"There's wrong, and then there's wrong, and then there's this." -Sin City
Will Eisner's independent strip The Spirit is 'the Citizen Kane of comics'. It set the highest standards for what comics can achieve, and this film sets the lowest standard for how cinema can devalue that work.
The Oscar for the comics industry is called the Eisner Award because his work opened all that was best in the medium: radical layouts, compassionate stories, indie rebellion, social comment, and mature graphic novels. Much of this sprung from The Spirit, a weekly strip about 1940s everyman gumshoe steeped in noir and adventure. Among Eisner's innumerable disciples is Frank Miller, whose Daredevil, Ronin, The Dark Knight Returns, and Sin City notably expand on Eisner's innovations.
Enter bizarre irony. Director Frank Miller should have been the perfect comics creator to translate this legacy to the screen. Instead, 2008 saw Christopher Nolan make the perfect Batman film The Dark Knight inspired by Miller's work, while Miller turned The Spirit into an episode of the campy '60s Batman show. How could it happen?
The ingredients are on the table but they never cook up right; the corroded noir visuals, the formidable femmes, the farce and the melodrama. But it dissolves into cringe-inducing slapstick like a Tex Avery cartoon directed by a delirous Riefenstahl.
The only thing that matters in the end is the beginning. Go read the collections of Eisner's Spirit work, and relearn what is possible from the best.