Frank Miller’s Sin City: A Dame to Kill For made a great big thud at the box office this weekend, earning just $6.5 million off of an estimated $60-$70 million budget. This despite the popularity of the first film (which opened with $29 million in April 2005), the source material and an all-star cast that included Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Josh Brolin and Jessica Alba.
Commercials and other promotional efforts for this thing were everywhere, so no one can claim that a lack of exposure did Sin City: A Dame to Kill For in. That’s not necessarily a reference to the rejected Eva Green/sheerly masked breasts poster that made the rounds (if you’ve read this site before, I’m sure you’ve seen it… over and over again), it just seems like it is.
To the film’s credit, the people who did go see it weren’t necessarily running out of theaters in revulsion. Sin City: A Dame to Kill For scored a 44% with critics on Rotten Tomatoes but it got a 69% audience score. That’s not great but it doesn’t line up with this kind of failure, especially when you pair those numbers with the size of the marketing campaign.
So, what killed Sin City: A Dame to Kill For? My guess is that it was a combination of time and fatigue.
No one really seemed enthusiastic about this film. Sure, there were the typical interviews and reviews, but Sin City: A Dame to Kill For didn’t get the hero’s welcome that I think some people thought it might get after the impact that the first one had on the medium. Remember, Sin City was, in many ways, the first successful dark and violent comic book movie. I don’t want to say that it opened the floodgates, but maybe it pushed the fence back a little on how far studios and filmmakers could roam.
The trouble is, it’s been nine years since Frank Miller and Robert Rodriguez made that mark and there have been a ton of grim and gritty comic book movies since then. We’ve also seen shift away from sexualized female heroes and violent vixens — or, at least, we’ve seen alternatives outdraw them at the box office. Look at Lucy, The Hunger Games and Divergent. The women at the heart of these films aren’t firing their guns and arrows while wearing bedroom attire. They aren’t on the screen to titillate and eviscerate.
Here’s another thing: as appropriate as it was, tethering co-director and comic creator Frank Miller’s name to the title probably didn’t do this film any favors, either. Since the first film, the perception of Miller has taken a hit thanks to a less than stellar string of projects (Holy Terror, All Star: Batman and Robin and big screen adaptation of The Spirit) and remarks about the Occupy protesters and women. With The Spirit opening at around the same number as Sin City: A Dame to Kill For, I doubt that we’ll see Miller direct a major release again and I’m starting to wonder the same thing about Robert Rodriguez. That seems insane to say, but while the maverick filmmaker has the benefit of being able to create his own shot and a lot of goodwill in the industry, Machete Kills also bombed hard and it’s been a long time — going back to the original Sin City — since Rodriguez had a blockbuster.
As for Sin City 3? Don’t hold your breath, because a decade wouldn’t even be long enough for people to forget about the sting of this flop.
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