Arch 443/646: Architecture and Film
Fall 2006

Sin City + Akira


Discussion Questions:

Please answer the questions below. Use paragraph form. Your answer should be around 400 words. Email me your responses in Word .doc format to: I will be posting these each week after the class. You should be prepared to deliver your answer in class -- but paraphrase, do not read it.

updated 1-jan-07 4:18 PM


1. Jody Patterson

Question: Compare and contrast the urban environments of Blade Runner and Akira, both in terms of their visual nature as well as their film "construction".



The urban environments of Blade Runner and Akira are similar in that they are both futuristic visions of existing cities, inspired by the energy of the contemporary location and projected into a possible future, following an imagined major disaster. The use of real cities, some recognizeable buildings and explicit reference to the city’s name produces a very different effect on the audience than the fate of an anonymous set or fabricated city. These urban environments reinforce the social situations portrayed in the film. The chaos and squalor of Blade Runner ’s Chinatown addresses urban issues such as overpopulation, class divisions and pollution. Contrasted in particular with the Tyrell Corporation building, the urban sets of L.A. 2019 show the effects of social stratification without needing to explain them in the film. Akira ’s use of ‘ghetto’ architecture, alleys and run-down streets similarly expresses the anarchy and dangers of the world of Neo Tokyo’s reform-school teen gangs.

The urban sets in Blade Runner use physical constructions in the foreground, with matte-painted backgrounds. Predominantly dark and foggy scenes are used to blur the transition between three- and two-dimensional artwork. As an animated film, the urban environment of Akira is constructed entirely as two-dimensional artwork and can thus make more flexible use of lighting and aerial effects, although the urban scenes are painted as background for the motion on transparencies in the foreground. The visual nature of each film is impacted by experiments with non-traditional coloring – quite dark overall, with ‘glow’ effects in blue and green as well as unexpected red and yellow tones. Both achieve an aura of other-worldliness through this abnormal tonality, combined with aerial effects. Blade Runner makes extensive use of smog, fog and smoke, while Akira uses light effects including spotlight beams and holograms to enhance the sensory depiction of the city.

Both use the technique of placing more traditional urban elements - 3 to 5-storey buildings with shopfronts and signage, made of standard materials – along the street face in the foreground, with towering megastructures in the background. This gives the desired impression of immense scale, but also maintains a sense of history which strengthens the imagined future city’s ties with contemporary reality. Although architectural landmark buildings are used in the film, Blade Runner makes extensive use of scale models, such as the elaborate 15 cm high model of the 700 storey Tyrell building. This enables the fabrication of new urban icons in the film, like Akira does through labor-intensive animations. The high-technology visual nature of Blade Runner was achieved via low-technology techniques, involving multiple phases of physical manipulation to achieve the desired effects. Layering these new icons with historical urban forms creates a convincing vision of the city of the future, complete with challenges faced in contemporary urban life.


2. Joel DiGiacomo

Question:Compare and contrast the urban environments of Akira and Zone 1 of Metropolis.

Both Akira and Metropolis borrow largely from existing, contemporary, largely american urban environments, to depict ultra-dense, diverse, enormous cities, at a monumental scale. The familiar, current urban cityscape is a projection and an exaggeration of people's current fear of urban progress, where social division, stratification, and oppression of the rich over the poor have reached desperate levels.

Akira is set in Tokyo, a real city, albeit a completely rebuilt one. Although it is unrealistic to expect Neo Tokyo to be so built-up after being obliterated only 31 years earlier, the idea of representing a vision of a possible future Tokyo seemed more important to the filmmakers. Areas where Kaneda and his friends would hang out, the bar, the school, the streets are significantly run down, as if all respect for a once-thriving modern institution had been completely lost, to a point where only a lack of any alternative saves it from complete obsolescence. But many older, traditional, smaller scale buildings can be seen in poorer commercial and industrial areas, depicting a once lovable part of the city that was now overrun by poverty, despair, and inevitable decay.

Metropolis is not a real city. It is the reification of a stratified, hierarchical society. Zone 1 is “the residential ward for humans left behind by the city's economic prosperity.” It is the first level of the decrepit underworld below the giant, futuristic, elitist city-state above. It sees frequent protests by the poor underclass, the have-nots. Like Akira, Metropolis retains some recognizable elements that can be associated with larger, feared ideas. Specifically, it mixes 1930's american art-deco with soviet brutalist architecture, depicting uncertainty and a fragmented commitment towards dominant world politics that Japanese held at the time the film was made.

“Tezuka’s life and work, marked by the WWII raid that destroyed his home town Osaka, reveals his love of childish, candid American animation together with a fascination for dark, masochistic expressions of apocalyptic destruction. ...Tezuka and his followers, including Otomo, possess a preoccupation with both America and destruction. Their harassed heroes can often be interpreted as symbolic representations of a defeated Japan which, it is suggested, has not yet overcome the horrid surprise falling on their heads from American bomber planes at Hiroshima and Nagasaki.”

- Sara Martin.


3. Collin Gardner

Question: With so much blatant violence in Sin City, why do you feel Frank Miller chose to use silhouette mode for several violent scenes? How does this support/not support the dystopic vision of the film?


