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Frank Miller Is Great (Sin City)! Frank Miller Is Lame (The Spirit)!

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Like it or not, Frank Miller is here to stay. The success of Sin City and the hype behind his solo directorial debut, The Spirit, has cemented the comic book scribe’s status as a major player in Hollywood. And just as his grim, pulpy stories revolutionized comics, so too have his greenscreen-created worlds left a lasting impression on moviegoers. Now Miller is moving onto other dream projects, like his recently announced take on the classic scifi hero Buck Rogers. But is Miller’s style suited to the more innocent era of The Spirit and Buck Rogers? Will audiences ever tire of the digital filmmaking techniques he and Robert Rodriguez popularized with Sin City? Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of the “Frank Miller effect” on movies.

Pro: Classic heroes are being rediscoveredbuck_rogers_125.jpg
Before Miller’s Spirit adaptation, few outside the comics community knew of Will Eisner’s classic character. Now, a whole new generation will be introduced to Eisner’s gorgeous, groundbreaking artwork and thrilling tales. Ditto Rogers, a scifi hero who’s been all but missing from popular culture since his late ’70s television heyday. It’s been a while since we’ve seen a grand swashbuckling space epic on the big screen, and the underrated Rogers just might be the right man for the job.

Con: These same heroes are automatically turned “dark”spirit_TV_125.jpg
While Miller has a great deal of respect for the pulp origins of both Spirit and Rogers, he also maintains his own distinct style. The new Spirit, with its Sin City-esque visuals and over-ripe dialogue, more reflects Miller’s sensibilities than Eisner’s. Even the campy 1987 Spirit TV movie hewed closer to its source material. Miller also plans to darken up the gee-wiz Buck Rogers, both visually and thematically, focusing on themes of corruption and moral redemption. So get ready for a brooding Buck ruminating on “My dark lady, the 25th century.”

Pro: Movies are looking more like comics
Watchmen_125x125.jpgNever before has a comic book pro achieved such creative control over Hollywood’s machine. After decades of having little to no say over how their work was handled, comic book writers and artists are finally seeing one of their own calling the shots. Sin City and 300 brought the visual language of comics to movies in the purest manner possible, and it’s only getting better: The faithful panel-to-screen look of Zack Snyder’s upcoming Watchmen is thanks in large part to Miller’s on-screen success.

Con: Movies are starting to sound like bad comicsspirit_125.jpg
As The Dark Knight and other success stories have proven, a comic book movie has to work as a movie first. Miller smartly teamed with the more seasoned Robert Rodriguez to write and direct Sin City, bringing his distinctive vision to the screen with style, wit, and dramatic heft. Now that he’s flying solo there’s no one to suggest that maybe it isn’t a good idea to, say, let Samuel L. Jackson create the look of Spirit’s nemesis on the fly. Seeing Jackson dressed up as everything from a samurai warrior to a Nazi SS trooper may be campy good fun, but it’s also totally wrong for The Octopus — a behind-the-scenes mastermind who wouldn’t be caught dead wearing eye makeup.

Pro: Miller’s success could bring The Dark Knight Returns to the big screenBatman-theDarkKnight-125.jpg
With the Caped Crusader’s steady march towards the dark side and the public’s eagerness to embrace it, the time feels right for Miller to adapt his ground-breaking 1986 graphic novel. The Dark Knight Returns solidified Batman’s modern-day persona and helped to usher in a grim-and-gritty era of comics. After Christopher Nolan moves on from the character, Warner Bros. would earn heaps of fan cred allowing Miller to throw Batman into the future to fight mutants and a government-controlled Superman. Plus, Miller’s love of greenscreen could help to create the dystopic future Gotham depicted in the graphic novel.

Con: Sin City 2 may never get made
SinCity-125.jpgFans are clamoring for Sin City 2, but every day brings a new obstacle. First Angelina Jolie’s casting in the “Dame To Kill For” storyline held things up. Then Robert Rodriguez’ Director’s Guild eligibility raised issues. Now Mickey Rourke says he’s not interested in returning as Marv. With Miller busy tackling Rogers, it’s looking less and less likely a sequel to the movie that made him Hollywood’s golden boy will ever emerge.

What movies do you think Miller should tackle? Which of his comics would you like to see on the big screen?

When not writing for places like The Onion and HBO, Nick Nadel is in line at the comic book store alongside the other geeks, er, fans of speculative fiction. His most prized possession is a 1960s Batman comic wherein the Dynamic Duo are trapped inside a fortune cookie factory.

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