Confession: I don't really like comics.
Superhero comics, anyway. I like lots of comic books. Mostly "art comics", I guess.
Maybe this why I don't respond to superhero movies- why I thought The Dark Knight was overlong, overwrought and immature; why I thought the Spiderman movies worked, they played off the goofiness of the genre.
Will Eisner's instructional books (Comics and Sequential Art; Graphic Storytelling and Visual Narrative) are interesting studies that rely on his own work for examples. That's how I'm familiar with The Spirit. I get the sense he thought it was corny, too. The sense that he was primarily interested in the form.
Sin City and 300 are both remarkable, exciting films created from Frank Miller's books. But they're not exactly blueprints for surefire cinematic success. Sin City looked like nothing else. 300 was not only visually arresting, it was a film that swaggered. All 13 year old boy testosterone. All extravagant fantasy. Deadly serious, like that 13 year old telling you about this great rock band he's discovered called The Kinks.
When The Spirit begins, it immediately poses as a very serious film -as though Batman was too lighthearted for these times. Bad tidings.
The title sequence dispells that notion.
The Spirit is in the same vein as the previous Frank Miller movies. It's fine art film masquerading as a multiplex release. It has a visual wit and sense of daring that Matthew Barney can't even approach.
In the title a silhouette hero "runs" across the city's rooftops. He "runs" in the sense a singer in a Robert Wilson opera "walks". It's a calculated gestural run. It's undeniably goofy. But fun. The gait of the man invites the veiwer to take the film as a visual experience.
The amateur quality to the performances furthers the fine art feel of the production. The script is at service to the picture. It's a
show that might better be served without any dialogue, the gravity of silent cinema tugs hard.
One last note, despite The Spirit's lobsided emphasis on the visual (right down to casting easy on the eyes starlets and costuming them exquisitely) about 90% of it is in close up.