Friday, April 8, 2005

Looking To The Stars: Sin City - A Review

First of all, a clarification. Last weeks Looking To The Stars WAS an April Fools Day joke. To my amusement, most of the readers seemed to realize this but the Nexus staffers didn’t. I got a number of e-mails and private messages (which out of grace to those who were fooled I won’t print) about the column and it looks like my little social experiment in seeing if common sense can be overridden by “fanboy rage” was a smashing success.

For the record, here were my real beliefs going into the column.

  1. While generally wary of the increasing darkness of the DC Comics Universe, I did find Countdown to be well-written if somewhat rushed and lacking in personality. Much the same as Identity Crisis and Emerald Twilight before them, it is a story dictated by editors to bring about another story. I will be giving each of these stories a shot and judging them on their own merits rather than giving up the fight now.
  2. I do find that certain creators (you know who) are having their past works treated rather badly and that it is DC Comics loss in having driven such talented wordsmiths away. Nevertheless, this does not hurt my love for their work one iota. Randy Millholland wrote a pretty good rebuttal to the idea fans have to blindly agree with everything a writer or a company does in his brilliant web-comic Something Positive. While the storyline was about the scandal involving Orson Scott Card and his political beliefs, the same principal applies to the current situation with DC. If you are totally unable to enjoy anything by the company now, rejoice in what happiness their books brought you and move on. If you can, join me in reading the titles you still do enjoy and ignore the rest.
  3. Much as it saddens me to have to explain this, I do NOT really think that Frank Miller having a hand in the direction of the Sin City movie is a bad thing. Honestly… the line about Hollywood being more concerned with quality than the comic book writing professionals? If that were true, than Catwoman wouldn’t have won the most Razzies this year.

In point of fact, I was there at my local cinema stadium at Friday morning, April 1st in order to catch the first showing of Sin City. And as promised last week (the one serious thing I did say), I do have some thoughts upon it for you all this week.

It is good. Oh, good LORD it is good!

It is completely unfair to call Sin City an adaptation of the comic book. The word “adaptation” implies changes. Having just read The Hard Goodbye, The Big Fat Kill, and That Yellow Bastard, I can safely say that nothing noticeable has been changed in taking the books and putting them on the silver screen. Call it a Comic Book Translation, then. For this movie has been transcribed from one media to another, as if Frank Miller himself had painted each individual cell of the film.

It is pointless to try and describe the plot of the movie; there are several plots, each more complex than that of your typical Hollywood movie. The characters also defy easy description. A whole book could be written upon the characters and the relationships between them and I only have so much space. Suffice to say, the movie is well-named as it is just as much about the city and the climate of it than the people within it. Like the San Francisco in the Sam Spade stories, the City itself is a rich character and like everyone who lives in it, Sin City is a maze in which the unexpected can be found.

By way of an example, let’s take Marv- the protagonist of the first third of the movie. I use the word protagonist because “hero” is an ill-fitting word for Marv. Marv is, as one of his fellow barflies puts it, unfortunate enough to have been born into the wrong century. Marv is a big, hulking ugly bruiser who is at his best when he is in a fight. He would have been a good gladiator or a good medieval warlord. But today, he is a thug.

He is violent. He is a little bit crazy. He is a stone-cold killer. And yet, he is not without his good points. He’s befriended a lot of people because he watches out for the people around him and has issues with any man who hurts women. And he’s good to his mother, too. For all the bad things Marv does, he does have a strong sense of chivalry.

It is this sense of chivalry and a fair amount of lust that leads him into spending the night with a woman who he knows on some level only wants him for protection. Protection from what, he doesn’t know. But with her having gorgeous blond hair and a smell “like how angels want to smell”, Marv doesn’t much care. Not until he wakes up hungover a few hours later, with the woman dead (“She called herself Goldie”), the cops at the door and a frame-up apparent even to a slow-on-the-uptake guy like Marv.

The movie goes full-tilt from there through two other stories, which I shan’t say a word about. I’ve spoiled enough of the plot already. The ensemble is perfect, with not a weak performance in the bunch. The action sequences are amazing and the visuals… well, this is the first digitally created movie I’ve ever seen where the lack of realism actually enhanced the movie rather than distracted from it. Because unlike other such effects-driven films (The last two Star Wars and Sky Captain come to mind), the characters ground the movie in reality, making the unreality of the world behind them seem totally natural.

Suffice to say that there is little in this movie to complain about. And if you’re complaining, then this movie is probably not for you. If you’re a fan of good action flicks, you’ll like it. If you’re a fan of the original comics, you’ll love it. If you’re the kinda person who likes movies about men who are men, women who are women and a world where there’s raining even when its sunny, you’ll like Sin City.

Me? I love it. I love it so much, I’m giving it a perfect 10.

And once again, I’m sorry I scared so many of you with the April Fools Day joke.

Tune in next week. Same Matt time. Same Matt website.

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