Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Movie Review: Sucker Punch

I have never been more prepared to hate a movie than I was for Zack Snyder’s (300, Watchmen) Sucker Punch. This picture really sums up my ire for the entire promotional compaign:

Pigtails, midriff schoolgril outfit, katana, pistol, fishnet stockings, World War I soldiers, and lollipop. Grimace. When these things appear individually in films, they range from tolerable to wicked sweet. When they all appear in the same film at the same time, it’s a giant obnoxious mess; and my standards aren’t that high, people. I legitimately enjoyed Battle: Los Angeles. LEGITIMATELY.

Here’s Sucker Punch in an elaborate nutshell: Baby Doll (Emily Browning) is framed by her stepfather for her sister’s murder, has a mental breakdown (maybe?) and is admitted/trapped in an asylum. To escape the torment of the asylum, Babydoll escapes into her mind where the patients and staff are transformed into the cast and crew of a PG-13 bordello. Like, super PG-13. They don’t even use the word “sex.” When called upon to dance, Baby Doll retreats even deeper into her mind by entering fantastic combat situations, including (in order of appearance) fighting giant stone samurai with miniguns, WWI steampunk zombies, WW2 orcs, and unspecified-era robots. Her dances are so mesmerizing that anyone watching her is completely spellbound. She hatches a plan to distract staff/clients while her fellow patients/dancers steal items from them to use in the escape.

It sounds interesting, but the nicest thing I can say about Sucker Punch is that it’s the most creative movie you’ll see this year. But besides the visuals, it’s empty. Sucker Punch aims to be a conversation piece--the sort of film that you make theories about and discuss with your friends. Unfortunately, there’s just not enough foundation laid before or after the fantasy sequence for any sort of interesting discussion about the plot or themes to occur. The only reason anything happens in this movie is because it’s imagined, and the things that weren’t imagined are extremely linear. Even the fantastical action sequences became wearisome, mostly due to gratuitous overuse of slow motion.

I went into the film prepared to hate Sucker Punch, but by now find I merely pity it. There's such incredible talent here gone to waist. I can see in a hundred spots where director Zack Snyder really thought he was making a classic, but Sucker Punch falls as flat as the imaginary Kaiser’s imaginary steampunk zeppelin.


  1. Dude, gotta disagree with you there. Sure, the director has some great successes, which bias our expectations. he had storyline gold handed to him with watchmen, and your comments about the action not being backed up by content would be pretty much the same in 300. I was on the other end, going in prepared to "love this movie superficially" to quote my sister. I think the 'plot' was recognized as a vehicle for the action sequences from the beginning (notice emily browning never has to actually dance). Even so, the villian did a disproportionately superb performance, and had all the good lines. The last fight sequence is certainly way too busy, and I think there was untapped potential in soundtrack selection. The "raise the stakes" situations were ineffective and uncomfortable, but the entertainment value, beauty and technicality of the film are worth the watch. You can't pack masterpiece theatre into this eye candy without a wizard, and you may not want to. Some camera winking shows it is self-aware of what it is. The escapism is done to perfection, and it's going down as a not-so-guilty pleasure in my books.