There's this cute rookie cop (Stana Tatic) who goes on and on about Sand Serif's "Elektra complex." It's the sort of weirdly self-congratulatory joke -- a nod to Miller's past "Daredevil" glory that only comics insiders will get -- that turns up all over this movie.
In another scene, someone sees The Spirit hanging from a skyscraper and says, "You'll believe a man CAN'T fly!" Seriously? A pun based on the advertising tagline from a 1978 superhero movie? Who is that gag for, exactly? It's like you're watching a very expensive series of inside jokes, or reading a really bad webcomic with a vast continuity and its own tiny and deeply insular LiveJournal community.
This leads me to my larger rant: Watching the movie, I really started to wonder if Miller suffers from that artist's malady where he's been called a "genius" and a "maverick" so many times, he's settled into a nice comfy couch inside his own head and is now perfectly happy cycling through a tiny set of visual obsessions that only he finds funny or profound.
This isn't the Frank Miller who wrote and/or drew dense, scary, funny, moody, multilayered sci-fi satires -- classics like "Ronin" or "Give Me Liberty" or "The Dark Knight Returns" or his staggering takes on Elektra and Daredevil. That Frank Miller was like the James Cameron of comics, young and hungry and drunk on telling bad-ass popular stories full of strong women.
Maybe Hollywood thought it was hiring that Frank Miller to adapt "The Spirit." What Hollywood is about to learn -- in a very public and embarrassing way -- is that the "Frank Miller" comics fans once spoke of in hushed tones stopped making good stories about 10 years ago, if you count "300" as his last ambitious book. It's worth pointing out here that Rodriguez was skillfully remixing Miller's 10- and 15-year-old material for "Sin City" -- material that gets weaker and weaker as that series (and that movie) goes on.
That will leave a mark.