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Frank Miller's THE SPIRIT ($40) is a movie that I loved for what it is, and not for what it isnít. THE SPIRIT is a wondrous piece of eye-candy that takes the essence of the long form graphic novel and transcribes it to live action through the modern technique of synthetic filmmaking. Writer director Frank Millerís experience as co-director of SIN CITY is put to good use on THE SPIRIT, as he frames the action as he would as the panels of a graphic novel, yet he does bring each moment to life, while retaining what makes comic books and graphic novels so special as a print medium. I canít say I have any particular familiarity with the original comic strip upon which THE SPIRIT is based and donít know what liberties Miller has taken with the material, but I loved the pulpy, playful approach he has taken with the film and his bringing to life a beautifully realized comic book world.

Set in Central City, THE SPIRIT tells the story of a rookie cop Denny Colt, who is killed in the line of duty, only to return from the dead and fight crime as a masked detective known only as The Spirit. The Spirit works in conjunction with the police force as the result of an alliance he has established with Commissioner Eustace Dolan (Dan Lauria). As the film opens we learn that The Spiritís arch nemesis, The Octopus (Samuel L. Jackson), has killed one cop and left another hanging on by a threadÖ all in pursuit of a mysterious object contained in one of two chests that were being recovered from the bottom of a bog by a femme fatale known as Sand Saref (Eva Mendes). In the brouhaha that arises, The Octopus makes off with one chest, while Sand Saref makes off with the other. As you might expect, both The Octopus and Sand Saref wind up with the chest containing the object that the other is desperately seeking. While trying to reclaim their prizes, both The Octopus and Sand Saref find themselves having to deal with The Spirit, and the secret past that each of them share with the hero. The cast of THE SPIRIT also includes Scarlett Johansson, Sarah Paulson, Paz Vega, Stana Katic, Jaime King and Louis Lombardi.

Lions Gate Entertainment has made THE SPIRIT available on Blu-ray Disc in a 2.35:1 aspect ratio presentation that has been encoded onto the disc with the AVC codec. The 1080p presentation is truly fantastic. Shot digitally with Panavision Genesis cameras, THE SPIRIT is another example of synthetic filmmaking at its absolute bestÖ and this Blu-ray disc release a truly glorious piece of eye-candy that goes to the top of the demo disc heap. THE SPIRIT is a perfect mixture of live action and digital elements; the image is wonderfully realized in high definition, offering a generally crisp and highly defined picture. Some intentional smoothing has been applied to the image in various places, but most of the time, the picture is highly detailed with the textures on objects and even the imperfections in the actorsí skin appearing fully realized. The amount of detail or lack of always seems to correspond to how any given moment of this highly stylized world should look. Colors go through all sorts of iterations, sometimes appearing monochromatic, sometimes merely desaturated, sometimes sepia toned and sometimes vividÖ again all for effect and always quite beautiful. Blacks are perfect, as are the whites. Contrast is excellent, as is shadow detail, but only when it wants to be. Since THE SPIRIT was shot digitally, there are no film-based flaws. Canít say that I really noticed any grain/video noise in the image either.

THE SPIRIT is presented on Blu-ray Disc with a 7.1 channel DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack. This is a pretty terrific sound design for a synthetic world. The whole thing explodes to life nicely to correspond to the on screen action; quieter moments are far more subdued. There are plenty of talky passages, so the sonics donít impress as consistently as the visuals. Still, this soundtrack is no slouch and does engage the outlying channels quite effectively. Fidelity is excellent; the musical component is full bodied, while the sound effects are big and weighty. The bass channel packs a wallop and there are a number of sequences that take full advantage. Dialogue is clean and easy to understand. A French 5.1 channel track is also encoded onto the disc, as are English and Spanish subtitles.

Full motion video, animation and sound serve to enhance the disc's interactive menus. Through the menus, one has access to standard scene selection and set up features, as well as the supplements. Starting things off is a running Audio Commentary with writer/director Frank Miller and producer Deborah Del Prete. Featurettes include Green World (twenty-three minutes), Miller On Miller (sixteen minutes) and History Repeats (sixteen minutes). An Alternate Storyboard Ending with voiceovers by Samuel L. Jackson and Gabriel Macht is also provided, as is a Theatrical Trailer. THE SPIRIT is also BD-Live enabled (requires a Profile 2.0 player); dubbed Lionsgate Live this allows for user blogs and live content in the discís menus. A Digital Copy of the film is also provided.

Considering the reviews THE SPIRIT received upon its theatrical release, the movie may not appeal to everyone. I personally loved its playfulness and superb sense of visual style in creating a live action graphic novel. The Blu-ray presentation is fantastic and worthy of a place of honor on the hi-def demo pile. No matter what you may think of the film, the Blu-ray disc release comes highly recommended.



The Spirit [Blu-ray] (2008)


DVD & Blu-rayDisc reviews are Copyright © 2009 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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