|The Spirit is a 2008 American superhero noir film, written and directed by Frank Miller and starring Gabriel Macht, Eva Mendes, Sarah Paulson, Dan Lauria, Paz Vega, Jaime King, Scarlett Johansson, and Samuel L. Jackson. The film is based on the newspaper comic strip The Spirit by Will Eisner. OddLot and Lionsgate produced the film.
The Spirit was released in the United States on December 25, 2008, and on DVD and Blu-ray on April 14, 2009. Despite being a commercial and critical failure in theatres, the film found more success on DVD and Blu-ray.
In a cat-filled mausoleum in Central City, Denny Colt (Gabriel Macht), also known as The Spirit, receives a call from Detective Sussman (Dan Gerrity) about a major case that could involve the Spirit’s arch-nemesis, The Octopus (Samuel L. Jackson). The Spirit dons his costume and travels across rooftops while delivering a voice-over soliloquy about the city being his one true love. A woman (Kimberly Cox) is being mugged in an alley below. He manages to save her, receiving a knife wound that he barely seems to notice. The woman asks, “What are you?” The Spirit runs away, catching a ride from Officer Liebowitz (Frank Miller) and heading toward the flats.
At the swampland, femme fatale Sand Saref (Eva Mendes) rises from the water and appears to shoot Sussman multiple times. The Spirit and Liebowitz find the wounded Sussman, but a flashback reveals that it was really the Octopus who shot him in an effort to recover two identical chests underwater. Sand and her husband Mahmoud (Eric Balfour) tried to flee with both chests, but the Octopus wounded Mahmoud and snapped a line connecting the two chests. Sand escaped, leaving one chest behind, which the Octopus retrieved from the murky depths.
After the Octopus kills Liebowitz by ripping his head off, he sends away his cloned henchmen, Ethos, Pathos, and Logos (all played by Louis Lombardi), to take on the Spirit alone. His accomplice Silken Floss (Scarlett Johansson) drives up, running over Pathos in the process. She departs with the cargo, taking the view that the Spirit and the Octopus will “be at it all night” as the two enemies share a connection in their ability to resist physical injury.
The Spirit is awakened by his lover Dr. Ellen Dolan (Sarah Paulson), daughter of Police Commissioner Dolan (Dan Lauria). Appearing to be in perfect health despite his gunshot wounds (something which has occurred seemingly many times before), the Spirit is shocked to notice a gold locket in Sussman’s hand; a piece torn from Sand Saref’s neck earlier.
Saref’s locket contains pictures of a much-younger Denny Colt (Johnny Simmons) and Sand (Seychelle Gabriel); the two grew up together in Central City where Denny bought Sand the locket as a gift to satisfy her love of “shiny things”, including the Golden Fleece of Jason and the Argonauts. They lived happily until Sand’s father was shot dead. Sand, who now hated cops, fled to Europe and has not been heard from for fifteen years. In a secret lair, the Octopus and Silken Floss open the chest, but discover that it does not contain the mysterious Blood of Heracles as expected and decide a trade is in order.
Sand and Mahmoud visit the office of a high-class fence named Donenfeld (Richard Portnow), whom Sand paid to locate the underwater treasure. It is implied that Donenfeld gave up the treasure’s location to the Octopus to ensure his family’s safety. At Alice’s Hospital, the Spirit has fully regenerated and is as good as new; Commissioner Dolan angrily enters with young rookie cop Morgenstern (Stana Katic) and calls the Spirit away to a case.
Sand’s history as one of the world’s great jewel thieves is relayed to the Spirit. As the Spirit is about to arrest her, he is caught off-guard by her standing before him fully nude. Sand doesn’t recognize the Spirit as the presumed-dead Denny. She is stunned when he reveals his knowledge of her looking for the Golden Fleece as she shoves the Spirit through a window only to see him survive the fall. Octopus and Floss’s experimentation have led to the creation of a serum (something of a scientific equivalent to the Elixir of Life) that could grant immortality with which the Octopus injected himself and arch-enemies were born.
After surviving the fall, the Spirit receives a tip on the location of the Octopus’s lair. Unable to break in unnoticed, he is captured and tied to a dentist’s chair. The Octopus reveals his own origin as well as how he and the Spirit became arch-enemies. Eventually the Spirit manages to escape, but not without sustaining a critical blow.
The Spirit stumbles to the city docks and collapses into the water where he confronts the ethereal Angel of Death, Lorelei Rox (Jaime King), who has haunted his sleep. He becomes the only man to have ever wrongfully escaped death when he manages to gather his senses by remembering Ellen, Sand, and the city all needing him. As the Spirit swims to the surface, Lorelei vows vengeance.
At the projects, Sand and her latest henchman fly in with the Blood of Heracles to meet Floss and a clone carrying the Golden Fleece. After a four-way Mexican standoff, Sand attempts to convince Floss to get out of serving the Octopus before she is killed by the Octopus himself. He asks Floss for the vase. Unable to take a side, Floss drives off as the Spirit suddenly materializes. The Octopus unloads with progressively bigger guns on the Spirit, apparently killing him off, but Dolan’s SWAT team storms the area and opens fire right after. Morgenstern blows the Octopus’ arm up with a handcannon, to recover from the damage, the Octopus gets to the Blood of Heracles and prepares to drink it, but Sand shoots the vase just in time as the Spirit comes back from the dead, having used a bulletproof vest, and attach a grenade to the Octopus’ chest, blowing him up into pieces, with Sand protecting the two of them with the Golden Fleece. Showdown over, the Spirit gives Sand her locket back. They kiss as Ellen looks on, feeling betrayed. The old flames bid each other goodbye and the Spirit convinces Dolan to let Sand go in gratitude for saving the world. Elsewhere, Floss discovers the Octopus’s severed finger crawling toward her. She picks it up and departs saying, “we’ll start from scratch”. At dawn, the Spirit stands triumphant on a rooftop with his cat.