Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Movie – Sin City (2005)

This movie is a set of four interconnecting stories based on three graphic novels and a short story by Frank Miller.  The director, Robert Rodriguez, felt it was so important to ensure that Miller’s vision was correctly translated to the screen that he made him a co-director on the movie.  The result is an incredibly faithful visual translation from the graphic novels to the screen.

These stories are homages to the noir films of the 1940s with dangerous women and tough-as-nails men.  It is set in the fictional Basin City, but its police corruption and Old Town section populated with tons of lowlifes and criminals gives it its nickname of Sin City.  Even the heroes are pretty dark.

It has a large ensemble cast of people in it.  Among them are veteran actors Powers Boothe and Rutger Hauer, Oscar winners/nominees Benicio Del Toro, Michael Clark Duncan, Mickey Rourke, and Clive Owen, and younger stars like Jessica Alba, Josh Hartnett, Elijah Wood, Rosario Dawson, and Brittany Murphy.

One story involves a paroled petty criminal (Mickey Rourke) who is trying to get to the bottom of who killed a woman he was with.  The second involves a tough guy (Clive Owen) trying to deal with a corrupt cop.  The third involves a good cop (Bruce Willis) trying to protect a little girl from powerful people who want to harm her.  The short story involves “the gentleman assassin” – a smooth, polite man (Josh Hartnett) who performs hits.

The movie is presented in black and white with splashes of color here and there to emphasize something.  Sometimes it is presented in stark black and white to better mirror the panels from the graphic novels. 

The visual look was achieved by shooting live actors on a virtual set.  This movie is often given credit for being the first one to do that.  Like The Matrix getting credit for “bullet time” and Terminator 2 getting credit for morphing, it is the movie that popularizes a technique that gets credit. 

For the record, Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow did live actors on a virtual set a year before Sin City did.  The Lost in Space movie did the freeze frame/slo-mo while rotating the image (aka bullet time) a year before The Matrix did (and there was a Gap ad that did the same thing months before The Matrix was released.)  Terminator 2 wasn’t even the first James Cameron movie to have morphing; that was The Abyss.  That wasn’t the first morphing movie, either.  (Feel free to insert your own Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers joke here.)  The first movie to morph an image was Willow, three years before T2 came out.  More will be said about these movies in later posts.

Please don’t mistake “based on graphic novels” to mean “for children.”  Sin City is quite violent, so it is not for the kiddies.  Even if you are not a fan of violence, the movie is worth watching for a little while just for the visuals.  Once you start watching you may find you are caught up in the first segment’s mystery.

Chip’s Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

           DVD                      Blu-ray                Sin City: Book 1  

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