One problem I didn’t cover in my vague post about book/comic adaptations, is what happens when the adaptation adheres a bit too closely to the source material. If you encounter the source first, you’re probably fine; you’ll enjoy the adaptation as a successful transfer to another medium. You get to see characters from your imagination/static panels come to life and parade across the screen.
But if you encounter the adaptation first, life might not be so good. You know everything that’s going to happen — even the minute details. I’m not one to care about spoilers, but that source material needs some sort of hook to set it apart from the adaptation.
For Sin City, it’s Frank’s art. As good as the film was at aping the noir atmosphere of it all, it pales in comparison to the original panels. The film adds an extra dimension with its single splashes of accented colours, but here it’s not needed. Instead, Frank’s expert use of light, shadow, and negative space do more than even the best special effects could hope to achieve.
Though there is the odd inconsistency in the way certain things are portrayed — Marv’s facial profile to name one. But these are minor niggles.
If you know Frank Miller’s work, you know the story. But Sin City stands apart as being Frank’s solitary vision. It’s his playground — unconstrained by others’ creations or writing. Here, Frank is set free to tell the story he wants to tell.
Whether you like the story or not is personal preference. It’s an enjoyably hard-boiled romp, with a slight edge of the surreal (or maybe hyper-real?), but (as much as I know from watching the film) there’s better story threads available in the Sin City universe. As an introduction, it does well to set out the rules and themes of the world Frank’s created, while still being a decent enough story in its own right.