4. Suzanne Gibson

Question: The dystopic vision of Akira makes key use of "typical boy gangs", while Sin City replaces these with "women". What is the effect of this on the film? Why do you think it was done? How would either film change were the gender roles of the gangs reversed?

The director of Akira uses the typical boy gang as a means to explore youth culture, delinquency and social unrest. The gang represents the untamed sprit of youth, youth alienation and the cutting edge of social change that cannot be contained by the older generation. The main gang the Capsule roam the streets of Neo-Tokyo, a disenchanted cyberpunk wonderland, while rivalling with another gang called the Clowns. Through these boys the viewer is able to study complex human emotions, and the reactions of people for different backgrounds in society. Kaneda, the Capsule’s leader is a smug teenager, seen as an egotistic troubled teen, he often seen poking fun at his best friend Tetsuo. Tetsuo, an orphan, admirers Kaneda, but also secretly resents him for the superiority.

The movie Akira also explores the human struggle for power; in a superficial way this can be seen in the rival between the two bike gangs. In a more complex exploration, Tetsuo is used in scientific testing that attempts to understand and harness the potential power that is inside of all of us, a power which once harness has devastating consequences on Neo-Tokyo and results in the city’s near destruction. The dystopic vision of Akira uses the typical boy gang to create multifaceted characters that offer a broad view of social conditions and create an understanding of the capabilities that lie within everyone regardless of who they are.

Sin City replaces the typical boy gang with women; unlike the delinquent boys in Akira these women are portrayed as ‘goddesses’, they are strong self sufficient, cunning and battle ready. Unfortunately, unlike Akira these women are not complex characters - they are portrayed as raw and simple. Appearance is everything, every woman appears scantily clad or almost nude, and every woman is either a stripper or a prostitute, the under development of these female characters is further objectified by the male narration.

Throughout Sin City the male characters are hyper masculine and the female characters are marginalized, they are victims and servants of male gratification, even the main love interest is seen as seen as sex kitten. The little girl Nancy who is kidnapped and nearly raped is reintroduced into the story as a stripper. These women unlike the boy gang are defined by their sexuality, they are able to maintain their power through their physicality, and like most comic book characters they are objectified and rendered by the male fantasy, intended for a male audience.

Should these gender roles be reversed, the difference would not be so great in the case of Akira, in this film the female characters are just are rich and well developed as the male characters. Yet Sin City would some across as a completely different film, the film is dependent on the sexual undertones; it advances and drives the plot.


5. Vera Guo

Question: Compare the treatment of women "victims" in Black Cat and Sin City. What do you feel makes such a sadistic attitude an integral part of the plots of fearful films?

In both Black Cat and Sin City, the victims are female and portrayed as objects. The female roles are not deeply developed as characters and are merely the object of desire in which induces the leading male roles to save them. In fearful films, this sadistic attitude is integral in the plots of the films because women have been used to symbolize numerous positive aspects of human beings throughout history and in contrast it is unsettling to see it from the negative perspective. For example in art, females can represent both purity and virtue. Females are sometimes seen as the symbol of grace, and embody the sanctity of motherhood. Women are seen as gentle and kind, polite and sophisticated; they are the ‘fairer’ of the genders. Because of this common belief in the goodness of women, it is only natural that Frank Miller and would treat their female characters in a crude sadistic manner in order to create a fearful environment for the film. This brutal treatment of that which often represents gentleness and love, is a method used to illustrate how malevolent society has become within these films. It is similar to an artist drawing a decaying flower to represent death.

The very first scene of Sin City is a perfect example. He instead assassinates the young beautiful woman in red, who, in any other film, would normally have been swept off her feet and saved by the young gentlemen. In Sin City, practically every female character was a stripper or a prostitute, professions that completely eliminate any virtue that one might bestow upon a young woman. Those girls who did not hold seedy occupations (and some who did) were murdered, tortured, and victimized in the most awful ways. A grown man being slaughtered and tormented is almost expected in modern films, and therefore does create the same sense of horror. To Frank Miller's credit, the women in his film (although sometimes brutalized) were often strong and empowered and defended themselves to the best of their ability yet like in Black Cat the characters were still rooted as mere objects.


6. John Lee

Question: What impact is there in making a film from a "graphic novel" versus a "text based novel"? How are Akira and Sin City successful or not in making this translation?

Clearly, the visual impact of the films is rooted in their graphical fidelity to their original graphic novels. At the same time, while an adaptation of a text-based novel would be open for interpretation graphically, it is doubtful either film could have been realized if they had strayed from the original graphical style of the novels.

Sin City is, indeed, a successful translation. Director Robert Rodriguez described the film as a translation, rather than adaptation, of Frank Miller’s graphic novel, and even resigned from the director’s guild in order to credit Miller with a co-directorship. As a result, scenes from the film correspond nearly identically with panels from the graphic novel. In addition, the storylines are also followed nearly panel-by-panel, with a few key exceptions (for example, the final scene with Becky and The Salesman, which is unique to the film).

Akira’s meticulous graphics also remain faithful to the original manga; however, liberties are taken with the plot in order to streamline it for the movie. A list of these differences describes key changes such as the role of Akira, and the truncated film ending which excludes the establishment of the Great Tokyo Empire and the collaborative rule of Akira and Tetsuo.

