written by: SAH
Sucker Punch, the latest action fantasy flick from Director Zack Snyder (300, Watchmen), is like a theme park full of roller coasters. Each ride is an adrenaline rush and a joy, but in between each thrill is a comparatively slow climb to the next apex. The back and forth produces the somewhat wobbly, uneven feel of being spun around one too many times I hoped to linger longer in every set piece, each of which plays out like a music video but I thoroughly enjoyed it nevertheless and left feeling that if I were 14, it might just be one of the best movies ever.
Sucker Punch stars a quartet of cuties with pulp fiction nicknames: Emily Browning (Baby Doll), Abbie Cornish (Sweet Pea), Jena Malone (Rocket) and Vanessa Hudges (Blondie). The action follows Baby Doll as she attempts to escape from a mental institution where she's been placed by a clearly evil stepfather.
The problem is that the strengths of the movie pile directly on top of its weaknesses. They're interconnected. I'll try to explain without giving much away (though in all honesty, knowledge of specific plot points probably wouldn't alter your like or dislike of the movie that much).
The story is dark. These girls are seeking freedom from the asylum for very good reasons which I'm sure you can infer from the short skirts and thigh-high stockings. Which is part of the problem. These girls are sexy, no doubt, but that they are puts the viewer in league with the villains of the story. And while the overtly stated goal is Freedom, the perhaps better word is Escape.
The real issue may be this: This is an action movie. That the action is then encased in a thin wrapper of some potentially very serious themes is frustrating for more seasoned or sophisticated viewers. They want to know more, you want to care about these girls. But the reality is that there just isn't enough time to connect between action sequences. Honestly, this is probably for the best.
While it doesn't necessarily fail at drama, it doesn't really succeed either. On the other hand, if you consider that this is really meant to be an action/fantasy movie (I'm guessing from the PG-13 rating), it's hard to see it as a failure.
So what about the action? If you liked what you saw in the previews, you won't be disappointed. Hot girls? Check. Guns? Check. Dragon, steam punk zombies, fighter planes, demon samurai with machines guns? Check, check, check, check.
In fact, if you like Zack Snyder's take on action, there is no need to worry, the action is breathtaking so long as you can put out of your mind the somewhat corny plot point that drive the entry into each action sequence.
But here too there are issues, not with the action per se, that is stellar, but with the perspective from which each action sequence is viewed.
SPOILERS AHEAD (and I mean more than plot points)
In order to obtain Freedom, Baby Doll must obtain a series of items (this device is perhaps the weakest part of the movie). Each item is obtained through a cooperative game of deception and seduction. In order to allow the other girls to get something in the physical word (a lighter for example) Baby Doll must dance for their target, in each case a horribly vile man. Comically, we never actually see Baby Doll dance as her dancing induces a kind of hypnosis takes the viewer into the action/fantasy world while the other girls accomplish simple tasks in the "real world." There are layers here I think are better left unexplored, but at its core is this fundamental problem: in order to see the most awesome parts of the movie, we must, as an audience, embody the rather horrid men being hypnotized. Once you realize this, what should be fun becomes dirty, and not in the fun way. I, as the thirty-something fat guy watching the movie, am exactly the person the girls are attempting to get away from.
In fact, the movie, whose surface would seem to be geared toward men, is in reality, probably more for women who want to be free from male objectification.
And there's the rub. Over analysis unravels the enjoyment of the action. (Damn you college!)
That said, I still enjoyed the movie, ogre that I am, and I remain a Snyder fan (300 and Dawn of the Dead being my favorites). I'm curious to see what he does with Superman (his next movie), but honestly, after that, I'd love to see him do another zombie movie, a fantasy flick with dragons, something steampunk related, a samurai or ninja movie, a WWI movie, or another movie with hot girls that don't make me feel guilty for thinking they're hot. Hell, since I know he's good at car commercials and action sequences, I'd love to see him do something with car chases.
And, as much as the stylized digital world seems to suit his story-telling style, I'd honestly like to see him do another live action (i.e. not totally digital) movie. He has such a good eye for angles and isolating moments of intensity, I think it could be applied more broadly.
I think the reality is that he's destined to be a director that strongly divides the audience. I think that at this point if you haven't seen much from him that you liked, the future is pretty grim. If, on the other hand, you've been more happy than not, there's more potential out there. I'm curious to see what comes next.
I give Sucker Punch a shaky B.
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