Monday, December 31, 2012

Sin City (book version of The Big Fat Kill; complete cinematic version) Review by Marissa Hinton

Sin City is drawn in a very distinctive style. It often looks as if the whole comic takes place during the lightning storm of the century, with characters thrown into sharp, glowing relief against a simple, toneless world of pure black. When Sin City was converted into a movie, it was filmed in black and white with minimal lighting, and frames of the comic are interspersed with bits of the movie to add to the stylistic element which factors so heavily into the final product. In fact, there are some similarities to Road to Perdition in the way facial expressions are rendered. In places, ink smears and looks brushed, a technique used in Thompson's work quite often, though Miller's style of brushwork is brief, with shorter, harsher strokes. A final distinctive quality of Sin City's style is the use of white. Miller's technique of using it for detailing makes for striking artwork that looks more like white ink used over black drawings than it does reserved space and one color of ink.
 The reason Sin City is a graphic novel (and a movie that copies the comic frame for frame) is that the visuals in its story provide the weight and seriousness that words simply couldn't deliver. The stories feature brilliant combat scenes and fast-paced action that just couldn't be described in prose, and a regular, full color movie would distract from the narrow focus Miller establishes with his simplified settings and emphasis on figure and dialogue. With the comic—and the movie as well—the reader's focus is exactly where Miller wants it, and he can tell detailed, complex stories with a minimum of exposition or sidetracking, keeping a strong plot and rapid pace going despite all the information that has to be delivered for it to make sense.

Narration switches around from story to story. In a sense, it's first person, especially in the first and third stories in the movie, where the main characters (Detective Hartigan; Marv) narrate in first person throughout the story. Dwight, the hero of the second story, gives less narration—and in all three, the camera sometimes shifts completely away from the main character; saying it's strictly first person is therefore incorrect. The first-person parts of the stories help us relate to the characters, and make up a significant portion of the way the stories are framed; they also help to clarify things like the passage of time and changes in location, or character revelations that can't easily be shown in the middle of a fight scene.

An important scene in the movie (and one that presumably exists in the comic) is the first complete act, which doesn't become relevant until the third story—but the characters it introduces and the timeline it helps to establish are important to the entire work. Especially significant is the end of it, where Detective Hartigan comforts a young girl he just saved from a psychopath. From the visuals to the dialogue, it's one of the most powerful and touching scenes in the entire film, and foreshadows so much about what's to come. Neither the book nor the movie would be the same without this comparatively short, simple episode which tells so much about the characters in so little time.

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