Despite the limited flexibility in visual representation, however, each film was completely novel, even revolutionary, in style, proving the viability of a faithful translation of a graphic novel to the big screen.

Sin City Trivia -, Sin City Comparisions,

Sin City Differences,

Akira - Wikipedia,


7. Nu-Ri Lee

Question: Compare the role(s) of women in Akira and Sin City with respect to their ability to "be powerful".

In both films, the female characters are quite powerful but the role of women with respect to their ability to be “powerful” is different between the film Akira and Sin City . Although the role of women in Sin City appear to be more powerful, it seems dependent on the male characters whilst the role of women in Akira appear to have the power in themselves to lead on. In Sin City , the group of female characters is joined in a sisterhood of prostitutes that in case of trouble, sticks together to fend off the “unwanted” men. That group is led by Gail, and it is independent, armed and makes sure that it protects itself just as it has done to the group of men hassling the youngest prostitute in that alley. The female characters are feisty and strong as portrayed well though the Asian character, Miho, who rescues Dwight from the police chase. The women in Sin City are able to be quite powerful using their sexuality and flaunting the looks that men obsess over, but they are still at the mercy of the corrupted police. Once it was out that the group broke the deal, the power of those female characters led to a halt. It is as if the film let the female characters have their power just as long as the male characters strung a line of power over them. Even the role of Nancy , she may have been portrayed as powerful for she does not give in to her pedophile captor, but all in all waits to be saved by Hartigan who in the end sacrifices himself to protect her.

On the other hand, in Akira, the role in women is not so upfront but demonstrates an unseen power. For instance, the character Kei, at one point she is the one leading the search for Tetsuo. It is true that Kiyoko was helping her, but she realizes that despite her fear, she has to help Kaneda find and stop Tetsuo. She also saved Kaneda’s life in the tunnel by shooting a police officer. She is the one that Kaneda follows and somehow listens to. She may only be the medium for the Espers as Kiyoko, but it can be said that she is strong enough to withstand Kiyoko’s presence without compromising her sense of self; unlike Tetsuo who struggles with the presence of Akira. Kiyoko who might have less power than Akira, still has a variety of paranormal powers to influence the course of events. She has the major say in the group of Espers and she is the one powerful enough to make decisions of who to and how to help Kaneda and Kei. She also decided that she wants to help Tetsuo and convinces the others, then jumps into the destructive light to help Tetsuo find his way, knowing that if she goes into that light, which she will not come back out.

In conclusion, it certainly hold true that despite that the majority of the female roles are prostitutes and strippers that might leave them in the mercy of men, the women in Sin City are not helpless or weak but rather cunning and battle ready through their sexuality and physicality. However, it appears that the women in Akira may be more powerful for their role is the guiding power of how the story unfolds rather than just be part of the storyline.


8. Michael Lin

Question: Compare and contrast the cultural reasons behind the vision of Neo Tokyo and Los Angeles of 2019, considering that both films were created during the same approximate time period in history.

The two films, Blade Runner (1982) and Akira (1987) were made in relatively close time periods, their vision of the future coincided with the period of 2019. This demonstrates the projection into a not too distant future of 30-40 years. Both movies portray a cyberpunk futuristic city saturated with technology and hyper-developed metropolises on the verge of or already the result of decay and destruction.

The two movies of 2019 show two different cities not unfamiliar to the viewer, Los Angeles and (Neo) Tokyo . One city is in the process on continuous decay while the other is a rebuilt city after a World War. These projected cities of the future and laced with cultures familiar to the times the movies were made. The cyberpunk inspired environments, gadgets, vehicles, and technologies are prevalent in both movies. The use of darkness with neon generates an artificial atmosphere of a super-developed city metropolis. Advanced technologies relatable to present technologies help to suggest the evolution of current technologies; from hover-cars to super-bikes. The mishmash of languages and cultures in Blade Runner and the biker gangs, terrorists, religious fanatics, psychics and military forces of Akira remind the viewer of elements from the past or present.

The major difference is the environments generated for the two movies taking place in 2019 in two different cities. The complete and utter despair of humanity’s condition on earth is reflected in Blade Runner, where the entire environment is one of a decaying world with useless mechanics and junkyard technologies as seen in the Los Angeles portrayed in the movie. The Neo Tokyo of Akira, on the other hand, is brimming with action in the super megalopolis constructed after severe damage from World War III, from the scientific-military research and terrorist bombings to the gang wars, the city is full of corruption and unrest. While the decay of Blade runner extends beyond the built environments to the technologies, the transportation, and the people, there are many streamline, sleek futuristic designs in Akira, reflective of Neo Tokyo’s hyper rebuilt state.

The two visions of 2019 have elements that are not too dissimilar from the present. The worse in humanity is shown in both films. With the overdeveloped, decaying city affecting the life on earth in Blade Runner, the movie is projecting an extreme of overdevelopment perhaps referring to uncontrolled developments occurring in Los Angeles . The decaying morals of the people in Akira, the terrorizing and tearing down the very city that was rebuilt, often because they were unwilling to change (as suggested by the Colonel), Neo Tokyo is perhaps reflective of the way people in Tokyo cling to traditions. The atomic bomb is clearly an imagery that influenced Neo Tokyo both is construction and its destruction. The future of 2019, all its crimes, moral degradation, and disaster, is not unlike what has already happened in history, just with more advanced technologies saturated in everyday life.


