A blog about movies and filmmaking.

SUCKER PUNCHed

In action on March 24, 2011 at 1:22 am

I guess there’s going to wind up being one movie a year that is so frustrating; so inept; and so disappointing that I’ll be forced to break my rule on this site about only wanting to promote the movies that I actually want to tell you about. The movies that – well, seem made for me and by extension, hopefully for you. In year’s past these disappointments have been X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE, THE LOVELY BONES (actually that one I so disliked that I had to publish the review on another site) and now, we have SUCKER PUNCH.

Buckle up, there’s going to be some spoilers…

The newest movie from Zack Snyder (WATCHMEN, LEGEND OF THE GUARDIANS and the upcoming SUPERMAN movie) is an idiotic feast of special effects and not even the barest hint of a coherent story. Even the title of the movie – which seems to elude to some kind of unforseen twist – is left meaningless, except in that ironical way I’ve used it for the title of this post.

The story starts with a chick-metal version of Annie Lennox (by way of the Marilyn Manson update)’s “Sweet Dreams”, to the images of a young girl’s mother dying; her father(?)’s trying to do bad things to her and her younger sister and an incident that leads to the girl – henceforth, to be known as Baby Doll (Emily Browning, LEMONY SNICKET’S SERIES OF UNFORTUNATE EVENTS) – being sent to an asylum. There she meets the ward’s caretaker, Blue (Oscar Isaac, who was enjoyable in Ridley Scott’s ROBIN HOOD), who makes arrangements to have Baby Doll lobotomized in five days.

So naturally, he leaves her in the general population where she meets some other troubled girls – Rocket (Jena Malone); Sweet Pea (Abbie Cornish); Blondie (Vanessa Hudgens) and Amber (Jamie Chung) – to wreak havoc. Though by the time the introductions are made, the movie has moved into a fantasy world, where we’re given very little hints as to what’s going on and what exactly we’re about to be shown. The movie opens with a cryptic voiceover about little girls not being helpless, and by the time the movie’s over, we return to that voiceover; only it seems to have missed that we never really covered the questions that it’s now putting to us.

Suffice to say, Sucker Punch bothers me very much. Not in the way challenging movies like ENTER THE VOID or NEVER LET ME GO “bother me” in that they’re still sticking to my brain months after having seen them. I feel after writing this little rant, Sucker Punch will leave my brain and I’ll have to be reminded that Legend of the Guardians wasn’t Snyder’s last movie before his take on Superman.

If you’ve ever imagined WWII bombers battling dragons; little school girls fighting samurais; and mecha shooting down zeppelins – I’d first say you’re obviously not watching enough anime, and secondly; Sucker Punch is probably going to be entertaining for you. But, I have a hard time believing many are going to leave this movie satisfied. It has all the visuals right, but it’s lacking the brain and heart needed to pull off a (what could have been) complex story on self-empowerment; mind-over-matter; and even the benefit of friends. Even the end credits had me transfixed with it’s seeming out of nowhere musical number and, what the message of that song seemed to be.

There are three realities in SUCKER PUNCH. There’s the real world (?) where the girls are all in the asylum. There’s the “theater” world – which is seemingly meant to be setup as a form of therapy that Doctor Gorski (Carla Gugino) puts the girls through – and finally the, well, “dance” world. I call it that, because this is the reality we go to when Baby Doll supposedly does dance moves in the “theater” world that are so entrancing that her friends can pretty much do whatever they want. Naturally, we never once see these actual dance moves, and we never really get to see what action might be taking place that correlates between how said dragon/bomber scene fits into a girl stealing a lighter. (Sure, I get that there are two objects that project flame, but…well, maybe that’s all there’s really supposed to be to connect them.) And other than the very beginning and the end of the movie, we never see the “real” world. Everything stays within the confines of the lands of make-believe.

And that’s the real problem with the movie. It’s a movie that’s supposed to be all subconscious, all dream and fantasy. But, the actions that the characters go through are also supposed to be affecting the real world. And unlike INCEPTION or even THE MATRIX, we never see what the stakes are there. If Baby Doll were to get eaten by the dragon, what would that mean in the theater world? And what would that mean in the real world from there? Or if the guy notices his lighter being grabbed, would that have made the dragon stop and slap the girls around some? And what exactly are the girls doing in the “real” world as their “theater” selves are running around practicing their dance moves and seemingly pulling tricks? Where the hell does Scott Glenn’s character come from?

Even the title itself, which assumingly means there’s some kind of twist, is never fulfilled. The only surprise – from out of nowhere – is the appearance of a character that we’ve only until then seen in the “dance” world. There are many ideas and ways that the movie could have followed. What different aspects could the five different girls have served? The closest we come to that is Amber always being stuck piloting some machine. None of the other girls stand-out in any way or are given anything to do that really requires them to be part of this story – and the way Baby Doll is empowered, it didn’t seem she really needed them.

And that’s why I didn’t like this movie. I can accept a movie that is content to be shallow. I can even appreciate a movie that just isn’t able to live up to it’s premise. But I just can’t get behind a movie that is so wrong-headed and idiotically executed, without having been thought through. There is an interesting premise in Sucker Punch. It’s amazing to see a movie headed with strong-willed and exciting female parts. And I even appreciate this being Snyder’s first attempt at an original property. But it just doesn’t work. Inception seemed like a gamble. We knew Nolan’s cerebral tendencies and expected that that movie was going to be a hard pill to swallow. But he pulled it off – on nearly every level. The original trailers for this movie led me to believe that there was going to be some fantastic imagery – culled from all manor of pop and historical references. But, I guess I’d kind of hoped there would be some heart behind it. Sadly it was lacking.

I look forward to seeing what Snyder does with Superman – which he’ll be working with Christopher Nolan on that project – and his other future movies. But, SUCKER PUNCH really bummed me out.

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