Why I don’t care about Frank Miller’s Sin City 2

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It’s time to face the fact that it’s not 1988 anymore, Frank.

It’s fair to say that Sin City: A Dame to Kill For is one of the more hotly anticipated films of the year. The first was a decent box office hit and has gone on to become a cult classic, and the nine years between it and its follow-up seems to have fans of the first pretty rabidly looking forward to it. But it’s an enthusiasm that I just can’t get behind, and it comes down to two words: Frank Miller.

Everything Frank Miller’s touched recently has turned to crap: why should we be excited about his involvement in Sin City 2?

His name is on the poster no less than three times: “Frank Miller’s Sin City. Directed by Frank Miller and Robert Rodriguez. Written by Frank Miller.” Clearly, we’re expected to see his involvement as a significant selling point; but guys, let’s be honest here, it hasn’t been 1988 for quite a long time. Frank Miller is no longer the remarkable talent behind groundbreaking comics like Daredevil: Born Again, Batman: Year One and The Dark Knight Returns. Instead, he’s a curmudgeonly old racist who most people would prefer to keep their distance from.

The Frank Miller of 2014 is the dubious talent behind dismal failures like All-Star Batman & Robin, Holy Terror and (his film directorial debut) The Spirit. The first is generally considered one of the worst Batman comics in recent memory; the second is nothing more than blatant Islamophobic propaganda; and the third is simply a really shitty movie. Yes, he has done great work in the past, but pretty much everything he’s touched recently has turned to crap: why should we be excited about his involvement in Sin City 2?

300

It gets even more discouraging when we look at the other films based on his work. 300 immediately springs to mind, given that it grossed over $450 million worldwide and also had a belated sequel recently: it’s certainly the most commercially successful and recognisable thing with his name on it. And where to even begin with this particular piece of hot garbage?

For all the merits of Batman: Year One, Miller is still the guy who decided it would be a great idea for Catwoman to be a prostitute

300 is a nasty, repugnant film. It’s fascist, overwhelmingly militaristic, homophobic (and wilfully ignorant of history in that regard), incredibly racist against Persians, and depicts all disabled people as depraved and evil. The Spirit is relatively harmless by comparison: it was terrible in a much more conventional way, and at least had the common decency to spectacularly bomb and earn back only two-thirds of its budget. With 300, people apparently didn’t notice the appalling text – calling it subtext would be crediting it with too much subtlety – and flocked to see handsome white men massacring the evil, brown foreign people. You can see the problem here, right?

Oh, but we’re not done yet: how could we forget about Miller’s misogyny? For all the merits of Batman: Year One, he is still the guy who decided it would be a great idea for Catwoman to be a prostitute. And for the cover of All-Star Batman #5 to be nothing more than a picture of Wonder Woman’s arse. And for practically every single female character in the Sin City comics to either be a prostitute or a stripper. There’s a lot to like about those comics, but their treatment of women is terrible even by the standards of the rest of Miller’s work.

Sin City women

It’s right there on the poster for Sin City 2, impossible to ignore: front and centre is Jessica Alba’s stripper Nancy Callahan, topless, and evidently in the middle of a dance. And on the left is Rosario Dawson in bondage gear. There’s a reason for the long-running joke about Miller being physically incapable of writing a female character who isn’t a prostitute. Admittedly, yes, they at least let Eva Green wear a coat, but shouldn’t the title character be the one in the middle of the poster, not pushed off to the side somewhere? Plus, she’s naked in the trailer and on that poster that was banned by the MPAA – which, admittedly, was surprisingly classy and un-exploitative, but in the context of the rest of the film it’s still less than ideal. Is there a single woman in this movie who hasn’t been sexualised in the marketing?

Is there a single woman in this movie who hasn’t been sexualised in the marketing?

It’s not that there’s nothing appealing about Sin City 2. The cast they’ve got lined up is excellent, and Robert Rodriguez is a very talented genre director (Predators especially was better than it had any right to be). But the overwhelming presence of Frank Miller in the marketing campaign just leaves a bad taste in the mouth, considering how thoroughly unpleasant everything he’s done of late has been. This is the man who called the Occupy Movement “louts, thieves and rapists,” remember. Drawing the line between art and artist is always difficult, especially in this case where there is genuine talent attached to the project, but I can’t justify giving money to something this man is so heavily involved in.

 

Read more: The fraught relationship between comic books and cinema

 

Featured image: Lionsgate

Inset images: Warner Bros, Lionsgate

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