Dir: Frank Miller and Robert Rodriguez
The first five minutes of this movie tell you all that is good about it. The look is so unique, the direction so striking, the technology so artistically deployed, that one cannot escape the conclusion that something truly different is afoot. Once that initial shock is assimilated, what is left is really a boilerplate neo-noir, as lacking in nuance as the comic books that were the source material no doubt were. Not that I have a problem with that, but the overarching impression I take from the film is that it is entertaining and spectacular, but not potent enough to truly be transcendent.
Rodriquez wants to be as faithful to the Miller comic style as he could. Realistic cinematic techniques cannot capture the abstraction of the original. So, turn the the computer. Since things in CGI never look as good as the real thing, then what happens once artificiality becomes the goal? What emerges is the only green screen movie that I have ever thought truly worked as an artistic vision and is the most appropriate application of digital technology ever in film. Here is technology in the hands of a truly groundbreaking film maker, not just as a shortcut to a superhero scaling buildings in ways that the laws of physics do not allow. Taking the limitation of a medium and transforming it into a strength is a bold and important move by Rodriguez, one that blazes a trail for further film makers.
However, the film is so faithful to its source that it seems stuck within it. The movie is an exercise in adaptation only. And while I can dig the pulp, I am not ready to proclaim Sin City as a great movie in the way that Crash was a great movie. Sin City tells me nothing about humanity; it creates an entirely fictional reality that plays on the voyeuristic and the macabre to entertain. I would have loved the full creative force of Rodriquez or Tarantino to have been brought to bear on this movie, extending beyond the comic to make the stories about more than basic vigilanitism or violence. Here is the creationg of an atmospheric universe that can motivate a narrative in untold ways that film cannot. And yet, the stories are simple and trade shock for character development.
Sin City is an important film and a giant artistic leap forward. But as a narrative, it remains mired in the universe of the adolescent. I can't help but feel that I have punished the movie for only going most of the way toward genius and then coming up short. That is a fault of mine that may fade after subsequent viewings. I did love the movie, but cannot place it among the elite films of the year.