April 02, 2005

It's a Sin.

I saw Sin City last night with Jacob and Andrew. I'll admit that I went in with high expectations; the comic books are gorgeous and the movie posters were too. That's where it ends, though. The movie stunk.

A Sin City comic book is fifty or a hundred pages of appalling violence wrapped up in a vigilante-hero fable and beautifully stark noir graphics. A Sin City movie is two hours and fifteen minutes into which they jammed three entire comic books and followed them word for word and frame for frame. It's a mess. The monologues that the books spool out slowly through five pages of reflective, mostly-black frames are delivered as an unceasing, long-winded irritation. That's pretty much the same as the problem with the movie as a whole; it never pauses because it's got too much material to go through, so it just grinds on unstoppably until the constant action is tedious instead of climactic.

Ooooh! How many words for "bad" can Dianna come up with? You get the idea, I think. It was excruciating. After an hour I was just hoping for the big baddie heroes to go out in their damned blaze of glory already so I could leave. After an hour and a half my new pastime was thinking of appropriate punishments for the people who actually brought their fucking 2-year-old children into the theater, which is grounds for loss of custody if you ask me. At the two-hour mark I was weighing the rudeness of walking in front of people to leave early versus my total lack of desire to stay.

Let's see, how does that line go? And when the screen goes dead the hell you walk out into must seem like heaven after the movie we've put you through.....?

Posted by dianna at April 2, 2005 09:33 AM

Wow. That's really sad to hear, since I was totally stoked to see it.

Posted by: Chris at April 2, 2005 11:09 AM

Chris, I think you should see it, if only to figure out whether you should trust my reviews or Erik's in the future.

Posted by: Dianna at April 2, 2005 12:45 PM

I didn't read Erik's review (nor did I read the comic bo...er, I mean graphic novel) but I thought the movie was really entertaining, plus ridiculously graphically captivating. And this as nothing to do with me liking the Clive Owen.

Posted by: Dara at April 2, 2005 07:55 PM

Mmmm. Clive Owen. Since when do you read my blog?

Posted by: Dianna at April 3, 2005 06:52 PM

You know, perhaps my message about the movie shouldn't really be "don't see it". How about, "if you liked it you should damn well read the comic books"?

Posted by: Dianna at April 3, 2005 07:10 PM

So I just saw it last night. I hadn't read Dianna's entry about it, Didn't know what it was or had seen any posters and didn't know who was in it. I new it had a title of Sin City and people had been asking me if I'd seen it. I also, now knowing that they're based on graphic novels, haven't read the comic books or know who Frank Miller is.

That said, I really enjoyed it. It was original, engaging and satisfying. I was really into the fact that there was so much damn content in the film, since it didn't need to be that way, and probably was less profitable (less accessible, fewer showtimes in a night) than had it been shorter. I thought that the treatment of violence was a totally new perspective. I'd heard someone talking about how there was so much violence that it numbed the viewer to it, however I think that that was intentional.

SPOILER !!!!!!

I think Marv upon being electrocuted and not dying is the classic example of the filmmakers asking the audience to suspend their traditional methods of understanding violence and treat it instead as a completely non-fatal common aspect of life in Sin City.


There were many flaws in the film, weaknesses, which made it different (in my eyes) from a film by Rodriguez's bed buddy Tarantino. There were a lot places for improvement but it didn't take away from the film for me.

I was also impressed with the, what seemed to me, ground breaking usage of child rape, brutal torture, gory unrepentant murder and the presentation of women as having power solely through sex. These are all elements of film that are pretty much outlawed these days. I have no comment on whether they should or shouldn't be in film, but I really appreciate people expanding the playing field on which my favorite art form can play.

Posted by: gene at April 9, 2005 10:03 AM

That's a good review, Gene. I mean that in the "interesting and constructive" sense, not just the "complimentary" sense. As for your spoiler, though, I have to spoil it just a little bit for you and say....


He did die.


Posted by: Dianna at April 9, 2005 11:30 AM

I saw it Friday night as well, and I did so coming from the same background as Gene had.

