Sin City

Everyone's talking about Sin City. And alot of them are saying how it's the best comic book movie ever because it stays so true to the source material. Well if the goal was to put a comic book on screen, mission accomplished. But who wants a comic book on screen? I don't, I want my comic books to be comic books and my movies to be films.

Never mind the comics that should never be made into films, Sin City is certainly a worthy candidate for a big screen treatment. But when an adaptation is so dependent on the source material, why bother doing it at all? Another recent example of this is Electronic Art's production of the Lord of the Rings trilogy videogames. They went so far as to rotoscope scenes from the film using the game engine to reproduce them verbatim, "to give the player the ultimate LOTR experience." Dude, I already had the ultimate LOTR experience, it was in the theater. What's the point of seeing it replicated on an Xbox just so I can run around as Aragorn and chop up orcses?

I'm a fan and a follower of Rodriguez, if anyone was going to pull off Sin City as a film it was him. Mega appreciation for bowing out of the Director's Guild to let Miller on the project, too. Tho as I see it, here's where Sin City fails:

1. Narration. The pulpish, dark-city citizen exposition that floods the Sin City comics serve it's place-- in the comics. It's part of the medium, integral to accommodating the flash of the stark black and white graphics to aid the pacing of the stories. In the movies it's such a cop out. I hate narration, hate it, hate it. I am not stupid. I can see what's going on and extrapolate the meaning. Even if I'm wrong, my imagination is better than being force fed every little detail that I can already see happening before me. I can't tell you how many times I watch a movie or a TV show and just think how much better it would be, how much more impact it would have if there was no narration. Try it sometime, the next time you hear it. Replay the scenes in your head without the voiceover and see how much better it is. In Sin City, it's not about giving Frank Miller any more credit for how good of a writer he is. If you've read the books, you already know that. If you haven't, it doesn't mean Miller is any less responsible for the genesis of Sin City itself, no matter the format. It also doesn't matter to me that the narration was necessary to fill in the story holes, as a truly good storyteller would be able to work around this. Or better yet, let the audience fill in the gaps themselves. There are plenty of times in the film where narration was swapped for dialogue and vice versa (and the only reason I know this is that's how painfully close to the source material the movie was). Has Blade Runner taught us anything??

2. Structure. The stories told through the books have little overlapping points, it's very cool to see once you start reading them as a whole. I really thought Rodriguez would take advantage of this, but he didn't. He sorta did, but it could have been done so much better. Pulp Fiction and Two Days in the Valley are better examples of this, both were done with a style that really made the whole thing more enjoyable once all the pieces started falling together. I was a little disappointed that the movie failed to pull this off as (for me) it would have pushed it over the edge towards a higher admiration. The stories that were chosen for the movie were definitely the right ones, although Mickey Rourke is such a bad ass I would have been just as happy if "The Long Goodbye" was the only story. Speaking of the titles, and related to the above, how come no title cards? As one segment ended, I would have loved to see a giant title on screen that said "The Big Fat Kill," or "That Yellow Bastard."

3. Acting. It's readily apparent who the veterans are in this pic. Good actors can survive the heavy handed Miller dialogue, others sound like they are staving off a brain aneurism. Call me sexist but it's mostly the dumb-as-a-post eye candy roles that fall into that category (Clive Owen included). As much as I love watching Jessica Alba writhe around with a lasso, the second she opens her mouth it kind of breaks the illusion. Poor dear. She's much better suited for roles where the primary goal is to stand there and look pretty, like Idle Hands or Never Been Kissed. I've tried to tell her this at several of our clandestine back alley dalliances, but to no avail. I fear she's too overcome with passion to be taking career advice from little 'ol me.

Where Sin City succeeds is in the gorgeous black and white visuals, even the bits with color. I wish more filmmakers/studios would commit to a major release in black and white. When it looks like this, it looks amazing. Ultimately my disappointment falls into the very crowded category of "I would have done it different." It's just that Rodriguez is usually an example that I look up to. He made a good movie, and honestly the majority of the audience just doesn't know any better. My regrets come from the desires of what Sin City could have been, from simply cool... to mindblowing.