If looks could kill, The Spirit (* out of four), an adaptation of Will Eisner's seminal comic strip, would wipe out entire auditorium audiences after every showing. Its eye-popping visual template mirrors that of Sin City, with its graphic stylistics lending a crisp, cool look to its tale of a masked hero who has returned from the grave to fight the evildoers who threaten the city he loves. But in this case, eye candy is hardly enough to compensate for the rest of this 10-ton turkey that fails on every other conceivable level.
Eisner's comic legacy deserved far better than this wretched camp outing, a film in which every jokey, self-aware remark lands with the force of an atomic bomb laying waste to a sand castle. The plot finds The Spirit (dull Gabriel Macht) facing off against his perennial nemesis The Octopus (Samuel L. Jackson), a madman who's intent on acquiring a potion that will render him immortal. Jackson, whose performance might be the worst of the year (and remember, I've seen Mike Myers in The Love Guru), has already guaranteed that his name will live forever in the annals of grotesque overacting. His demeaning turn here is embarrassing, with writer-director Frank Miller accommodating him via some horrendous dialogue and situations -- Jackson even gets to dress up like a Nazi officer in one scene. Why, I couldn't tell you.
In their first battle, The Octopus smashes a toilet over The Spirit's head, laughs maniacally, and declares, "Toilets are always funny!" This movie would know: It clearly deserves to be flushed down one.