificent sewer grate anybody has ever seen. And we do offer water tanks galore. But itís a mythic city, and itís created for film so it is its own creation using the best talents available.
CCM: As we speak, youíre pretty deep into post production on the film. Whatís been the biggest surprise for you up to this point?
FM: How hard editing is. Itís very hard. Itís part art, part science. The other thing is I didnít realize the collaboration with the actors really never ends. Iím still working with Eva Mendes when I go through take after take looking for that one that I remembered of seeing the surprise of what it actually looks like on the screen right next to another shot that it wasnít next to before.
CCM: Did the actors come in knowing what The Spirit was and where it came from?
FM: No, they didnít all know who The Spirit was. A lot of them did. Gabe papered his entire trailer with pages from The Spirit. But we all got to know who The Spirit was in the course of this, because making something into a movie it becomes something else. I think that Will would be happy that we made some of the decisions we did and made The Spirit more a man of this time, a more haunted figure, surely, but still the working manís hero. The guy who really has to work hard at his job.
CCM: Did you storyboard The Spirit and will that art be published in conjunction with the film?
FM: Yes, Iím planning on a book that should be called The Spirit Storyboards because I did hundreds and hundreds of drawings for virtually every scene. And for at least the first half of the shoot, I would shoot the full day and then work the night drawing. About halfway through, I was ahead of the game so I was able to start sleeping.
CCM: Finally, what has been the coolest thing about making The Spirit for you?
FM: That word got used a lot on the set. I think it might just be seeing The Spirit flip through the air like a little boy and slide up the roof of one side of a water tower, stumble and then slide down the other side like a kid playing in the snow. I think thatís a very Eisner-esque moment. The fact that we got a take with a stumble in it made it The Spirit.
In his blog over at Mycityscreams.com, Miller has directly addressed some concerns about the film:
TO MY READERS
Much has been the fuss in the comics' blogosphere about my SPIRIT movieómuch justified, much hoped for, and much to my delight, that there has been a fuss at all. Some comics readers are terrified that THE SPIRIT will be a retread of my SIN CITY. Others quarrel over the change of the SPIRIT'S traditional blue hat, mask, and jacket, to black. These are understandable concerns for any lover of Will Eisner's masterpiece. I take this opportunity to address these concerns. With glee, I take this opportunity.
THE SPIRIT is, with every effort I give it, not a rusty, dusty old monument to the work of my beloved Mentor, so much as it is an extension of what I know to have been Eisner's central intent: to create something new, witty, and exploratory. That's what he did. That's what I'm doing.
It only resembles SIN CITY in that I am its director, and, well, yes, I have my ways and my proclivities. Luckily, I was able to discern three important proclivities I share with the Master. We both love good stories. We both love New York City. And we both love beautiful women.
(Please forgive my constant present-tense references to my dear friend. His creative force, and his force of personality, remains so strong in my mind that I can't often think of Will Eisner as a man who has left us.)
Now, about that blue suit.
Comic books have long traditions based on the limitations of pre-digital printing. Among these are traditions from the old newsprint-run-through-letterpress approach (yes, comics have beenóand still do--follow tradition that dates all the way back to Gutenberg!). Bad printing on pulp paper is why it was necessary for every superhero to have his emblem printed on his chest, and that everything that's black be printed in blue. Hence Superman's preposterous blue hair. And the Spirit's blue hat, mask, and suit.
In testsóand we did severalóthe blue made the Spirit look like an unfortunate guest at a Halloween party. Going to black brings back his essential mystery, his Zorro-like sexiness. It also makes that red tie of his look very, very cool. So I made the call, with all respect to Eisner's creation, and most importantly, to what I perceived as his underlying intention. It was an easy call for me to make. The Spirit dresses in black, and looks much the better for it. As I said, my desire was never to slavishly follow the rules of '40s printing into campy oblivion, but to reintroduce Eisner's creation, via modern technology, to our brave new world.
And THE SPIRIT as some sort of SIN CITY REDUX? No, SIN CITY, that one's my own baby, folks, and it looks the way it does for its own reasons. THE SPIRIT is, and will always be, Eisner's SPIRIT. Anybody watching me on the set could attest that I very frequently drew a storyboard for a given shot first as I saw it, then as Will mightíve seen inóand, in every case, went with what I saw as Will's version.
To drive the point home, THE SPIRIT, despite any accidental impression left by that kickass teaser-trailer, is a full-color movie. SIN CITYóand I hope to make of it a movie trilogy all its own, come Hell and high wateróis, visually, a playhouse for black and white.
THE SPIRIT's been one hell of an adventure, one that's made me love the world of comics more than ever.
I'm confident that it's going to be one hell of a good movie.
Sam Jackson is a real comic geek, huh?! He likes the super hero stories. Just off the top of my head, I can think of Unbreakable, Iron Man, The Spirit, The Incredibles, All 3 Star Wars Prequels, and Jumper. He rocks
Damn. This is going to be something else. I really wish someone would have asked Frank what he thought of "The Dark Knight" at one of the panels he participated in at Comic-Con this year. It seems like this film will do for comic flicks what Nolan's film did in very different ways. Hopefully the topic will come up when he does press for "The Spirit."
I went to see this on 12/26 not knowing anything about it except that is was about a cop that died but wasn't really dead. I loved 300 and Sin City. This movie sucked. It was boring and the tongue in cheek humor stayed in the cheek.
If you want to see a boring movie that actually gets good as the movie plays out, go see Valkyrie. If you want to see a boring movie that stays boring throughout, go see The Spirit.
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