The Problem With The “Sin City” & “300" Sequels

I remember, almost ten years ago, when I watched Robert Rodriguez’s stylized adaptation of Frank Miller’s graphic novel, Sin City. I hadn’t read the graphic novel prior to this — I was familiar with it — but I sort of went in blindly, and just watched.

What an amazing piece of work. Who was this oversized gorilla, Marv, with a Dick Tracy nose and a penchant for murder? How did they make this so strikingly visual using only black and white? Wow, look at Jessica Alba and Rosario Dawson! Who’s that yellow guy? Holy shit, that was gory! And awesome!

These were the thoughts that ran through my head as I watched this tightly knit, unapologetic hard “R” film for the first time. The noir-esque, over-acting fit the timeless quality of the film perfectly. The narrative, while split into multiple connecting stories, was tight, concise, and tragic. The bad guys won, not so different from the real world.

I would later find out that the film was a faithful adaptation of the original comic book, so much that they used it as storyboards, with very little changed. Reading the graphic novel at home was like literally watching the movie over again.

Months later, Frank Miller and company followed up with with 300, another stylized, slightly disturbing adaptation of another one of his graphic novels. Here, it told the story of the Spartan army’s loss at the hand of the Persians at Marathon, through gorgeous, yet over-indulgent direction by a newcomer named Zack Snyder. It had a similar feel to Sin City, as if they used the same technology, but a different look entirely. I loved this, too.

Unlike most Hollywood adaptations, they were both shockingly true to the source material, not softening the blows of the graphic novel endings on either film, like done so many times in the past. (Here’s looking at you, Disney.)

Which is why the unnecessary sequels to both films are such a let down.

[Avast. Thar be spoilers ahead, matey.]

In both Sin City: A Dame To Kill For and 300: Rise Of An Empire, the “good guys” — or let’s say protagonists, as none of these characters are truly “good” — get their due revenge of the events from their preceding films.

300's sequel follows a team of Greeks whom seek vengeance on Xerxes’ armies, after Leonidas and his team were killed in the first film. A Dame To Kill For, finds Marv — who died in the first movie — inexplicably alive, and accompanying Jessica Alba’s Nancy character to kill Senator Rourke, the evil puppetmaster of part one.

I guess perhaps the studio realized audiences love Marv so much that we'd just forget about him dying in the first film. Or perhaps they thought if they made the timeline of the two films confusing and convoluted enough, we'd be so dumbfounded that we'd just go with it.

I guess he’s alive? Shit I don’t know, that was ten years ago.”

Largely, both sequels are pretty to look at, and are like moving paintings with many beautiful things staring back at you, such as Eva Green’s naked body, which is given ample screen time in A Dame To Kill For. Like the characters in the film, audiences are so transfixed on her curves, that they aren't realizing her over-the-top, snarling delivery of her lines is terrible, and the plot completely incoherent.

Gone is the novelty of the studio’s innovative use of CG for both films, as it has been copied ad nauseum, for even worse films (The Spirit or Immortals, anyone?). Yet had these sequels not been retreads of their predecessors, this wouldn’t really seem so much like old hat.

But the worst offense is the reversal of both films predecessors to give them “happy” endings. These stories aren’t happy. That’s what makes them good. They make you feel something. Now we have sequels that make it all better, to appease audiences that like their revenge murders wrapped up in a nice little bow.

Effectively, thanks to these sequels, the deaths of Marv and Leonidas’ original 300 meant nothing.

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