Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Sucker Punch

Chicks With Guns

Girls, girls and more girls, decked out in cleavage bearing, tight fitting outfits wielding assault rifles and swords, slaughtering enemies in their way without batting an eyelid, false eyelashes and hairdo all in place, with nary a sweat broken in the process. Welcome to Zack Snyder's Sucker Punch, which played out like a typical Otaku's wet dream chock full of loud action sequences, sizzling sensuality and a narrative that's an action oriented, narratively poorer cousin to Christopher Nolan's Inception.

Yes boys and girls, it's back to imaginary worlds and landscapes all coming from the depths of one's mind and imagination, where these environments are shared with those in the same boat, with the dreamer wielding ultimate power to do almost the impossible within, in a quest to seek that elusive escape back to the real world. Only that it comes with easier kicks based on the end of some pulsating music, and filled with 4 distinct missions to fulfill in order to impact their real world flee from the mental institution they find themselves confined in, with the usual corrupt caretakers at the helm making it more like a prison than to help in rehabilitation.

If you've seen Zack Snyder's live action films, then you'd just about know what to expect from him, with slow-mo signature sequences and an eclectic selection of pop music peppering the background, with Emily Browning doing an excellent cover of Eurythmics' Sweet Dreams, which becomes the film's prologue introducing Browning's Baby Doll, a girl who thwarted her stepfather's attempted rape of her and her sister, but an intervention resulting in her sister's injury meant having the tables turned and thrown into a mental institution, with the warden Blue Jones (Oscar Isaac) bribed to keep her inside long enough to get an unsanctioned lobotomy to keep her quiet, permanently.

So begins a plan to escape from her unlawful detention before the High Roller / Doctor (Jon Hamm) arrives in a few days for the procedure, and we begin that descend into Baby Doll's mind, imagining and painting a landscape that makes it a lot more interesting to look at, since it's a brothel rather than a madhouse, with its predominantly female inmates being exotic dancers with exotic identities trained to gyrate by Dr Vera Gorski (Carla Gugino), who finds a gem in the raw newcomer, and Baby Doll soon hatches a plan to escape based on the retrieval of 4 items to aid in her escape mission as guided and introduced by Wise Man (Scott Glenn), with peer collaborators in tow such as Abbie Cornish's Sweet Pea, Jena Malone's Rocket, Vanessa Hudgens' Blondie and Jamie Chung's Amber.

If this is done by a sleazy director, then you'd have plenty of sexy gyrating sequences with the characters decked in various states of undress, but under the hands of Zack Snyder, this spells opportunity for some heavy and very detailed set action sequences, sort of like a Charlie's Angel episode with plenty of amped up ass-kicking and attitude. Despite everyone fawning over Baby Doll's incredible dance moves, they get translated to action, set against various dreamscapes as we descent into yet another layer of the imagination (told you this was a poor cousin to Nolan's Inception), filled with giant Samurais, steam-punked and clock-worked soldiers in war torn Europe with Zeppelins decorating the gloomy skies, Orcs and dragons from Middle Earth and a race against time mission set in a speeding train. Thematically, it advises females to seek and allow that inner self of strength to take charge, but frankly we rather see the visual manifestation of that.

They are all played out like an exaggerated video game, with Snyder at the game controls as he moves the characters like those you see in any typical anime, slicing, dicing and shooting their way through enemies. In fact he fills up the screen with so much details, it deserves a second look just to allow your eyes to roam the background, as the camera moves about in dizzying fashion, usually making the heroines look good as they dispatch the usually faceless villains. While Snyder always speeds up and slows down motion in alternating fashion, at least it's less of that shaky cam BS that's becoming a bad unhealthy trend, allowing you to gawk at (ahem) the intricately designed action piece at hand.

As a guilt trip, Sucker Punch delivers that knock out blow in having found the right mix of eye candy cast after some musical chairs casting with actresses dropping out and others back filling, and ultimately it's a job well done. This marks something original that Snyder has done for the first time in his career - his other film projects have always been adaptations of sorts - and while he had created an imaginary world, it's the stunningly beautiful flowing visuals that create more of an impact than the strength of the story, but kudos though that he had the guts to turn things around in the final act which does surprise a little instead of being the all protective creator unwilling to let go.

Just as a side, for some reason I'm seeing a lot of Superman potential in this one that reminisces of the Max Fleischer animated series, with the kinda kinetic energy that Snyder is known to pump up his action sequences, and the narrative design to tell the story of the Last Son of Krypton and frankly I'm a tad bit excited to see Snyder's print over a Christopher Nolan-David Goyer story idea.


Unknown said...

personally i love the movie but i have one question. what do you mean by an otaku's wet dream. i am an otaku and i dont understand what you mean this movie wasnt exactly animated except for the main action scenes you obviously are just making a comment without thinking

Patrick R. Saunders said...

I liked the film and found it to be intriguing in its storyline and presentation. It was better than 300 and I think better than Inception too, as the action of the film played along with the fantasys that were created in Baby Doll's mind as she danced for the audiences. The idea of the lobotomy being performed by the Doctor and the high roller was appealing in that the act of the doctor was actually freeing her from the external prison of the mad house. The ensemble cast of women in the leading roles was great as their actions in the film were the seizing of empowerment in a male dominated establishment.

Stefan S said...

jaymacdonald94 > I think you're a virgin otaku ^_^

Patrick > couldn't say so better myself the way you described the idea of the lobotomy.

richardlimjr said...

maybe you are not otaku enough

Unknown said...

Ive seen the movie. The visuals/effects were good but i must agree with stefan that sucker punch is a poor cousin of inception. Also, its a poor attempt to replicate bad-ass chick genre of kill bill.
Sucker Punch tried to be philosophical or at the least intellectual but it failed. There's no nothing new with the story line. Without the out of this world effects, its just a plain movie about a girl who wants to escape from the mental institution. Its redeeming factor would be its approach. At least it didnt turn out to be a cheesy porn flick!

Stefan S said...

Hi dioso, I think what you highlighted is the general consensus I am reading thus far :-)

AnomieKoan said...

A parallel between Sucker Punch and Inception that I have yet to see addressed is the ambiguity of the narrative. People seem to be taking the imperfect links between the two main worlds as evidence of a poorly crafted story.

I think, though, that there is room in American cinema for ambiguity and an absence of cohesiveness in narrative, because it lets the audience be interpretively creative.

I had several hours of great conversation about Sucker Punch with my girlfriend last night after we saw it, trying go tease out each world's linking metaphors to try to make the narrative cohesive. We each arrived at different interpretations, thought of others, switched sides in our discussion, and in general had a blast doing it.

Sucker Punch is much more than a mindless popcorn flick. It's a postmodern impressionist multimedia piece.

However, as our culture is particularly dismissive of postmodern works and even more so of postmodern discourse, many will see this line of thinking as precisely what's wrong with the film at best, and an engagement in apologetics at worst. However, there is nothing vapid about this film. It comments on the genre, and its target audience, in very surprising, interesting and insightful ways. Moreover, it manages to grasp and hold onto some aesthetic beauty in the process.

Anonymous said...


That's my interpretation of the movie

Unknown said...

Snyder is spoonfeeding the audience with lovingly lingering slo-mo shots on anything that will later turn out to be important, and I'd have preferred a film that assumed its viewers were smart enough to pick up on that kind of thing without such heavy hints.

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