Sucker Punch (2011)

Sucker Punch (2011) — So first my overall opinion: this movie is maybe about 50% really awesome shit and about 50% really stupid shit. The end result is a rather entertaining clusterfuck and needless to say the film has a great look to it. All of Zack Snyder’s previous films have been adaptations (my favorite being his remake of Dawn of the Dead) and this is his first go-round at an original story. So this is the shit that has been kicking around in his head all this time I guess. The premise of the movie is solid: a girl winds up in a nuthouse through a series of unfortunate events (played by Emily Browning, star of Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events) and ends up hatching a plan to escape, while finding solace in her imagination. That works. The weird thing for me is there is this intermediate fantasy world between the reality of the mental hospital and the crazy action-packed fantasies that worked pretty damn well. When she gets there, the never-named heroine (nicknamed Baby Doll) sees the loony bin as sort of a 1940s style dancehall/bordello. I’m not sure why. It doesn’t add anything of value to the narrative and it actually makes several things unclear. While the fantasy scenes generally have some correlation to what’s happening in the real world (for example an elaborate scene in which the girls do battle with steam-powered German zombies in a World War I trench battle to steal a map [yes it is as cool as it sounds] corresponds with their real-life mission to steal a map) the real-world analog for Baby Doll’s dancing to distract people (never shown on camera even though it’s apparently supposed to be the sexiest thing ever) is never clear. What could a cute 20-something be doing to distract hospital orderlies while her friends steal the shit they need to get for their escape? The first thing that springs to mind is rather R-rated and would take the plot to some pretty dark places (not that it doesn’t already get somewhat dark within the confines of the PG-13 rating). There was also at least one character too many as the character Amber (the only one of the girls given a real name instead of a nickname) is never developed as much as the others and what little plot functionality she has could have been shifted onto Vanessa Hudgens’ character Blondie. But then again I guess the “five man band” trope is so common they felt the need to make it five girls (and also because a sexy Asian girl is about the only fetish the movie didn’t otherwise have). The action pieces are fantastic even though Scott Glenn makes the weirdest Yoda ever (“Don’t write checks with your mouth that you can’t cash with your ass.” Really? Do you also advise that before wrecking oneself, some self-checking is advisable?).  The aforementioned WWI scene as well as scenes with weird giant ronin and fucking dragons and robots and basically everything except pirates are all pretty damn cool. I also like the anachronistic music choices, featuring covers of the Eurythmics, the Pixies, and IGGY AND THE STOOGES (the original would have been much better on the last one) as well as the original of “Army of Me” by Björk twice. It’s all very weird. Just go with it. Despite the myriad of problems (maybe Snyder should have outsourced the screenwriting duties to someone more accomplished?) Sucker Punch is kind of entertaining in a “what the fuck am I watching” kind of way. It could have been a lot better but it does skate by on its more badass qualities. It’s really an awful movie but if you sit back and let its awfulness wash over you it can be sort of fun. I never want to be too harsh on a movie like this (even though it is a total clusterfuck) because it’s a major movie studio taking a very expensive chance, and I like it when they take chances (especially $82 million chances, though that did make them cut the film to PG-13). Snyder’s next movie is going to be Superman, so it should be interesting to see how he puts his own slow motion-heavy stamp on that franchise…

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