Mar 31 2011

Sucker Punch

Yes, you will be unprepared... about how terrible this movie is. No stars- see anything else.

sucker punch (suk’r puh-nch) v.  1. A blow or assault made without warning.  2. A harmful act that comes as a surprise and without provocation.  3. A bitch move.

Oddly enough, this aptly describes the experience of watching Sucker Punch.  Who would have thought that the film’s title was more of a summation of the how one was going to feel over the course of 109 minutes?

Of course, criticizing big-budgeted films is easy.  These film are often mostly- if not entirely- visual with little going in terms of story or character, but many can still be fun to watch, be it with an open appreciation for the ridiculous or the simple pleasure of turning your mind off and having a good time (often times, it is both).  Others are simply bad, be it because of stiff acting, stale dialogue, flaccid story or just too many action sequences that render the film boring and repetitive.  But every so often, there comes a film whose poor qualities are encapsulated by a puzzling high opinion of itself that places it in the ranks of Transformers 2 and The Last Airbender as being truly terrible films.

Few expected Zack Snyder’s Sucker Punch to be anything other than another one of his cinematic graphic novels projected on the big screen.  Snyder does very well with taking comic book panels and putting them up on screen, but his lack of everything else has become more and more evident with every film he makes.

Although all of Snyder’s previous films have been adapted from other mediums, Sucker Punch is his first original film; “original” as in he came up with the story on his own and co-wrote the script with Steve Shibuya.  For the reason, Sucker Punch is the culmination of everything Snyder has been working towards, and because the director is no longer anchored by source material, it highlights all his strengths and weaknesses.  Unfortunately, the weaknesses take over, and Snyder’s strengths crumble without any pre-drawn pictures on which to rely.

After surviving an attempted sexual assault from her stepfather, Baby Doll (Emily Browning) is sent to a mental hospital, which she imagines to be a Forties era burlesque parlor.  When she dances, Baby Doll then enters another hyper daydream in which she and her fellow patients/dancers battle various armies and villains to retrieve objects that will set them free back in the real world.

Lord, where do I even begin?  For one, The Man of Steel is going to be terrible. 

Several people will attack the film for ripping off Inception, but that would be unfair; levels of reality have always been around in films, be it in dreams (see: The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari) or in the digital domain (see: Tron).  What people should attack is how poorly Sucker Punch handles its use of dream levels, amongst many, many other things.

If a film is going to involve dream levels, it is imperative that the film keeps a firm grip on reality.  Granted, dreams have the benefit of being fantasy, but like any story or plot, events and actions have to be connected to one another; for as complicated as Inception got, the structure of the various dreams were linear and well connected with one another.  Sucker Punch is not all that concerned with its structure, or how its various dream levels and actions all synch up on the other end of the looking glass; cool things happen for the sake of being cool things, and they all connect for no other reason than “because.”

The plot of the film revolves around Baby Doll finding five objects that will get her and her friends out of the mental hospital/strip club.  The girls retrieve these objects when Baby Doll (I hate that name, and I hate having to say it repeatedly) dances, whose supposedly ethereal movements entrance her male onlookers.  Of course, we never see Baby Doll dance because she goes into another dream world in which her and the ole’ gang do battle against various big baddies and thus earn the object at hand.  Of course, these fantasy battles are irrelevant and superfluous; her friends are just taking things while no one is looking.  Actually, that sums up the film rather well: every time the film becomes uninteresting, the movie wanders off into a flashier, but still boring daydream.

Of course, in an action-fantasy film, every one is more concerned with the presentation, the fantasy, the “cool stuff,” and not all that concerned with how everything fits together.  Unfortunately, the dreams themselves are all hiding to nothing, as all the visual spectacle- the stuff Snyder should be good at- is an amalgamation of dozens of other stories and styles we have seen before, not to mention done better too.

The world of Sucker Punch offers little true imagination or wonder, and Baby Doll’s disconnected dream worlds are little more than cut-and-pasted collages.  The various worlds in the film look like live action anime or anachronistic film noir, but neither are provided a unique spin by Snyder.  The various missions carried out in these worlds feature robot minions that look just like those in I, Robot, trench warfare that looks like Call of Duty gameplay, airplane chases that look straight out of Heavy Metal and Mordor from the Lord of the Rings trilogy.  All in all, the backdrop for the action in the film is about as interchangeable and predictable as first person shooter video game maps, except way less fun.

This is Browning's "range." Enjoy.

The acting, if not the use of the film’s characters, is about as stale as one can get.  Emily Browning has one face through the film- a sad, pained pout- and the whole gang regurgitates heist/prison escape group talk without an ounce of real gusto.  Each of the girls go far below and beyond archetypes or one dimensional filler roles; they are just background.  Their true function, of course, is to look sexy and engage in the action, but even that rendered dull and boring.  Mostly, the girls just strut toward battle or perform open-legged spins in slow motion, thus giving us more booty short-wrapped money shots and less of anything else.

With so much nothing and pilfering from other, better films, it may seem unusual that the sweet, sweet cherry resting on top of this sundae of suck is the soundtrack.  The music that accompanies the action are awful cover songs or, maybe even worse, remixes.  Yes, even the music is unimaginative, unoriginal and poorly executed, which- I suppose- is appropriate given the film at hand.  Songs from the Smiths, the Beatles, Bjork, Eurythmics and the Pixies are turned into moody, overly produced trance pieces with ethereal, breathy vocals to boot.  As if watching this atrocity was not enough, Sucker Punch takes great songs and makes them all sound like the Evanescence tracks off the Daredevil soundtrack.

Although the Razzies are not going to be around for another year, it seems as though their front-runner has already made its way into theaters everywhere.  Sucker Punch fancies itself as the next great fantasy epic, but instead it just throws a generation’s worth of pop culture to the wall and sees if anything will stick.  Instead of enjoying yourself, you find yourself watching vapid, pop-portentous screenshots too self-involved with itself to offer an experience.  All in all, Sucker Punch is a bitch move.

The following quote applies to every frame of this film: "What you've just said is one of the most insanely idiotic things I have ever heard. At no point in your rambling, incoherent response were you even close to anything that could be considered a rational thought. Everyone in this room is now dumber for having listened to it. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul. "

4 Responses to “Sucker Punch”

  • Valerie Says:

    Did you hear about the deleted sex scene between Emily Browning and Jon Hamm? Do you think that scene would fit into the context of the film?

  • B.S. Hadland Says:

    Frankly, I don’t. Although Browning claims that the scene would have shown Baby Doll’s sexual empowerment, watching a very young looking girl with that name having sex with a grown man would have awkward and laughable, not to mention bordering-at the very least- on pedophilia.

  • Molly Says:

    I’m not sure why you would say it’s pedophilic – in the movie, her age is set as 20, as stated in the beginning of the movie. Also, in real life, she is 22 years old.

    However, I’m still not sure if the sex scene would have fit. I’ll have to see the scene first. Anyone know where you can find it?

  • B.S. Hadland Says:

    Yes, it is said that she is 20, but she looks really, really young. Also, her name is counterintuitive to any notion of maturity, independence or power, and the way in which she is used throughout the film renders her name as an unironic function. I’m not saying Snyder had this in mind when he wrote the film or had any anti-feminist agenda (frankly, I wouldn’t give him that much credit, judging from the film), but that is what is on the print.

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