9. Veronica Lorenzo-Luaces Pico

Question: Why do you think children are seen as such powerful figures in both Metropolis 2001 and Akira? This is not so common a theme in North American dystopic films (but is often used in films of the supernatural genre like Sixth Sense, etc.)

Children have always been used to portray ideas of innocence, virginity and the future in many movies. In the case of Metropolis 2001 and Akira, I am more inclined to analyze their role as searchers for a lost identity.

The first image is from the 2001 version of Metropolis and it shows Tima as she is about to be rescued by Kenishi after a ravaging fire in Laughton’s laboratory. There is dystopia in the contrast between her weak physical body and the god-like power we learn she processes afterwards. She is a robot but she is ignorant to this. The movie is about a discovery of who we are and also who we have made to be by the fact that we have been born in a particular place. It is a struggle to find one’s self in the metropolis. We relate to Tima in a much profound way because we are, like her, ignorant in our own lives and in constant search of ourselves.

The second image is from the movie Akira, which starts with a nuclear explosion at the heart of Tokyo, which wipes out the city. Following that, the movie jumps forward 31 years to show a new city rebuilt. The children of this city have grown in a place that is completely disconnected from any previous form of understood collective history. Like children, these inhabitants have no memory. The image I am given is that of one of the girls that has been used in experiments. Her face is that of withered old woman. I see this as an imposed artificial façade to an otherwise childish mind. Her character is an embodiment of the new city that has been created. Another interpretation of the use of children in this movie has a more dystopic significance, foreshadowing Neo-Tokyo’s destruction. By harming their own children, submitting them to cruel experiments, the society will soon destroy itself.

We have basic animal instincts to protect our children. Our love for them precedes the love for ourselves. The society created in Neo-Tokyo fails to take care of their own children, and this rests at this is one of its weakest points.

In the cities created in both movies we as spectators feel like children too because we are forced to adapt to a way of living that our instincts tells us is wrong, a living that is unnatural.


10. Arjun Mani

Question: Believability is key in making a film "dystopic" rather than merely "fantastical" or "pure science fiction". Discuss the believable and NON believable nature of Akira as it relates to this statement.

Most dystopic films speak to our own fears of our current reality in order to successfully carry through their message. The viewer must be able to recognize and relate to the film’s circumstances and characters for him to be affected by them. Akira introduces a familiar future, that much like our present situation, is corrupt and failing--where science is used as a means to uncontrollable and devastating power, and the consequences of this arrogance are self destructive.

Neo Tokyo is a dazzling and yet terrifying world that is apparently in a state of turmoil with a crooked government, a discontent proletariat, and dangerous secrets. Circumstances that are common place in our history and today. The secretive research into paranormal, superhuman capabilities in order to harness unimaginable power, may very well be an entire sci-fi narrative in itself, however, set within familiar contexts, the story becomes frightfully believable and deeper than pure science-fiction.

Tetsuo is a confused individual who is not ready to sustain the powers he has gained, and is ultimately consumed by them. Akira apparently suffered a similar fate, however, is resurrected to rectify the deteriorating situation through a thorough cleansing process of Biblical proportions. It can be seen as an evolutionary step on a much grander scale--the phrase “it has already begun” caters to an interpretation of ‘progression through destruction’. The cataclysmic resolution is not entirely believable, but is still an identifiable fear that many of us share.

Akira is revered by the people as a god, and by others as the next link in human evolution. The film provides both a divine and scientific interpretation of the power within the human being, suggesting a middle ground that is believable and yet not. Katsuhiro Otomo seems to use the fantastical as a vehicle to carry familiar themes that we deal with on a daily basis. In a sense, the unbelievable is used to emphasize and bolster the realities and themes he is drawing attention to.


11. Darcy McNinch

Question: Believability is key in making a film "dystopic" rather than merely "fantastical" or "pure science fiction". Discuss the believable and NON believable nature of Sin City as it relates to this statement.

Sin City is not a believable movie, and yet it is not overly unrealistic; It does not take place in an unforseeable future or in an unidentifiable landscape – it is set in a somewhat typical, although hopefully more violent american city. It creates the feel of a modernized film noir with its narrative style and mysterious and murderous storylines. The film achieves much of its dystopic feel from the lighting or lack of lighting and the dangerous aspect of the story lines. Bad things happen, people die, there is an endless display of weaponry and constant spurts of blood. Surely most of the audience can not personally relate to the ongoings within the film and yet it is familiar because we have seen the ideas before, the old ideas have just been twisted, suped-up and inhanced with special effects. We know about these things even if we haven’t experienced them we can believe they may still happen.

A lot of the visual realism has been removed from the film through the use of green screen techniques and everything from added colouring to the characters emotions seem to be heightened beyond what could be called natural. Some of this makes the film seem more artistic than dystopic but in the end whether it seems believable or not intense violence even seen in overly contrasted black and white can be very disturbing.


12. Ben Nielson

Question: Bearing in mind that angled shots are true to the scene portrayal in the graphic novel, comment on the use of extreme angles in the filming of certain sequences in Sin City. How does this relate to other dystopic films that we have seen?


