Sunday, 10 April 2011

Film Review: Sucker Punch

After attacking her evil stepfather in order to protect her sister, and accidentally killing her in the process, Baby Doll (Emily Browning) is incarcerated into a mental institution for young women. There she meets four inmates; Sweet Pea (Abbie Cornish), Rocket (Jenna Malone), Blondie (Vanessa Hudgens) and Amber (Jamie Chung), where, through the power of Baby Doll's imagination, they hatch an escape plan which involves battling German zombies, dragons and ginormous samurai.

In a sort of cheap take on Inception's multi-layered consciousnesses, there are three realities at work in Sucker Punch. The first is the heightened reality of the mental institution run by sardonic orderly, Blue (Oscar Isaac), who has somehow managed to carve for himself some power over the patients. This transcends into the second illusory tapestry of a brothel placed over the asylum where Blue is the owner in which he forces the girls to 'dance'. The final reality is the insane steam-punk sci-fi realm of the audacious; worlds which Baby Doll visits when requisitioned to 'dance'. The purpose of these is to create a symbolic narrative for the tasks of obtaining a list of items needed to escape the asylum.

There is no getting around the fact that visually Sucker Punch is stunning. But it is equally pretentious in its allegory, trying to intellectualise something it need not bother with. It attempts to be profound with allusions to female empowerment and sexual oppression, yet ironically ends up being ridiculously misogynistic. It's especially patronising when the film attempts to bestow its 'wisdom' on the audience through a narrator at the beginning and end of the film with some pseudo-philosophical utterance. And it is this which detracts so much from the spectacle which should be the focal point of the film. Yet, even during the eye candy where our young heroines are hithering and thithering through orcs and extra nasty versions of the androids from iRobot, the film fails to create any sense of tension in that you never get the feeling the girls are in any danger. The end result is a soulless, suspenseless and overall pretty insipid excuse for a film. No matter how good this movie looks, all it will elicit from its audience is a "so what?". That is, if they haven't walked out already.

What made Sucker Punch doubly galling was the wooden performances all round. So incessant is the cheesy dialogue and constant whinging that it almost impossible not to shout out "oh, just shut the fuck up, will you?!". It is actually painful to watch in places insofar that the film's main sales gimmick, its sex appeal, instantly washes off as the chicks lose all their swagger on account that they lack any sass. In something I do not think I've never felt about a hero/heroine in a movie, I actually began to hope that someone would just put them out their misery. So cringe worthy is it to watch that even their hotness is no saving grace for this sucker.

One might have come to expect better of director Zack Snyder, who has directed some very visually distinctive films which weren't half bad plot wise either. From his debut Dawn of the Dead, to 300 and the fantastic Watchmen, he has certainly carved himself a stylistic niche in the movie industry. And while Sucker Punch bares all the visceral hallmarks of Snyder, it also marks his first foray into writing, and indeed the first representation of his own imagination. The result is a teenage nerd's deepest fantasies portrayed in a series of fantastical music-videos to blow away your senses. Indeed, the best thing about this film really is the soundtrack, all dark and gothic covers of songs such as 'White Rabbit' and 'Where Is My Mind'. Yet even these are suspect to cliched uses throughout, played in the most obvious of obvious places. This would be fine for a music video or a video game, but not for a movie which needs to be anchored by a storyline and bound in emotive twine. Both of which are lacking and only display Sucker Punch as a typical teenage boy's creative writing assignment, written in the small hours of the morning the day before it was due. Fuelled by innumerable cans of Mountain Dew.

I knew from critics not to expect a great film, but I did expect to be entertained. That was all it had to do. The components are there; hot girls wielding guns in over-the-top action sequences, but it comes out like a small child trying to put the triangular object through the square hole. And then trying to force it to fit by jamming it repeatedly in the wrong slot. It is nothing short of a colossal mess. For suckers only.

P.S. Don't worry, Vanessa Hudgens, I know it's not your fault. I still love you. If you're reading this, call me, K?


AP said...

I thought it was the step-father who killed the younger sister, and not Babydoll??

Either way, shit film all round

Alekazam said...

Thought the bullet rebounded off the light bulb?

AP said...

Oh. Hmm. Anyway, wanna go Alton Towers on Thursday with me? I'm going with my sis's bf and his mate, so it'd be perfect if you came lol. And I know you're up for it!