I really liked it. I thought it was visually innovative and it seemed to be the most genuine comic book (deal with it) adaptation (as an example of the genre, I mean) I've ever seen, regardless of whether or not I've read the books themselves. I can't imagine a way they could have elicited a more authentic comic book feel while still using live actors. And again, it was one of the most aesthetically pleasing movies I've seen in a while, "Aquatic Life" included.

I thought that the casting was on point, particularly for Elijah Wood. Oh, and little Rory Gilmore will just never be the same again.

Posted by: danny at April 10, 2005 01:17 AM

Gene: The reason you saw the "ground-breaking" material is because Rodriguez & Miller didn't stray from a single panel of the comic book. Every single one was there. And since they decided to do that, they couldn't well leave out any of the pulpiness. When you get right down to it all of the ultra-violence, etc. is just an amplification of decades of pulp writing. Sure, it's not common to see it on the silver screen. But the directors dealt with that in a very comic-book way: non-red blood. Bold white splashes of blood not only up the stylistic aspect of the film, they placate the ratings board.

I think the complaints Dianna and I have are the precise opposite of what you might expect from fans of the comics. I thought they were *too* true to the comics. Sure, I was blown away by some of the camera work and visual effects. But if they had maybe spent some more time on some panels while leaving out others (that is, if they had even thought about distancing themselves from the source material), the pacing would have been much improved. Similarly, if the dialogue had been retooled from the comics at least a little, maybe it wouldn't have come off sounding so stilted.

Posted by: Jacob at April 10, 2005 11:09 AM

I managed to put my finger fairly accurately on one of my major complaints while discussing it on someone else's blog, and since very few people read them both I'm just going to repost it here. Ahem.

There are 20-page sections of the books where not a single word was left out in the movie, but the big difference is that reading those sections in the books takes 5 times as long as seeing them in the movie. They linger, and the things that they linger over make the experience much more satisfying. Frank Miller fills entire pages with little tiny details and distractions that have been blown up into pictures you could stare at all day. They're not just blanks, but they're things like a windmill going klakklakklakklak or someone watching out a window while the light changes on their face. Then when something big happens on the next page, it's startling and climactic because it's a change from what you were just seeing. Going from action scene to action scene doesn't have the same effect.

So, just more crap about why the comics are so great, really.

Posted by: Dianna at April 10, 2005 11:30 AM

I just saw it tonight. Don't read this comment if you haven't seen the movie, since I might be spoiling. So SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER!!!

The movie was very visually interesting and appealing. My pet peeve appears to be the same as Dianna's - too much narration. It simply functions in a different way when there are moving pictures rather than static comic panels. Also, Bruce Willis isn't really such a voice talent that you'd choose him to deliver 25 pages of voice-over. The difference between Willis and Clive Owen, or even Mickey Rourke, was profound. Clive Owen can de-stilt some fairly questionable dialogue, is what I'm saying.

I am excited about the potential Mickey Rourke revival that may be sparked by this film.

I liked the crammed-in action. One thing that I really enjoyed was the total lack of what Frank Darabont called "foot traffic" scenes (in his annotated screenplay for "Shawshank"). He discussed how he managed to cut the running time of that movie by almost fifteen minutes simply by eliminating every scene where a person was going from place to place, and nothing consequential was occurring.

Jessica Alba played a stripper, and yet Bruce Willis was significantly more naked than she was. This fully-clothed stripper business in recent films is a sad trend indeed.

People have probably written in a much more lucid fashion about this than I will here, but the treatment of religion was quite jarring. Evil priests (including one played by Mr. Frank Miller himself), a series of scenes displaying perverse versions of the catholic sacraments (toilet baptism, a cannibalism eucharist), and the fact that Rory Gilmore wears an enormous crucifix as she's betraying all her friends - it's pretty omnipresent, but I don't know exactly what the point was.

I mostly enjoyed it, but I couldn't tell why anyone besides Bruce Willis especially cared about Nancy the stripper. The non-linear chronology might have had a point to it, but it escaped me. Gene has a good point about the presentation of violence; the filmmakers successfully immerse you in the brutal world so quickly that you don't even question the necessity of most of the killing. That being said, I was sad they they still resorted to the cliche of the killer holding the hero at his mercy, and leaving the room immediately after spring his deathtrap, not bothering to wait the requisite thirty seconds to see if it worked.

Posted by: sean at April 16, 2005 02:07 AM