“German Expressionism”, as a film style is typified by strong contrast, heavy shadows and extreme angles – and includes The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari in it’s use of these elements to produce a sense of dystopia and menace in the environment created by the films set. In German Expressionism the ‘extreme angles’ generally take physical form in the set as angular buildings and set pieces or decoration. German expressionism is also seen as a strong influence behind the visual style of the film noir genre. Film noir is differentiated by plot – through its use of crime as a plot guide, flawed heroes and femmes fatales.

Sin City is a film based off a graphic novel which follwed a film noir plotstyle. It’s heroes are all flawed, it’s women both delicate and deadly, and each story tied up with crimes off varying forgivableness. In both it’s graphic novel and film versions, then, german expressionism provides a suitable aesthetic guide ; as the palatte of choice for the genre.

In the modern graphic novel – ornamental angles as a defamiliarizing tool have evolved into the extreme angle shot. The extreme angle serves the same purpose, it shows the scene or environment in an unfamiliar way, immediately forcing the viewer/reader to re-evaluate his perspective on a scene to make sense of it. In graphic novels this tool also helps to create distinction between panels occuring in the same room or space, generating energy for a page layout. This same energy is carried into film, where the use of extreme angles increases the available shots for a given space, allowing for greater shot variety and increased viewer engagement.

The constant shift in perspective allowed through the use of extreme angle is also effective in films like Sin City where the viewer is required to suspend his mores for the duration of the film. Being constantly forced to re-evaluate the action taking place from different perspectives causes the viewer to constantly re-evaluate the action taking place – the ugly looking thug in shot one is re-evaluated from each new angle as his monologue tells us he’s not so bad, and then that he is that bad – but in an alright way, at least compared to the people he’s being bad too.


Also referred to as 'German Expressionism', after a group of German films from the silent era, notably The Cabinet of Dr Caligari (1919) and Nosferatu, A Symphony of Horrors (1922). Typified by use of strong contrast, lots of shadow, extreme angles and design, the suitability of the term 'Expressionism' (and the implied relationship to the Expressionist movement in painting and other arts) has been questioned. But the term has stuck and Expressionism is seen as influential on many Hollywood genres, especially film noir and horror.

film noir

Hollywood film genre of the 1940s and 1950s, (named by French critics after World War II) usually, but not always involving crime, flawed heroes, femmes fatales and a strong visual style influenced by 'German Expressionism'.


13. Uros Novakovic

Question: Relate the themes of destruction in the Japanese films, Akira and Metropolis, to the cultural impact of actual historical events. Are these interpretations accurate? Warranted? Can the act of fantasy storeytelling go beyond the memory of horrific events? And considering the atrocity of the Holocaust in the same terms as Hiroshima and Nagasaka, why has the same transition in film not been made of this historic event by those victimized?

Japanese animated films, such as Akira and Metropolis, commonly refer to the cultural and historical events of destruction. The apocalyptic events, staged at an immense scale ranging from a single city to an entire world, are presented as a normative condition of human existence. The event of destruction is thus heavily de-contextualized and mythologized, as historical, political and economic causes are replaced with mythical, supernatural powers. The difficulty to understand ‘why’ the destruction is happening corresponds to the Japanese understanding of atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. In an apologetic view of the Imperial Japan, and even denial of the atrocities committed by the Japanese army, the destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki becomes a historically de-contextualized and mythologized event. The apocalyptic events of destruction are then reduced to mere fantastic imagery of mushroom clouds and abstract spheres of light gradually consuming the urban landscape. The individual human experience of suffering is largely absent, as is the entire period of reconstruction that occurs in the inter-apocalyptic interludes. The interpretations are certainly and intentionally inaccurate.

As such, it is impossible to consider the Holocaust in the same terms, as it cannot be represented by mere abstract imagery and cannot be removed from its historical and cultural underpinnings. Holocaust cannot be denied in order to be represented as an abstract, somehow non-actual, event. But, regardless of the lack of the transition to film, it has also affected the psyche of the society similarly to the Hiroshima/Nagasaki effect on Japanese culture. Even when not portrayed, Holocaust is either directly referred to or intrinsically present as an implied cultural background for many post-War European and American films.


14. Michael Taylor

Question: Police corruption seems to be a common theme in dystopic films. Compare the roles of the "honest cops/detectives" - Lemmy Caution in Alphaville and Hartigan (Bruce Willis) in Sin City in countering the "forces of evil". And in Sin City, how does "Marv" fit into this equation? Is the "good cop" role essential in the creation of a dystopic environment? How would it "run" were this role eliminated?

The roles of the police force in both movies seems to me as it not only in general to protect the innocent and oppressed corrupt or otherwise but through the movie becomes more specific than that. Once the relationships are set up between Lemmy Caution and Natascha von Braun, while it is his duty to discover the plans Alpha 60 in response to the overall nature of his processes, he becomes very attached and convinced to free Natashca from her state. Just as Hartigan while in general, an uncorrupted police officer, becomes attached to Nancy and their relationship is similar in that they both have this individual connection to one another where the police officer does not give in to outside pressures and exists to serve as the binding link set to severe the emotional, mental, and physical stresses of the particular environment. Hartigan even to the point of suicide so that he may protect that one individual from capture and potential death. Lemmy exists to fight the oppressive Alpha 60 and Hartigan the political leadership and governmental corruption that exists everywhere within the city.

