Friday, August 22, 2014

What A Difference 9 Years Make

In 2005, I eagerly anticipated* the release of the movie based on Frank Miller's Sin City.
If you were reading this blog back then, you no doubt saw my many posts on the subject.  When it was released in theaters, I actually took the day off just so that I could be there for the day's first showing.  I was by no means the only one - the theater ended up being pretty-well packed for a Friday morning in April.
When the movie ended, I was tempted to buy another ticket and taken in a second showing.
Somewhat later, when the bare-bones, no frills DVD hit the market, I picked it up.  Some months later, when the considerably more deluxe version was released, I bought that, too.
Years later I replaced that DVD with the Blu-ray edition.
Cut to nine years later and the release of the sequel.
We're in "summer hours" at work, which means being able to leave a bit earlier on Fridays.  I decided, almost reluctantly, that if I was going to see the sequel I might as well do it on the way home from work, which would be during something of a lull at the theater.
I was already preemptively disappointed in the movie due to the casting.  Of all of the Sin City "yarns" in the original comics, "A Dame to Kill For," which is the central story in the sequel as well as the movie's title, is my favorite.**
The protagonist of that story is Dwight McCarthy, who is also my favorite character in the Sin City "yarns."  In the first movie, the role of Dwight was ably portrayed by Clive Owen.  In the sequel, the role was filled by Josh Brolin.  I like Josh Brolin, and he was fine as Dwight, but - and I have no idea why Owen didn't return - he just didn't click for me the way Owen did.  I'll have more on Dwight - and Brolin/Owen - in a bit, but the real issue I had with casting in this particular story is that of the titular "Dame."
Though I'm puzzled by this fact, I know that I'm definitely in the minority when it comes to not being a fan - to put it as mildly and politely as possible - of actress Eva Green.  I find
Certainly, when I imagine Ava Lord (the "Dame" in question), the manipulative seductress, the woman of such impossible beauty that men would kill - and die - for her, Eva Green is not the person who springs to mind.
And yet, there she was, as Ava.
She was - as in accordance with the source material - naked for pretty much 80% of the time that she was on screen, and honestly, for most of that I was thinking, "Just put some damn clothes on."
That casting - along with the ridiculous gap in time between movies - had dampened my enthusiasm for the sequel considerably, and the fact that I just didn't want to be looking at her and hearing Ava's words coming out of her mouth soured the whole experience for me, and made it impossible for me to overlook the many other flaws in the movie that I might have otherwise been able to forgive.
Further, the movie wasn't merely an adaptation of the comics this time around, as Miller wrote some new material specifically for the movie.  Said new material wasn't good, and having Jessica Alba attempt to carry that material only made matters worse.
As with the first movie, Alba portrayed that character who doesn't exist anywhere other than in movies:  the stripper who doesn't strip and yet still manages to keep her job.
I can certainly understand an actress not wanting to do nude scenes.  Even if it's sometimes disappointing, it's a perfectly reasonable choice to make, and I respect that.
That said, if you don't want to do nude scenes, maybe consider not portraying a stripper.  (And if you're making a movie, maybe consider not casting someone who doesn't do nude scenes as a stripper.  It doesn't exactly seem like rocket science to me.)
That she remained fully-clothed the whole time she was on stage - which is decidedly not the case in the source material - caused a disconnect with what was being seen with what was being said.  At one point, Dwight (in a voiceover) makes a comment about how Nancy (Alba) is showing off everything she has.
Later, in her own voiceover, Nancy talks about "giving them what they want."  Except, no, she's not giving them that, because what they want is to see her naked.  Because she's a stripper.  As I've said many times, there's a word for strippers who don't strip, and that word is "fired."
In any case, as a continuity-minded nerd, the new story was especially disappointing because it featured a character who could not possibly be involved in the events taking place, as the timeline just would not work.
Speaking of nerds, to contrast to how things were in that relatively full theater back in 2005, the audience today consisted of myself and three other people.
So...yeah.  I don't foresee this movie making enough money to justify a sequel, particularly if we wouldn't see that sequel until 2023.
Which is something of a shame, given that one of the complaints many critics have about this movie is that the high-contrast black and white with splashes of color look of the movie that was so groundbreaking in 2005 is old hat now, and looks rather tired and dated.  The markedly different, more colorful style that Miller utilized in "To Hell and Back," the last Sin City comic he did, would be just as groundbreaking, if brought to life on film, as the original movie proved to be, and could very well kick off a new trend that soon gets overdone.
As for the Dwight/Brolin/Owen thing, to get a bit spoilery, there was an opportunity to really mess with the audience that Miller and Rodriguez completely squandered.
Chronologically, "Dame" takes place before "The Big Fat Kill," the yarn featuring Dwight that was adapted in the first movie.
As the result of the events of "Dame," Dwight undergoes major plastic surgery - something that was alluded to a couple of times in "Kill" - resulting in him looking like a completely different person.  Again, I don't know why Owen didn't reprise the role, but it would have been awesome if we went from seeing Brolin all bandaged up after his surgery, to seeing Owen return to the role once the bandages are removed.  Hell, if they could have done it and kept the fact that Owen had returned to play the post-op Dwight a secret, it might have been the movie's saving grace for me, at least.
But no; instead they merely added some weird prosthetic effects to Brolin's face and gave him a different hairdo, and then had - in another disconnect between what was said and what was seen - someone make a comment about the remarkable transformation.
So...yeah.  I was disappointed, as I was certain I would be.  I just didn't realize how disappointed I would be.
Which isn't to say it didn't have its moments - it's always fun to watch Miho (played by Jamie Chung this time around) beheading people, and Mickey Rourke was great as Marv once again.  It was also kind of fun to see Jaime King*** reprise her roles as twin sisters Goldie and Wendy, especially with her appearing on-screen in both roles at the same time.
And, of course, Rosario Dawson.****
Because Rosario Dawson.
But overall...well, nine years is a long time to wait, and even if it had been better than it was, I don't think it could have ever been worth it.
To paraphrase Joseph Gordon-Levitt's character, I went into Sin City:  A Dame to Kill For with my eyes open, but my enthusiasm for the franchise didn't come out at all.

