There were a lot of reasons I was reluctant to watch this movie. I have never been a fan of Frank Miller; while it’s become fashionable in recent years to mock the comic book writer for his gloriously inept All Star Batman and Robin, I felt that his signature work, The Dark Knight Returns was also ridiculously bad, and it just took the rest of the fandom twenty years to catch up. I read a few of his Sin City graphic novels, on recommendation, and was thoroughly unimpressed. They struck me as an attempt at noir stylings without a comprehension of the writing skills that went into classic noir works. I’ll grant his use of contrast was great, but I was otherwise left with a sense that this is a comic book writer and artist who is poor at writing plots, incompetent at writing dialogue, and not particularly good at drawing either.
So why, then, would I watch the 2005 movie based on those works, especially when the two novels I’d read were among the plots the movie is based on? For starters, it has a ton of people in it. Bruce Willis, Mickey Rourke, Benicio Del Toro, Rutger Hauer, and many, many others. And Robert Rodriguez was the primary director, and he’s been all right on other works (Quentin Tarantino is also credited with directing one scene, and Miller has co-director credit). It did well at the box office, though that’s not always a solid indicator (Frank Miller’s 300 was similarly successful, and was terrible.) It also had critical success; Roger Ebert gave it four stars, and it’s at 78% on RottenTomatoes.com. And every so often someone would recommend it, and I’d demur, and they’d act like I was judging it unfairly. Personally, I think having read the stories was a fair way to pre-judge it, but hey; maybe it translated better to film than its original medium. At least if I watched it nobody could remotely claim I didn’t have an informed opinion on it. Plus, you know, it was available to watch free, so all I was risking was my time.
Sometimes risks pay off, sometimes they do not. Continue reading