Marv serves the same role, however he is not a cop. He is an honest and good person who has to protect the one person who ever meant anything to him, even though Blondie is dead. The role is there to provide a hero attitude throughout the movie, in that each member serves to be a victim or protector throughout. Marv, obviously a hero in the eyes of Blondie, but while his actions may be in poor taste and very severe, (as in the case of torture), the belief in wrath and retribution (an eye for an eye) becomes a very strong idea within the film.

I don’t think that the good cop role is essential, the interplay between good and evil is necessary just as with light and dark. But in the case of some films, the idea of dark dark and light dark can also be experienced. I mean this in that the ultimate evil may be contrasted with a lesser evil, as in the case of the spawn comic books.


15. Holly Young

Question:Compare the use of the chair of power and mental states of Tima/Metropolis and Tetsuo/Akira.

The image of a throne is loaded with symbolism. It can be used to portray a hierarchical system, demonstrate authority, or even represent an occupant’s relationship with divinity. All of these possible connotations have one thing in common: power. The throne is ultimately a symbol of absolute, undisputed power. In the films Metropolis and Akira, the characters of Tima and Tetsuo, respectively, both take position on a throne of sorts. The visual impact of the scenes in both movies is very similar; however, there is a fundamental difference in their context. One seat represents the power of ‘the perfect machine’, and the other, the power of the perfect human body.

Tima is a robot, the most advanced ever created, and the chair of power in Metropolis was created specifically for her; it is the central component of a very powerful machine that she is to charge. Throughout the course of the film she longs to be human, like her saviour Kenichi, but feels different from those around her. Several times she asks those around her what she is, and why she exists. When she encounters the throne at the peak of the Ziggurat, she is both angry and resigned: angry that she is not human as she had hoped, and resigned about her purpose in the world. Her position on the throne marks the end of an internal battle and the beginning of an external one. She ‘plugs in’ to the chair that represents all she had hoped she wasn’t, and gives in to her power, waging war on the humanity she will never get to be a part of.

Tetsuo makes his seat of the throne in the Olympic Stadium during the height of an epic battle that serves as the climax for the narrative. At the beginning of Akira, we see Tetsuo as a bumbling side-kick: physically weak and perpetually needing help from the stronger, braver half of the duo, Kaneda. Tetsuo resents Kaneda’s leadership, revealing his inferiority complex. After Tetsuo is taken in for scientific experimentation, his internal power is awakened, and he slowly becomes aware of his power to influence things with his mind. He goes on to use that power to dominate those around him, as he was unable to before. The choice of the Olympic throne as his seat of power is quite ironic, as it celebrates the physical strength that he never had, and envied of others. Like Tima, Tetsuo merges with his chair, and the power within him takes over, enveloping the world around him. In contrast with Tima, Tetsuo is scared when his power starts to take over, and appeals to Kaneda for help; his loss of control is not a choice he makes.

In both cases, when the characters take position on their thrones, they reach the point in each storyline where they lose control over their power. The throne acts as a catalyst in the story, unleashing latent power within its occupant that results in the ultimate destruction of the surrounding city. This is ironic as Tima and Tetsuo were literally and figuratively created by their governments in order to protect the cities. The utilization of children in these roles is employed in order to stress initial innocence, which is exploited later to emphasize several related themes in both films: that of moral decay, the devastating power of science, and the corrupting influence of power.


16. Michael Morgan

Question: Compare the choice to film Alphaville in black and white with the use of black and white as a theme in Sin City. Relate this to the approaches to shooting the film.

“Alphaville” and “Sin City” are both films that utilize black and white filming. A comparison of both films reveals how each director specifically uses black and white filming to establish and develop their dystopic characters and settings.

In both films, the use of black and white filming helps to establish a dystopic mood by giving the settings an ambiguous feel. Specifically, the use of black and white filming leaves the viewer unable to determine the exact location and time of where and when each film takes place. One is left wondering if the setting is meant to be in the future, the past, the present, an alternate reality, a representation of a real city, etc. This ambiguity is necessary in order to help convince the viewer that the setting is indeed “Alphaville”, and not another real-life existing city just renamed for the film. In contrast, “Sin City” was filmed largely on green screen, so no concealing of real life settings was necessary. However, the use of black and white filming still creates the necessary ambiguity that would prevent Basin City from being mistaken for any other existing city.

In both films, black and white filming allows for the stark contrasts that help to create a negative, intimidating atmosphere. This is especially effective in “Alphaville” where the governing machine is brought to life through the use of a single light on a dark background, or a backlit fan. The contrast in these scenes illustrates the governing machine as an intimidating and authoritative force. A similar effect is used in “Sin City” where the farm is submerged in darkness to create an intimidating atmosphere that corresponds with the evil that lives there. The film takes the use of contrast further with the subtle use of color on black and white backgrounds to help exemplify a certain element of a particular character. A clear example of this would be the sickly yellow used to describe the disgusting, unnatural, mutated Junior, (the politician’s son).

