Said to be more of a “translation” than an “adaptation,” Frank Miller‘s graphic novel Sin City was brought to the big screen in 2005. Miller, who previously disliked the idea of selling the film rights, changed his mind after seeing Robert Rodriguez‘s demo of a single scene. He wanted to prove that he could bring the graphic novel to movie audiences, and this demo went over so well that Miller agreed to sell the film rights.
As well as selling the rights to Sin City, Miller actually stayed on to co-direct the film. Rodriguez wanted him there so that he would stay as close to the graphic novel as possible. I do believe that “translation” is a better word than “adaptation” for this project, as it more accurately describes what has been created with this film. Miller’s original story seems to have acted more like a storyboard than anything else. This is the level of accuracy that has been attained.
There are three main stories to be told, two of which are far more interesting than the other. The first one is named “The Hard Goodbye.” Marv (Mickey Rourke) wakes up one morning to find that Goldie (Jaime King), the girl he spent the previous night with, is dead. He loved her, and will stop at nothing to avenge her death, and put a bullet (or something far more painful) in the head of her killer. It’s a revenge story that takes the most time out of the film. That’s not a criticism, though, as it is definitely the most interesting story.
The second story is the one that opens and concludes the film. It is split into two parts, and surrounds the other two self-contained stories. It follows a John Hartigan (Bruce Willis), a retiring police officer, who attempts to stop the upcoming assault of a girl. Whether or not he does, and what results after the fact is something that should be experienced. Because of this, I will not simply state what happens. All you need to know is that it is exciting, and is the story that invokes the most emotion within its audience.
The final story is the least interesting, and the only part in which the film starts to drag. That’s not to say that it is terrible, but I felt myself not caring much about the characters or the events they were involved in. For what it’s worth, this story involves a man (Clive Owen) trying to shut up his girlfriend’s harassment of an ex. Along the way, we are taken to a place called Old Town, where the red-light-district workers act more like the law than the police do.
There are more characters to meet in this story, but I think that ends up making it the weakest one. It’s harder to care about the characters because we are bombarded with so many of them. There just isn’t enough time to build upon them, so they come off as bland and unworthy of the attention that you want to pay the characters from the other stories.
Even at its weakest point,
Sin City is engrossing.
Not caring about the characters in this story is further brought out by the fact that the other stories had such great ones. Marv is a man on a mission, a mission of revenge, and he isn’t going to let anything stop him. You can tell how much he cared for Goldie, and that he isn’t just the tough, grizzled man who you see before you. He has depth to him, something that isn’t immediately noticeable, but comes across through his dialogue and actions. The protagonist in the other story, John Hartigan, also has depth, but we don’t even begin to question whether or not he is a bad guy. He falls easily onto the “good” side of the morality spectrum, and there is no reason to question his motives. His story is also the most emotionally involving one out of the three, and concludes in a near-perfect manner.
The entire movie is shown in black and white, save for key pieces of it. Blood, eyes and certain cars are all colorized, or should I say, not grayscale. The film was actually shot in full color, and converted in post production to black and white. The style it has is one of a neo-noir film, allowing it to appear like a comic book brought to the big screen. Considering the fact that the goal of the production team was to do this, they have most certainly accomplished that goal.
The acting in Sin City was solid, but also unbalanced, in a way. There are subtle performances, like that of Willis and Elijah Wood, but there are also extremely over-the-top performances like those of Mickey Rourke and Nick Stahl. The one weak link in the acting chain is that of Alexis Bledel, whose performance is neither subtle, nor over-the-top. She’s there, saying lines, but not bringing any depth or emotion to her character, even when it is required.
Something that was definitely appreciated was the fact that, while each story is separate, other characters from the other stories appear in a cameo role. You might not notice all of them on your first viewing, but they are there. It’s a nice little touch that gives you a feeling of warmth, even if the action taking place on-screen is a little disheartening to watch.
The action, like almost everything else, goes back to the comic book roots of Sin City. Everyone is a superhero, able to take multiple bullets to non-extremities without much happening to them. Even wounds that you believe should kill them don’t. This allows for the violence to be ramped up, as it needs to be. Otherwise, nobody would die.
Sin City is overly violent, features an incredible number of characters, tells three distinct, yet similar stories, and is also an incredibly entertaining watch. While one of the stories was easily weaker than the others, it doesn’t weigh the film down enough to make it anywhere close to unwatchable. Even at its weakest point, Sin City is engrossing. It is a “translation” of Miller’s graphic novel, and manages to do an incredible job of bringing it to the big screen.
Conclusion: Sin City is a violent translation of the graphic novel and looks like nothing else you’ll see.
Recommendation: Unless its content puts you off it, you need to see Sin City.
- Rating - 9/109/10