HBO Wildcard Wednesday: Sin City

In this graphic novel adaption of the same name, Sin City is anthology film that develes deep into the violent underground of Sin City. An underground filled with excessive violence, murder, and prostitution.

These days I’ve been reading a lot of graphic novels, primarily the grittier kind like Alan Moore’s Watchmen and marveling at the artistic endeavor it must be to put one together. Comics and graphic novels have been an overlooked art form for a long time, often mistaken as a medium only for the nerdiest and primarily male market and not admired for their ability to convey incredibly complex stories within an artistic medium.

However, my love of graphic novels aside, this movie I find a little problematic. I must say first that I admire the way this film is shot. Cinematically it truly feels like you are within the pages of a graphic novel, not an outsider watching the story being presented to you. This film doesn’t shy away from sex and violence; often amping up both as far as it can go but stylizing it in a way that feels new and innovative.

I love the shift towards R-rated comic films. Logan, Deadpool, V for Vendetta, and Watchmen all prove that making an R-rated comic/graphic novel based film can be refreshing and add to the depth of the story. Violence-wise I think that this film is fine in how far they went, often being what I (and A Clockwork Orange) love calling a bit of ultraviolence. The artistic way they approached violence is actually quite beautiful, even if the subject matter is dark. The selective coloration and the ultra-contrast between blacks and whites add to this beautiful homage to comic book violence. It looks incredible.

Here’s where I find Sin City problematic. Comics and graphic novels written by men often have a reputation for misogyny. The women are sexualized and delegitimized to the point where they are only there to propel the plot through their deaths or their sexuality. They are drawn to impossible physical standards to please the often male audience that make up their primary market. However, this is taken to great extremes in this film. All of the women in this film are either prostitutes, exotic dancers, or victims. Men take advantage of them constantly, or they are at the mercy of a man to rescue them from trouble. The prostitutes do get a nice arch, primarily with the badass Miho being extraordinarily awesome and even saving a man once or twice, but they are still all prostitutes who have to wear basically nothing on a daily basis. Even protecting their turf their main duty is to serve as a sexualized visual for the male-gaze fueled audience. Even the most gratuitous nudity comes from a lesbian parole officer for no reason, she’s just naked for some reason. All of the women in this film are sexualized in such a way that it distracts from their capability to protect themselves and fight for each other.

Overall, this film is a feat of cinematography. It looks incredible and has a new approach on the graphic novel genre that had never been done before. Moving through the alternating stories and characters you feel genuinely connected to the original medium in which it was produced. Still, perpetuating the stereotype that this medium is made by men fore men is detrimental to the overall progression of the genre.

Amy’s Recommendation: 8/10

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