Graphic novels from the page to the screen: A success story

This weekend, “Sin City: A Dame To Kill For” will bring Frank Miller’s graphic novel series to the screen again, nearly a decade after the release of 2005’s prequel, “Sin City.”

This earlier film, which Frank Miller co-directed with Robert Rodriguez, was engrossing to watch because it created by the original “Sin City” creator. This chance is not one that many graphic novelists get throughout their career; very often we are treated to unfortunate Hollywood adaptions our favorite books and comics.

Many times, a quick cameo of Stan Lee in a Marvel film is the closest connection to the creator of the original story. With a system like that in place, the resulting films are sometimes lame, blockbuster-aimed, love-interest focused movies that disappoint fans. A prime example of this is the Sam Raimi “Spider-Man” films — the movies Toby Maguire stars in. Bad crying and acting aside, the films lacked a certain type of humor and playfulness presented in the comics. These issues were improved upon in the newer films, possibly because Kirsten Dunst doesn’t appear for a single second.

Frank Miller’s involvement in the “Sin City” films kind of puts a stop to that whole thing. The world presented on the screen is the world of novels. The “neo-noir” contrast of the black and white illustrations, which have become a trademark of the series, are so accurately recreated and the use of partial color. Red for blood, yellow for the skin of Roark Jr. and blues and greens for the eyes of certain characters, etc., which are also used in the novels, adds to the fun and originality of the story.

The writing remains similar as well; the movie sounds like the book reads, so to say. Choppy dialogue, in which it seems that every word weighs a ton, gives drama to the film. Dramatic monologues are used throughout, sometimes with the frame focused on a single image, like a frame of a comic strip.

Other tools have been used recently to help maintain the comic-style narrative. The 2009 adaption of the “Scott Pilgrim” series incorporated animated onomatopoeias during fight scenes, retaining the action-based narrative of the novels. That being said, much of the story had to be cut in order to pack the events of six graphic novels into one movie — the classic dilemma.

Now, I’m not against change or artistic license, or anything like that; I just think that the original creators of the work should have a bit of say in the process.

After all, the story came from their heads. I think that if more writers were involved in the adaption of their works, most people would be impressed by the outcomes. Frank Miller is bringing his own work into a new medium, and keeping huge parts of it intact.

The Sin City films may not be huge hits that are loved by all — I can’t even say I would choose it over “The Dark Knight” or “Iron Man,” both of which were twisted to fit the standards of the silver screen — but I fully admire the fact that Frank Miller’s films are his own.

Reach the reporter at wruof@asu.edu or follow him Twitter @willruof