Sin City, much like the title states, is about a place where only bad things happen, and they happen to bad people. There are murderers, crooked cops, prostitutes, drug addicts; you name it. About the only thing you need to know to be there is that everyone out there might want to kill you and it’s not just paranoia: they really might want to, and for no apparent reason at all. If it’s not Elijah Wood coming at you looking like a possessed Harry Potter in a gay-retro Charlie Brown jacket, it just might be a Ferengi with a bad case of jaundice.
Based on the graphic novels by the same name, Frank Miller’s Sin City is action packed, visually unique, and powerful as a top-notch comic book representation... almost too powerful. Eventually though the bubble bursts and I just gotta’ pick out the garbage. (At least there isn't too much in this film.)
While the visual aspect of the movie (black and white and red all over) is fresh and appealing, what I most have trouble with is the overuse of narration for the characters. Bruce Willis calling himself “old man” close to a million times gets…old. Not only does there seem to be too much narration but it all sounds the same. From one story and character to the next, there’s no distinct quality or usage of language to make each character sound like a unique individual (unless, of course, you think referring to yourself as “old man” counts).
Everyone sounds like this: “it was late at night, and cold, damn cold. Cold enough to rattle a man’s bones and make him beg for narcotics at three o’clock in the morning. Then she walked in. Stella, beautiful, Stella. She always was my drug of choice.” Well, when you get to the point that three different characters talk that way you start feeling that its been done, cooked overdone, and served up in the Done Café. Each character should have some distinction between their narration and the next guy, and these characters don’t. Marv and Dwight and Hartigan should all have a different voice.
Without having read creator Frank Miller’s work, and without knowing Robert Rodriguez is responsible for all three Spy Kids movies as well as the El Mariachi trilogy, if you’re acquainted with Quentin Tarantino you can see his fingerprints all over Sin City. Although he is just the “special guest director”, responsible for only one scene, from watching the Kill Bill volumes or Pulp Fiction, you get his style which Sin City is very close to.. The question here is, “is it too much?” Where do you draw the line between artsy and overboard, dramatic and cliched? While the film is as gore-ific as we’ve come to expect from Tarantino and others, there are times when viewers have to question the necessity of gore to tell a tale. What’s the point of blood spurts if there’s no story to be told? We can get that from video games. If every time someone is shot or punched or cut in half we see a bloodbath, eventually we’ll become desensitized. While this can be good, because it leads us into comedy as we laugh at the violence , it can also be bad. It’s bad if we stop laughing and start rolling our eyes and say “I sure wish these guys could come up with some new material.”
On the other hand, Sin City is loaded with that comic book feel and the beautiful artwork that comes with most of the territory. But as a movie, because it is so close visually to the original format of the graphic novels, it starts to be more like comics for the illiterate and less of an entertainment by motion picture. I appreciate that so many producers out there are willing to make a movie based on comic book characters, but isn’t the allure of the comic book itself the fact that you can touch it, read it, look over the illustrations, and hear the voices in your head (which hopefully all sound different)? If all the comic books become movies then there will be more DVD sales, but who’s left to want to buy the comic book? What are the next generation of fans going to do if they’d rather sit in front of the big screen and watch the X-Men, or Daredevil, or Fantastic 4? Who is the comic book fan if no one wants to turn off the TV and read the story?
Sin City is entertaining enough and a wonderful cast backs up the complexity of the characters with great talent, but we need to be cautious. Aside from the visuals, I think this film is balancing on the edge of edgy. This may be the last of the great original works, and if our daring and innovative writers/directors aren’t careful, we’ll fall off the edge into typical cheesy gore with no purpose and no plot. I’m not saying Sin City is bad, I liked it, I’m saying it’s borderline. Keep this in mind as we see Sin City 2 in ’06, and Sin City 3 in 2008.
With Sin City being based on a series of graphic novels that first began about a decade ago, and with the actual writer of said novels there, directing and producing, wouldn’t you think they could have scrounged up some juicy extras for the DVD release? Story boards maybe? Sat down for an audio commentary about what it was like to see his work in movie format? Anything?
With this release of Sin City you only get a ten minute “Behind the Scenes Featurette”. Whoopee! Let’s all go throw our clothes off and go dancing in the rain with joy (narrated of course by our own similar sounding inner monologues). We’ve been blessed to see clips of interviews that you know ran longer than the thirty second chunks you see of people. Why, we even got to see footage from the movie, which we already saw. Behind the Scenes? More like behind a fraction of a scene and then edited with music to pump you up for the inevitable let down. I know that in society today, what with all the caffeinated drinks out there and pills to make us less depressed and then pills to make us sit still, it can be hard to focus our attention on one thing for too long, but this is ridiculous.
Frank Miller is there on the set working on the movie and they couldn’t possibly have had a thirty-minute Q&A with him for the sake of his fans? They couldn’t do a side by side scene comparing the comic frames with the film’s movement? There weren’t any lighting experts there? There wasn’t anyone available to show how people standing on green props in a green room we’re transformed into a stark black and white world with selective coloring for dramatic affect?
I just don’t get it anymore. Did they spend all their money on the cast and have nothing left for the moviegoers to look forward to when the DVD is released? I’m sorry but I don’t consider surround sound and Spanish subtitles to be special features. Am I supposed to write a letter thanking Dimension Home Video for such a nifty box cover that I’m not pissed I didn’t get anything extra? From what I found, for the online listing price of $29.99, before special sales of course, I want Bruce Willis to come to my door and thank me for paying him. Well, you know what? Get out of my house “old man” and give me something worth watching.
(Editor's Note: Robert Rodriguez has already given several interviews hinting at what he plans for a future larger release of Sin City including the ability to watch each individual story within this movie (and the future ones) on their own, including footage that doesn't appear in the larger, intercut versions, just like watching the graphic novels themselves. When they will be coming? We don't know. All we know is for now Miramax has gotten one over people who want to own a copy of Sin City by releasing this bare bones edition.)