After languishing on the shelf since last Christmas when I received it as a prezzy, I’ve finally gotten around to watching Sin City 2. Why exactly it remained unwatched for so long I’m not sure- I was a huge fan of the original film and have all the Frank Miller Sin City graphic novels (indeed, I bought the massive hardback omnibus volume several months ago to replace my paperback copies). Probably it was the negative word of mouth that had kept me away from the theatrical release of the film too. Like many fans, I’d waited several more years than expected to get a second Sin City flick- a delay that raised expectations in fans and fostered disinterest in others and likely cost the studio a mint as it turned out- and it was clear from reviews that the final film was a major disappointment.
To be fair, being a fan of the books, it was clear already that A Dame To Kill For aside, the best stories were featured in the original film. It also cannot be denied that Frank Millers artwork and plotting all suffered increasingly as the series of books wore on, almost becoming a parody of itself towards the end. I don’t know if it was boredom or laziness on Miller’s part but the law of diminishing returns rears its ugly head over his Sin City. Which was such a shame, as the first volume was wonderful. So anyway, I rather expected the second film to suffer the same fate of the books- after all, the films are so slavishly faithful to the graphic stories, if the stories were slipping in quality as they went on, that would inevitably translate to the film versions, too. And it does.
SIn City 2 opens with a short tale Just Another Saturday Night, and instantly sets the alarm bells ringing. There’s not really any story here to tell of, just a perfunctory plot to set the violence off. Sin City‘s violence is hyper-stylised stuff, all graphic slo-mo sequences with bright gushes of white splatter and severed limbs. It works great in the comic and was a novel (at times shocking) approach in the first movie, but it was always in the context of the bigger story, the drama and the characters, such as they were in its pupish noir universe. Its as if the film makers thought that it was the crazy graphic violence that made the first film so popular, when, in my opinion at least, it was the web of intrigue and fatal characters that was the real success of the film. In this opener it just seems cartoon violence for its own sake and actually seems boring rather than exciting. It feels too forced and an ill-judged opener to the film (the first film opened with a lovely moody sequence much more restrained and was all the better for it). Most frustrating of all, Marv, one of the most interesting and enjoyable characters before, comes across here as just a dumb tank, lacking the pathos and doom-laden end that he had in the first film. This continues later on when he appears in the later chapters of SIn City 2, utterly diminishing his character.
The most successful chapter of the film, as might have been expected, is A Dame To Kill For. Its the closest it gets to the ‘feel’ and intensity of the first film. Yes its violent, yes its decadent and sexy, but its got a great noir story and great characters played by a marvelous cast. Eva Green is, as ever, simply magnificent, chewing up the black and white cgi scenery as well as the men her character traps in her poisonous web.Josh Brolin is very good as her ex-lover Dwight, doomed to fall back into her clutches before battling his way out. It has the tone of a genuine pulp novel and is the highlight of the whole film. I almost wish that the story had been expanded somehow rather than have been so faithfully reproduced from the original graphic series, as it feels just frustratingly short and diminished by the stories that surround it.
On the whole though I did enjoy the film- certainly more than I had expected too. Its hardly the disaster that the reviews I read intimated it to be, and considering how the graphic series turned out its hardly surprising that it suffers in comparison to the original. Maybe just too many years had passed and the creators misjudged what had made the first film such a success. In anycase, I’ll forgive the film its digressions just for the fine A Dame To Kill For segment, glad to finally at least have that after having waited so many years for it.
So it’s extremely unlikely we’ll ever get a Sin City 3, which does seem a shame. It might have been an entertaining trilogy of films. Indeed I get the feeling of ‘what might have been’ about Sin City 2, and that’s a frustrating thing to say when you consider it wasn’t a quick cash-in after the first film but rather a film that came out several years later and, ironically perhaps because of this failed to recreate that original spark. But it’s not a bad film at all, just…. yeah, just not what it might have been.