If the films are to be taken together, it is clear that both films utilize the stark contrast that can be created in black and white films to enhance certain attributes of various characters and settings. In addition, the use of black and white filming allows for more convincing ambiguous settings in both films. However, the films differ in that “Alphaville” uses black and white filming to help conceal the identity of the real-life setting.


17. Ashley Snell

Question: Compare the relative effectiveness of the techniques used to portray explosions as they follow the film technique choices for these films.

In Metropolis 2001, the explosions are a grand gesture. There was a lot of thought and detail put into the cityscapes and the same thought and detail was carried over into the explosions of these cityscapes. This film is animated so I think it would be difficult to give the same effect as a real explosion. I thought the techniques used to portray the explosions were very effective in comparison to the film technique.

Akira is also an animated film with similar film technique as Metropolis 2001. The specific image chosen does not really show you what is happening behind the smoke and fire but it is suggestive. This would be an easy technique to do to not be overly graphic and to not get into a lot of detail of how an explosion really works. The image has a high contrast in colour which makes the explosion jump off the screen while still being able to portray an explosion taking place.

Throughout the film Metropolis 2001, there was a dark layer or film that toned down the colours and the contrast. This may appear to make the explosions look less 3D and flatter than the explosions in Akira.

In Brazil , the explosions appear to be the most realistic out of all four selected films. There is particular detail of what the explosion is doing to the people around it. You see the people getting taken out and affected by the explosion. All the sets were real places, so I believe they kept everything real even the explosions. The techniques used to portray the explosions were effective compared to the film technique. I found this explosion to be very intriguing to watch because there was so much happening on screen.

Sin City was filmed mostly in front of a green screen. Almost all the backdrops were placed after the filming, done on the computer. Therefore I believe this explosion to be computer generated. The explosion technique follows suit with the film technique. Also, the film was shot in black and white with certain features or objects in colour. This image appears to have the explosion its true colours indicating its importance and intensifying the scene. The contrasting elements of this particular image could be compared easily to that of Akira. There is a lot of bright fire/explosion happening that you cannot really see what is going down.

In conclusion, I think all of the explosions in the films stayed true to the over all film techniques.


18. Ivy Ho

Question: Compare the use of harsh/spot lighting in Akira and Sin City.

The most distinct difference in the use of lighting effects between Akira and Sin City is the overall tonality of the two stylistically distinct films. In Akira, there is a huge emphasis on creating visual realism through the use of rich tonality. Colours are depicted under a myriad of lighting conditions. Within the dystopic sci-fi genre, the typical high contrast lighting can mean that one single frame can showcase the polar extremes of deep shadow and bright spot light. To add realism to the often abstracted images as a result of high contrast lighting, Otomo utilized over 300 colours, which are a multiplicity of tones of a simple colour palette of reds, yellows, and blues. Thus, the background and characters are painted in such a way that though there is harsh distinct light and darkness, the tonalities of colours in various degrees of darkness and light are depicted in detail. Sin City on the other hand, uses tonality much more selectively and deliberately. Gray tones are mainly used to emphasize textures in order to convey information about the setting and the characters. The distinct way in which tonality is portrayed in the harsh lighting conditions of both films illustrates the different storytelling technique and the artistic styles of the films. Otomo tried to create a visually believable world of Neo Tokyo. Thus, settings are of equal importance to the characters. The story of the graphic novel is told in the fluidity of regular film. In Sin City , however, Rodriguez uses the language of the graphic novel in the media of film. Frame compositions are simplified and abstracted in the style of Miller’s drawings: high contrast images dominated by black and white.

Besides tonality, spotlights are used to create the mood of the film. These can be expanded to include the use of all moving light sources in Akira and the use of white in Sin City . Moving lights add dynamism to the setting of Akira, which is Neo Tokyo – a city that never sleeps. Since the city is shown mostly at night, light becomes a kind of power or weapon, such as the bright headlights for the motorcycle gangs, or the spotlights of military helicopters. In Sin City , bright spotlight is a graphic tool that focuses the audience on a certain part of the screen. Black, on the other hand, fades into the background. White is also a kind of weapon or identity in Sin City : Marvin’s white bandages, Harlingen ’s scar, Jacky Boy’s blood. The white is used to highlight the characters and the state that they are in.

Beyond the contrasts, there is one very close similarity between the techniques used to create the lighting effects in both films. That is layering. Similar to cell animation, Rodriguez’s choice of filming on green screen allowed him to layer character actions on top of background sequences. In both techniques, lighting is depicted separately on each layer without worrying about lights of one layer interfering with the look of another. Thus, these techniques allowed both the animator and the post production editor to achieve unprecedented control over the manipulation of the look that lighting has on the scenes. In context of this class, the producers of Sin City have taken the painted lights and shadows in Caligari and reinvented it into a much more sophisticated technique that adds graphic richness to a simple black and white composition. Thus, both films, in their own ways, broke the limitations of a movie camera in terms of the ability to capture complexity of textures and colours in dim lighting conditions.


19. Jonah Humphrey

Question: Comment on the use of green screening in Sin City as the means to create an essentially black and white film from a graphic novel. How was this technique able to give the film a more dystopic feel? Would not shooting in black and white have sufficed?

