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THE SPIRIT – David Newman

December 26, 2008 Leave a comment Go to comments

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

A dark, highly-stylized super-hero action film, written and directed by comic book legend Frank Miller, The Spirit stars Gabriel Macht as rookie cop Denny Colt who, having been killed in the line of duty, returns from the dead to fight crime in Central City as the mysterious, shadowy Spirit. In this adventure, The Spirit locks horns with two master criminals: The Octopus (Samuel L. Jackson), as super-villain who wants to wipe Central City off the map, and Sand Saref (Eva Mendes), a sexy femme fatale who seduces and marries wealthy men, has them killed, and uses their money to fund her crime empire.

The film, which also stars Scarlet Johansson, was shot in moody black and white using green-screen technology, but failed to truly set the box office alight. The music for The Spirit is by David Newman, tackling his first semi-serious movie in quite a while – probably since The Affair of the Necklace in 2001 – and his first super-hero score since The Phantom in 1996. Miller asked Newman to provide “elements of “40s jazz sound combined with iconic heroic music, and even a touch of the spaghetti western”, which has resulted in a eclectic, occasionally disjointed, but generally entertaining score that sadly never quite lives up to its promise.

The “Spirit/Main Title” is actually very good: a dark, brooding overture, all rumbling pianos and racing strings, and which incorporates a harmonica and a sultry solo trumpet in a nod to the aforementioned Ennio Morricone spaghetti westerns to excellent effect, and actually sounds like a long-lost cousin of Danny Elfman’s Spider-Man music. Unfortunately, the score never quite reaches these heights again: much of the rest of the score is given over to suspenseful mood music enlivened by touches of sultry, dirty-sounding saxophone-led jazz (“Enter Silken Floss”), and a couple of moments of lively and blustery action music (“Just a Fight”, “You’re An Accident”, “Spirit Finds Sand”, “Shootout” ).

The main romantic theme for the love-hate relationship between The Spirit and Sand Saref, which has a faint Horner vibe and even a hint of David’s brother Thomas Newman, first appears in “Egg On My Face”, and by the time it gets to “Spirit Kisses Sand” has grown into a wonderfully melodramatic piece which rises to quite glorious romantic orchestral heights, making it one of the album’s few high spots. There is also an eerie, wordless soprano for the character Lorelei that is performed by Newman’s 19-year-old daughter Diana, a vocal major at USC, and appears in cues such as “Lorelei, Angel of Death” and “Lorelei, You’re Mine”.

Much of the rest of the time, however, The Spirit is curiously uninvolving, standing at odds to the kind of inventive and enthralling music we know Newman is capable of writing. It’s frustrating because – like he did on Serenity back in 2005 – he has been given a large canvas on which to create something glorious, and done nothing more than paint-by-numbers.

Rating: ***

Track Listing:

  • Spirit/Main Title (5:01)
  • Lorelei, Angel of Death (0:39)
  • Enter Silken Floss/Octopus Kicks (1:34)
  • Just a Fight (3:55)
  • You’re An Accident (1:54)
  • Spirit Reflects (1:59)
  • Egg On My Face (7:54)
  • Sand/Octopus Lair (1:08)
  • I Am Sorely Disappointed (3:24)
  • Spirit Finds Sand/Falling/Hung Up (2:11)
  • Plaster of Paris Dance (1:21)
  • Spirit and Plaster Run (1:05)
  • Lorelei, You’re Mine/Spirit Wants (4:30)
  • Stand Off/Spirit Just Keeps Coming (2:57)
  • Shootout (1:42)
  • Octopus Buys It (1:49)
  • Spirit Kisses Sand (2:31)
  • It’s You I Love/She Is My City (2:45)

Running Time: 47 minutes 39 seconds

Silva Screen SILCD1283 (2008)

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