I Watched: Sucker Punch

Sucker Punch – 2011 – Dir. Zack Snyder – 120 min. – U.S.

In today’s movie landscape, there are three (general) types of movies. One that relies on a compelling story and excellent acting (i.e.  The King’s Speech). Another that relies on stunning graphic effects and the more-often-than-not gimmicky element of 3-D (it’s like adding stickers to a car…neither really make it that much better). The third is a rare one that is able to blend the visual effects with solid story (i.e. The Dark Knight). Sucker Punch tries to be that third type and might be a bit more successful at it…if movies like Inception and Shutter Island didn’t come out the previous year.

Zack Snyder has established a unique visual style as seen in 300 and Watchmen, with a lot of slow motion and blood spattered all over the place. But while he’s able to make your eyes feel like they’re having sex with the movie screen, none of his movies have been incredibly strong in the story/ character development department. That leads me to Sucker Punch (which has been, so far, his worst reviewed movie on Rotten Tomatoes).

The film starts out with a visually and musically beautiful sequence to explain the back story. This was my favorite part of the whole movie:

After this, you travel through multiple layers of realities as the main character, Babydoll (played by Emily Browning) leads a pack of other institutionalized girls to escape the iron bars of their mental institution. It makes you feel like you’re in a teenager’s version of Inception, flashy and underdeveloped.

My main beef with the film is how it’s devoid of character and story development. The film starts out with enough promise, then falls flat once Babydoll starts talking (which is about 25 min. into the film). Babydoll proceeds to have the exact same expression on her face for the next hour and a half. I saw more character from her in the beginning sequence than in the rest of the film. Her fellow escapees give you even less. Some of it is internal to the script, some of it is lame acting, for at least half it’s both (take a guess).

Babydoll just doesn’t show a lot of desperation or emotion when it comes to escaping the arrival of the High Roller. As their plan of action races against the time of the High Roller’s arrival, she doesn’t do anything but state facts (“he’s coming in ___ days”). She doesn’t do anything to build up the pressure of running out of time, which takes the suspense out of it. It’s even worst because none of her other co-conspirators are working on a time crunch, so no one seems to be in any rush to get out of there…when it’s the entire premise of the movie! Then when the build up comes for the “twist” at the end, instead of feeling like a big revelation (which I believe was the intention), I thought to myself “well…she seemed indifferent about it anyway, so that’s not surprising.” If she doesn’t care about getting lobotomized, as an audience member, why should I?

Through all this lack of giving a f— about the characters, you’ve supposed to weave through a story that tries to seem smart, but gets lazy in the middle and gives up. You think “oh cool, alternate reality in ANOTHER alternate reality.” Except…you forget there is another reality and they no way try to link the different realities together and show how they relate so in the end, the multiple layers don’t really matter.  They could have intertwined the various realities together much better and have them interact with each other, instead of keeping them separate entities that made you forget which one you were in. And no, just because she stabbed someone at the end doesn’t make up for the lack of thoughtfulness throughout the movie.

Would it have been a better movie if it were an R rating? Perhaps. It would have given the filmmakers more freedom to explore different issues and scenes without the fear of censorship. And no I’m not just saying that just to see more skin or sexy-time moments. Sometimes directors and producers are too worried about making sure the regulators are happy instead of creating a complete story.

But there were parts of the film I did like. As I mentioned earlier, the opening sequence was great. The way Snyder blends music and action sequences together is truly his strength. I wish he would stick to making music videos or being a cinematographer. This film was kinda marketed like 300, but instead of half-naked guys with swords you had half-naked girls with guns. I’m glad Snyder is an equal opportunity skin and weapon person.

Oh, and what was up with explaining the moral of the story at the end? I hate that. It’s like admitting that you didn’t do a good enough job explaining it in the movie or you think your audience is that dense. It’s like if after the end of Schinlder’s List, they said in a voice “don’t exterminate an entire group of people” or at the end of Independence Day “there’s only one race…the human race.” Okay, so Bill Pullman said it in his speech…it wasn’t a great movie anyway.

Overall, it was a very pretty movie. But you don’t pay money just to watch something pretty. You can go out and explore nature for free. So don’t waste your money on this. In fact, watch the best scene in the movie for free on youtube. The only reason to watch this is to see girls shoot a bunch of guns and kill steam-powered Germans. Leave it to Zack Snyder to make you feel cheap while shelling out a ton of money. He now moves onto directing the next Superman reboot. Hopefully with Christopher Nolan as a producer, Snyder won’t be able to get away with another lackluster effort.

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