In making Sin City , a primary interest of the primary director, Robert Rodriguez, was to make the film look and feel like the graphic novel upon which it was based. This genre of film has been attempted in the past with varying success, as with the rendition of The Hulk, Ultra Violet, Elektra, or the old Batman television series – all borrowing from the genre of the graphic novel, or comic books, but with distinctly less success in their execution.

An aspect of the making of Sin City that allowed it to be so visually successful was its use of high-definition digital video in conjunction with green-screen background for the majority of the film. The look of the film, as with the graphic novel, called for high contrast black and white for most of the shots. This assisted most scenes in combining both live shots of actors with CG backgrounds such that the different layers achieve a kind of visual homogeneity of tonal values while simultaneously being visually striking.

The use of all-digital video recording of the actors against green screens, allowed a great level of control of the shots, processing, and layering to take place. This level of precision helped in making the different parts achieve the same look and feel, while actually making extremely high-contrast images themselves. This level of creative control assisted with their being essentially three directors making the film, Robert Rodriguez, Frank Miller and Quentin Tarantino – such that each might have adequate possibilities of manipulating the images, even after shooting video.

More importantly, however, is that in staying very close to the original graphic novel (almost using it directly as key frames), the artists working on the environments and effects in the film could achieve an accurate translation of the dystopic, grim city onto video by referring to the original drawings. This suggests then, the great need to have nearly all shots planned completely before making the film, as there is no ‘real’ environment to frame through the lens.

The method of making films as demonstrated by Sin City, with essentially no ‘real’ sets, and no actual need for the actors to even meet one another outside of the film itself, suggests a new means of making films that can be much more efficient, and a relatively low-cost approach to film-making as compared with conventional in-situ or set-dependent films, but a means that requires meticulous pre-planning, story-boarding, and testing, as well as relying heavily on the work of many skilled artists in producing the environments and effects.

Though this film has proven effective in conveying the dystopic environment it has created – a world similar to, but totally separate from our own – we see that it is precisely these kinds of altered or mutated environments that lend themselves quite directly to nearly 100% green screen and digital video use, such that the effect of another, much darker grimmer world, might be created.


20. Aleks Kolbas

Question: Speak to the differences in the visualization of blood in Akira and Sin City.

Blood has always been a part of the motion picture that presents the ultimate fear and suspense. It is tightly related to death, which is often suffered as a consequence of sinful behaviour of transgression. In both Akira and Sin City we see the effects of blood use in its most disturbing manner. The potency of blood is immense and the fear in the audience is heightened due to its constant appearance on the screen. However, its visual interpretation almost has an artistic component to it, unlike other contemporary movies where blood appears as realistic as possible. It is understandable that these are animated sequences of scenes as opposed to real but there is nonetheless an attempt to use blood as a medium to convey a more dominant effect of fear, even if it does look over the top fake. Perhaps it is the use of colour and volume of blood in a way that audience may relate it to the other images in the background making it more fearful as opposed to mediocre. In Sin City we see blood as a red colour intertwined with black and white background, making it more visible. In other instances blood is seen as extremely white, posterized against the images in the background, which are again severely in contrast to it. Sin City is sort of mixture between real characters and animated background which gives an ability to express a more authentic feeling to the theme of dystopia. Background can be manipulated in any way to express the role of the character, and vise versa, where a character can correlate with the background. The tint has also been used to mix up the colours and create confusion of which colour belongs to what object. This is also known as convolution kernel effect. Akira uses similar ways to convey blood as an artistic form, but it for the most part conforms to the rest of the video effects in the movie. Its pasty texture gives it a real character, but the choice of colour makes it stand out and further enhance the essence of fear in the audience.


21. Tavis McAuley

Question: How does the selective use of colour in Sin City interject something almost "poetic" into this dystopic film?

The use of colour highlights ideas and creates a sense of mood in select scenes throughout the film. The vivid red in the blood of the heroic characters of Hartigan and Marv make them in some way more human to the audience. This compared with the distorted colour of Roark Junior’s blood which has little reference to human blood. Colour is further abstracted by restricting the palate to the three primary colours of red yellow and blue. This is contrasted with the stark hard edge, black and white palate of the film that incorporates few softening greys or middle tones of colour.

In the original comic version of the story, colour is also used stylistically as a mechanism to separate storylines from each other. Although not as important in the film version where over the span of two hours all stories are told in succession making it easier to follow each plotline. The comic version would have spanned years and plot lines would have been difficult to differentiate. Cars in some way become characters in the stories and are rendered in bright primary colours to differentiate each plot. Lead characters in one storyline would appear in the sub-plot of a sequence in the next. By not rendering these characters, attention is focused on the primary storyline. One example of this is in the scene where Nancy Callahan is reunited with Hartigan at the strip club where Marv is sitting with Dwight acting as background extras in the scene.

Another use of colour is in rendering the iris of some the characters eyes. The colour used to render the iris is perhaps indicative of the inner spirit of that character. Yellow is used on characters such as the Manute and Roark Junior who play the role of villains. Blue and green are used less specifically in both the assassins and their victims and red is seen in the bedding after Marv is executed. The cliché of the eyes being the path to the soul is perhaps too simple to explain the use of colour in this film. Colour use in many cases creates a rhythm to the film, embodying the pace of a scene, the violent splatter of red blood on Miho’s face, the glowing green light in the eyes of the assassinated women as she inhales her cigarette.


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