Storydome: Sin City

Walk down the right back alley in Sin City, and you can find anything.

In the world of Sin City, the politicians are criminals, the cops are criminals, and the criminals are criminals. The only people who aren’t criminals are the victims who are looking for someone to save them. The saviors of the people are not heroes, but men who blur the line between good and evil, often spending more time on the latter half of that line. In Sin City there is a necessary amount of evil that needs to be done in order to accomplish a little good.

Neo-noir anti-heroes tear up the town in their quest for justice, but who will tear up who inside the Storydome?

Two stories enter, one story leaves when Sin City steps into the Storydome.

The Contenders

The Book
Title: The Hard Goodbye, The Big Fat Kill, That Yellow Bastard
Author: Frank Miller
Published: 1991 – 1996
Pages: 24 issues
The Movie
Title: Sin City
Director: Robert Rodriguez & Frank Miller
Released: 2005
Length: 124 Minutes
Starring: Bruce Willis as Hartigan
Mickey Rourke as Marv
Clive Owen as Dwight

It should go without saying. There are SPOILERS ahead.

A beautiful woman in a red dress stands alone on a rooftop overlooking the city. She is lonely and scared, and an approaching man asks her what she’s scared of. The woman tells the man that she does not know as the two embrace. The man tells her he will keep her safe, that he’ll save her from whatever she is running from, he then shoots her and holds her as she dies in his arms. The man then announces that he will cash her check in the morning.

This is the rather ambiguous opening to the graphic novel inspired movie, Sin City.

I know the Storydome’s focus has been more towards novels, but I am open to anything with a good story. And Sin City has three of them.

Rather than take on the somewhat laborious task of summarizing the three individual stories I am going to go ahead with the breakdown.

First off, I think it is important to note that Robert Rodriguez was always clear when he did interviews about this movie that he did not consider his movie an adaptation, but a direct translation. That is why Frank Miller shares credit as director, because the frames of the comic were used as the storyboards for the movie.

Typically, I have not been a big fan of the direct translation approach, because I feel like too much is lost in this translation, but Sin City is a definite exception. The first thing anyone will notice about the movie is the stunning visuals. Rodriguez was able to capture the high contrast style of the comics and put that on film. The movie is in real black and white, as opposed to the traditional shades of gray that other black and white movies are shot in. Rodriguez was able to do this by shooting the whole movie against a green screen and then digitally adding effects and changing the contrast ratio.

I imagine that it was much easier for Miller to get this stunning contrast in the comics because all he had to do was draw everything in black ink. It is such a simple idea really, but it wasn’t done until Miller wrote The Hard Goodbye in 1991. Now, this neo-noir style has a countless number of imitators. Miller was trying to recreate the film noir style that was popular in the 40’s, and this tribute can be seen in more than just the visuals, it is also in the dialogue and narration that rely on heavy and exaggerated metaphors.

My biggest problem with direct translations, or attempted direct translations, is that they inevitably lose large chunks of the story for the sake of time. That’s not a problem in Sin City, mainly because the stories are short. So short, in fact, that it took three separate stories in order to reach the two hour mark. This is the first real direct translation that has ever been in the Storydome, which makes the decision much, much harder.

By its very nature, a comic is supposed to read very cinematically, which would mean that the translation to film should be very easy, at least when compared to a traditional novel. I’m not sure that Robert Rodriguez would have called it easy, but I think it was successful. Rodriguez is known for his highly stylized films, so it only seems natural that he should make a movie based off of a comic book, and I’m very glad that he chose this comic book. What gives the movie an edge in this battle is that you can sit down and watch three separate stories in one go, as opposed to having to buy, or rent, three separate books. The stories do intertwine somewhat in the comics, but this intermingling is made even more apparent in the movie because you’re watching the stories back to back to back, with characters crossing over between stories.

And speaking of characters, this casting is rather unusual but it is incredibly entertaining. I am hesitant to call this an ensemble cast because it really isn’t; it’s just a large and impressive cast list. My personal favorites would have to be Mickey Rourke as Marv, Clive Owen as Dwight, and Elijah Wood as the silent serial killer, Kevin.

The trademark of both the movie and the comics is the visuals. They both just look so…cool. I’m going with cool because I can’t think of a more fitting description. It is visual and visceral storytelling, and in that respect the slight edge goes to the movie.

Winner of Storydome: The movie, by a hair.

What made me hesitant about declaring the movie the winner was the fear that people would simply watch the movie and ignore the comics. I don’t want that. There are seven Sin City comics in total and each story is worth checking out.

I don’t imagine I will be doing any more Storydome’s regarding comic book movies, because most movies are simply inspired by the characters and aren’t based off of any specific story. But I have wanted to do Sin City for some time now, being a big fan of the comics and the movie, and now seemed like a perfect time.

Disagree with my assessment? Let me know about it in the comments section.

I’ll be back next week, as a new story steps into the ring.

— Tim Fitzpatrick, Editor

Editor’s Note: Tim Fitzpatrick is an English major at Lewis University with a focus on creative writing. Tim is 26 and is only just now starting college. He has always enjoyed telling a good story, and he is at Lewis to learn to do that better.

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