Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Sin City - Beautiful if a Bit Jumbled 

Going to the movies is simply not something I get to do as often as I once did. This past weekend, though, I called up my friend and caught the Robert Rodriguez take on Frank Miller's Sin City, a film where the accent is heavilly on the first word in the title. Google any review of this film and you will come up with more adjectives like "stunning," "visual" and "dynamic" in reference to the presentation than I believe any other film recently has garnered, and rightly so. To say "this is unlike anything you have ever seen" is an appelation that, for a change, is both completely accurate and well deserved. Frank Miller was a key contributor to this film and it shows through the beautiful graphic framing of every shot. In many cases it seems the original works were used for the storyboards. But while the strength of the presentation gains from exploiting the comic medium, so to may it contribute to some of the criticisms.

While I fully believe the black and white motif was chosen for stylistic reasons, I can't help but conjecture that the film would have been pushing an NC-17 rating if all that blood had been in living color. This is not only a violent movie, but a movie of comic-book level violence. Think about those House of Horror black and white magazines you used to have to hide from your Mom. While I accepted it as part of the package and medium I'm sure there are some who find the violence overload or seemingly supernatural levels of punishment taken by lead characters a bit distracting.

My greatest disappointment in the film, though, was also inherited from the source material, and that was a lack of cohesion. While some have likened the non-chronological presentation to other films weaving multiple story lines together (most notable Pulp Fiction), the stories presented in the film, strong as they are, really represent more independent events that just happen to transpire in close proximity and fairly contemporaneously with each other. In other words, I left the theater feeling that they could have just as easilly included any three random stories and produced an equally strong film. While a more reflective work using this motif (such as Grand Canyon or Magnolia) can work with more independent stories that compliement or explore common themes, I didn't get this from Sin City. Don't get me wrong, the stories were good, but they really didn't rely on each other except tangentially. Originally issued as individual stories set in a common locale, he film ultimately plays more as three episodes in a series than as a single grand work.

As amazing as the film looks, though, it is ultimately the performances of the actors that makes the backgrounds worth the effort. Truly an all-star cast, everyone in the ensemble shines. Coming from the theater, though, I was struck with another thought I'm sure others have had before. Namely, that Bruce Willis could do a commendable job playing another Bruce in yet another Frank Miller vehicle. For years rumors of an impending filming of Frank Miller's greatest work, The Dark Knight Returns, have bounced around. The tale of an aging Bruce Wayne fighting time and a world gone mad and devoid of heroes is seen by many as a high water mark in the blurring of comics and literature, and I, for one, hope the look, feel and success of Sin City helps to refuel these rumors.

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