Comics Ate My Brain

April 5, 2005

"…but I did see Sin City!"

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tom Bondurant @ 4:42 pm
I’m back in Virginia for a few days (thanks again, York County library!) and haven’t had a chance to read last week’s comics. You can imagine how hard it is for a spoiler-avoidant nerd like myself to navigate the comics blogosphere without running across Blue Beetle this and Red Hood that.

So anyway, the Best Wife Ever and I took in Sin City (presented with a very droll Hitchhiker’s Guide preview) Saturday night. I had a well-reasoned, articulate post ready to go yesterday, and Blogger promptly ate it. That being said….

Neither of us had read any Sin City before seeing the movie, and my bourgeoise tastes had only exposed me to Miller’s Batman, Daredevil, and Elektra work. We thought Sin City was well-made but not great, and closer to Kill Bill than Pulp Fiction. We liked the production design and the integration of CGI with live-action, but we thought the plot could have been a little tighter. The movie spent enough time on Josh Hartnett and Brittany Murphy’s characters that we expected a little more closure to their stories. The acting was good throughout, but bless her heart, Jessica Alba was the weakest link there.

It didn’t help that Marv and Hartigan had the same basic story arc — fighting the corrupt overlords for the honor of the pure women they loved, and ultimately dying to save them. If their stories were meant as bookends, I could understand that; but at the risk of upsetting Rodriguez’ vision of translating Miller to the screen, you could have blended them into the same story without losing too much. (The timeline was also screwy, since Hartigan’s big sequence comes at the end and is basically a flashback.)

The real test of Sin City‘s success may well come this summer, when the mainstream media tries to contrast the Batman and Fantastic Four movies with it. Sin City represents a stunning technical achievement, recreating an artist’s work in a more direct way than ever before. It makes the lauded set designs for Tim Burton’s Batman movies look cheap and obvious by comparison. If Roger Ebert and company are bemoaning the lack of a CG Gotham City in Batman Begins, we will know that Sin City has broadened their minds.

However, Sin City‘s stylized action and violence may end up reinforcing the cliche that comics are only a higher class of lurid pulp entertainment. Certainly Marv comes across as tougher than normal, if not superhuman, to the extent that I halfway expected the electric chair to have no effect on him. Giving the female enforcers of Old Town distinctive costumes and identities may also place them only one step away from an X-rated X-Men (sorry) in the minds of the general public. Accordingly, Sin City‘s impact could only be to signal comics’ potential for nudity and gore.

In the end, I’m glad I saw Sin City. I hate to be pessimistic about it, but since “comic book movie” has become more of an established genre over the past several years, each new entry tends to get squeezed into the existing definition, rather than expanding it. Sin City is not Batman, Fantastic Four, or even Ghost World. Instead, it is an homage to a series of homages. It was entertaining and groundbreaking, but its ultimate effect remains to be seen.

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