Dark and daunting. Director Robert Rodriguez does an outstanding and faithful job of bringing Frank Miller's comics to the big screen. Those who've already formed an attachment to those stories and their accompanying artwork will have an easier time grappling with Rodriguez's vision. The uninitiated will likely find this film uncomfortable, jarring, and problematic, though I don't mean that to discourage anyone from taking on the challenge--I only intend to help set realistic expectations.
Sin City is really a series of loosely connected stories that deal with a hyper-grotesque world defined by violence, corruption, and erotic aggression. You'll easily make associations with films like Kill Bill and Pulp Fiction--films that make their mark, in part, by capitalizing on a kind of exacerbated violence that creates a strange push-pull with the emotions of the viewer...moving back and forth between disgust and macabre fascination. However, unlike those films which could be relished by an audience not having any prior relationship to the subject matter, Sin City requires the viewer to come to the experience prepared. My strongest criticism of Sin City as a "movie" is that on its own, it was not able to create characterizations that engaged me fully, nor did it weave together a story that took me to a destination I was able to clearly discern. The effect of a novice viewer is that most of the 126 minute ride seems to be some strange acting-out of a naughty 14-year-old-boy's sexual fantasies...an imagination that both erotically charges him and then causes him to punish his own lusts by instantiating villains who are ritualistically disemboweled for their sexual crimes. However, like all art, the experience is a collaboration between artist, medium, and audience, and it's not hard to imagine how radically different someone else's experience might be--or even how a repeated viewing might result in an entirely different perspective.
Sin City is visually a masterpiece. Breathtakingly filmed and edited, with a seamless blend of live and CGI imagery woven together in flawless accord. Black and White photography is highlighted with color accents reminiscent of early 19th Century hand-painted film cells. Black and white is black and white...there is no hint of sepia tones. Grotesque urban city-scapes, 1950's automobile chase sequences, and leather-clad street walkers assimilate into surreal blend that creates its own context...both in time and in place.
Those who don't know anything about Sin City but have been curiously taking notice from the side-lines, if you were able to accept and enjoy the violent visual language of Kill Bill and Pulp Fiction then Sin City may offer you a worthwhile adventure. Those who's loyalty to the comic is already in place are likely to appreciate Robert Rodriguez's efforts to a greater degree. This is a film sure to spark an abundant diversity of opinions. Please share your own and discuss respectfully.
Spectacular. Breathtaking. Stunningly pure.
Dimension Home Video often bests Miramax-branded DVDs in overall picture quality and this is no exception. While perhaps lacking the finest level of resolution of "reference perfect" DVDs like Warner Brother's last Matrix-series efforts, Sin City is a DVD that will impress...even on a wide-angle system like a 100" screen. Fine-object detail is excellent for a Disney DVD, and I was amazed at how well the image looked projected on a 106" screen. Both fore and mid-ground details are well preserved and never when viewing my 106" image (the first film viewed in my HT since my move into my new house) from my approximately 1.6 screen-widths distance did I feel like I was missing something. Often at this scale, "average" DVDs cause you to try to "focus" to see detail that's been removed during mastering. In the case of Sin City, the image is smooth, crisp, and loaded with natural detail that produced a genuinely oustanding image that had that "near-HD" sensation you get from the best DVDs.
The image also seemed free from the digital haze that sometimes obscures otherwise stellar film-to-tape transfers. The overall visual quality was one that was not over-processed, and the film-like results were graceful, natural, and relaxingly "analog-like" in feel. My use of "film-like" and "analog" is a bit paradoxical, because it appears to my eyes that this DVD has been entirely sourced from native digital image files...there is no hint of film-grain or any other "film" artifact to be seen. However, what I mean to communicate by the "analog" feel is the natural smoothness to the image, the sense of depth, and absent fog of subsequent digital processing often mistakenly carried out in the name of "improvement" with images that would have fared better simply left alone. This is one of the key signatures of a good DVD mastering job...allowing the natural "film-like grace" and ease to come through without the image taking on a harsh or processed look. Sin city succeeds! The image is smooth smooth smooth. As good as it looked on my DLP projector in 720P, I'm sure it would look even more spectacular on my friend's JVC properly scaled to 1080 progressive.
But perhaps the most praiseworthy aspect of the video is the black level and grayscale tracking, both of which are utterly perfect. The image intentionally has "pumped" black and white extremes...this is not the fault of mastering...it's part of the "film noir" look that the director is trying to convey. Amazingly, the digital mastering has been able to accomplish this without the black and white extremes feeling crushed...the shadow detail is still there. This is VERY impressive folks, and the smooth gradations of gray-tones in between give the image a strong sense of dynamic range. Black level is just rock-solid and whites are bold and cut like a knife without getting overblown. If I could make an audio analogy...imagine starting off with a "flat" frequency response and then pressing the "loudness" button on your stereo to boost the bass and the treble. That's the effect you're seeing in the image, and this DVD does it completely distortion-free. Bravo.
You haven't heard me comment on edge-ringing and that's because I didn’t' see any to comment about from my 1.6 screen-widths distance. It's possible that closer inspection might reveal the slightest occasional edge-halo, but DVD has no right to be judged closer than 1.5 screen-widths away and I can assure you that my picky eyes found nothing at all to take issue with from what is a VERY generously wide viewing angle with my 106" screen.
The only problem with the video that I did see was in a few all-black with all-white silhouette sequences...where there seemed to be a pixelly/grainy appearance to the contoured edge of the white shadow-images (HTF member Jeff Swearingen screened this disc with me and we both noticed this single anomoly). However, given the specific context of this artifact, I'm convinced that it's in the source material and not a fault of DVD mastering (as it would have appeared elsewhere as well rather than limiting itself to this one and only situation). This is truly a reference-worthy image and I'm sure the fans of the film will be thrilled.
HTF Member John Williamson writes:
| I saw this film twice in the theater and was hypnotized both times, drawn in and convinced that I was in that dank, dirty and violent world being presented to me, and I was very concerned that the eventual dvd would not be able to capture that. |
Well, here it is some months later and I picked it up today and my father and I just finished watching it on my 96" screen utilizing the DTS track...the experience survived the transition to the home intact! I was every bit as drawn in and hypnotized tonight as I was in the theater.
As David points out, the transfer is gorgeous, low rez shmo rez, this dvd is an awesome representation of the film and I would urge any fan of the film to pick it up, if not for the meantime until the SE. I don't get hung up on double dipping, when the SE comes out i'll getit and then dump this one on ebay and make almost all of my money back, so I lose nothing, really.
Fantastic film, and i'm relieved that my fears weren't realized, they easily could have gotten this dvd wrong, thankfully they didn't and Sin City rocks as hard and kicks as much ass in my HT as it did at the cinema!