In closing, here's CinemaSins taking a look at everything wrong with the first movie.

*I will admit that there was a great extent to which this was a choice I made.  At the time, I felt like I really needed something to look forward to in life.  Given that I enjoyed the comics, and the movie looked to be the most faithful comic book adaptation ever, it seemed like a good choice.

**I recognize the...flaws of Miller's work, and much of what he's done recently has eroded the good will he built up with his earlier groundbreaking work in comics.  You can tell me that Sin City is horribly sexist and misogynistic, and problematic in at least another dozen ways, and I will agree with you.  But though I recognize this, I still love the comics - and the first movie - unapologetically.

***After working with him in the first movie, and again when he directed The Spirit, Jaime King was a pretty vocal defender of Miller in response to complaints about his misogyny.  That doesn't prove anything, obviously  - I think it's clear that yes, Miller is positively drowning in misogyny, but I always found that interesting.

****While the sequel gained points for retaining Rosario Dawson (and once again dressing her up in dominatrix gear), to borrow from the CinemaSins guys, I called out some sins for the movie, as they might, because, "Rosario Dawson isn't my girlfriend in this scene."  Of course, to be fair, I call out Rosario Dawson not being my girlfriend as one of the sins of life itself.

1 comment:

Jeff Lipton said...

"Just put some damn clothes on."

A woman would have to be pretty damn ugly for **me** to say that!


Speaking of strippers, have you seen "Dancing at the Blue Iguana"? It stars some pretty big names (Jennifer Tilly, Sandra Oh, Charlotte Ayanna, Sheila Kelley and Daryl FREAKIN' Hannah as strippers who strip. In fact, they were each just given a bio and worked out the plot in a an improvisational workshop.

A bit uneven at times, due to the way it was made, but fairly decent over all, and ALL of the stars are topless at least once in the movie.

Makes getting Jessica "No Nude Scenes" Alba all the more inexplicable.