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Posted April 13, 2005


Sin City's Allure


Rick Mitchell

Using the same basic technology as "Sky Captain And The World Of Tomorrow," actors performing on bare sets against green screens with backgrounds and props CGIed in later, Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller's "Sin City" succeeds where the former film failed, possibly because Miller's graphic novels were essentially used as storyboards for the film, which was further heightened by Rodriguez' strong cinematic sensibilities (though he has his excesses and lapses, and in my opinion, Rodriguez and Steven Soderbergh are the only contemporary directors who have any kind of understanding of film as a unique narrative medium in its own right and not a bastardized offshoot of literature or drama.)

"Sin City" really bridges the gap between the comic strip/book and film, much more successfully than Warren Beatty, Harold Michelson, and Vittorio Storaro did with "Dick Tracy" (1990). It's approach is also a potential answer to the problem I've cited as to why recent traditionally animated films like "Treasure Planet" and DreamWorks' "Sinbad" failed; that they were really aimed at 10-14 year olds who couldn't get past seeing these films as cartoons like younger kids could and would probably have responded better if they were live-action or a live-action/animated or CGI hybrid. And by setting the film in a totally stylized world, it's a lot easier to accept this hybrid look than more traditional live-action comic strip adaptations whose mixture of actual locations and CGI are often at odds with each other in maintaining a unified fantasy feel.

"Sin City" has one of the better HD-to-film transfers I've seen to date with only a couple of shots showing video artifacts. There are strong contrasts in both the live-action lighting and the CGI material. The film has been rendered mostly in black-and-white with occasional color agents. In some of the goriest scenes, blood is rendered white. And a warning, this is probably the most graphically violent film released in the United States in a decade or so.

Where the film is flawed is in its story. In the traditional of "Pulp Fiction," it intertwines four vaguely related tales in a sometimes confusing manner. And not helping things is the overuse of stylized dialog and narration in the vein of pulp noirish novels and stories of the Forties and Fifties. While this might work fine on the page, it comes off as excessive and detrimental to the pace of the film; a little of it would have worked better in sustaining the idea and its mood.

Knowing how Rodriguez works, it probably didn't cost very much and may already be in profit, so it's likely to inspire other, no doubt less-talented, filmmakers to use this approach, and probably not with the singular vision Rodriguez and Miller brought to this film. (Personally, I'd still prefer to film on sets, in Panavision anamorphic or 65mm of course.) This is likely to lead not only to more "Sky Captains" but badly conceived adaptations of other graphic novels and even worse ones supposedly created specifically for the screen. And because few directors and even fewer writers, producers, and executives have any background in visual storytelling, the visual dynamics are likely to be overwhelmed by excessive talk, especially in the very likely event of Robin Williams or Jim Carrey being cast in one of these things.

"Sin City" is worth seeing for the accomplishment and what it portends for the future.

Rick Mitchell is a film editor, film director, and film historian.  He lives in Los Angeles.

2005 Rick Mitchell.  All rights reserved

Photos Copyright 2005 Dimension Films




Copyright 2005 From Script To DVD.  All rights reserved.


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