If you're a sexually frustrated young man, then Zack Snyder has just the film for you: The long-awaited and already much-maligned Sucker Punch, which fails to impress Joseph "Jay Dub" Wade. If you're a socially frustrated even-younger young man, Martin R. "Vargo" Schneider recommends you try Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules.
EXPECTATIONS: Ever since the trailer was revealed last year, the Internet has been tearing itself apart over Zack Snyder's Sucker Punch. In this debate, two camps have emerged. In one corner, people are gnashing their teeth over the fact that it looks like nerd-baitingly sexist tripe and how dare Hollywood try to co-opt all the things we love and sell them back to us in an ironic hodge-podge that looks so offensively titillating! (Think I'm exaggerating? Check out the discussion going on in our own forums.) The second camp agrees with the first, but is dying to see this thing anyway, because seriously, this shit looks awesome. I just hope Snyder's 3-ring circus of crazy works and that it'll get stuck in my brain for all the wrong reasons.
REALITY: Sucker Punch successfully fulfilled my "Jena Malone getting punched in the face by a robot" fetish. I feel that sufficiently sums up my feelings on the movie. Parts of it are viscerally satisfying in ways that both excite and disturb me, and the mere fact that these parts work for me also excites and disturbs me. Basically, I enjoyed Sucker Punch as a piece of pop-art, but I have severely mixed feelings about it as a work of cinema. Allow me to explain.
The film's plot can best be described as Alice in Wonderland filtered through Terry Gilliam's Brazil. After 20-year-old Babydoll (Emily Browning) accidentally kills her younger sister, her evil stepfather commits her to Lennox House, a mental institution for disturbed young women. While awaiting her lobotomy, she re-imagines the asylum as a brothel run by a pimp named Blue (Oscar Isaac). For stealing the tools she'll need to escape, Babydoll enlists the help of four other girls: Blondie (Vanessa Hudgens), Amber (Jamie Chung) and sisters Sweet Pea (Abbie Cornish) and Rocket (Jena Malone).
Babydoll dances for the men in the brothel while the girls acquire the next item (a map, a lighter, a knife and a key), which we see as extended action sequences in yet another plane of reality. Here, the girls are decked out in schoolgirl-commando gear doing battle with a series of pop-culture boogeymen, all the while aided by a recurring Wise Man (Scott Glenn) who explains to them their next mission. Babydoll's first adversaries are a trio of giant, gun-toting samurai. After that, the girls must conquer steampunk zombie Nazis, orcs and dragons, and finally a train full of robots.
The brothel setting takes up the lion's share of the film, which is probably the film's single biggest misstep. 100 percent of the fun of Sucker Punch is in the dreamland action sequences, even if the pastiche doesn't make a whole lot of sense, but when these scenes end and we're brought back to the "reality" of the brothel, the film slows to a crawl. One might argue that this was Snyder's intent, that he's trying to troll us plebs who just want a dumb action movie about hot chicks blowing things up. I really don't think this is the case. If it were, why would he spend so much time constructing elaborately staged action sequences in the first place?
That includes symbolic wanking, Scott. Knock it off!What it really boils down to is every one of Zack Snyder's worst tendencies given free reign to be as insane as possible. While his use of slow motion during fight scenes has improved considerably over the years, his use of music has not. Every time we enter the Fantasy Plane of Action Movies, we're met with increasingly obnoxious covers of classic rock and pop tunes (in fact the whole movie feels like it was written with Bjork's "Army of Me" playing on an endless loop). Most of the music isn't even integrated into the film at all. As soon as Action Scene #3 starts up, a terrible cover of "Search and Destroy" starts up with all the subtlety of Zack Snyder slapping you in the face with his iPod. Gaudy music selections, gaudier costume design, and flat-out bad dialogue are really what keep Sucker Punch from being the entertaining hot mess it so clearly wants to be.
This is one of those movies where using the phrase "dream logic" will allow you to explain away just about anything in the movie, and applying the word "subtext" will turn any interpretation into a black hole of meaning. Sucker Punch is less a pastiche of everything geeks love and more a singularity of popular culture that nothing or no one can escape. Once it crosses that event horizon, even the vaguest of interpretations cannot escape the gaping maw of Zack Snyder's creation.
Oh, so you think Sucker Punch is a movie about female empowerment? Wrong. It's actually about the illusion of female empowerment in a world gone mad! Sucker Punch is a cynical dirge about the power of spectacle and its ability to swindle suckers out of their hard-earned cash? Wrong. It's actually just a dumb action movie about girls fantasizing about freedom. Stop overthinking things. You think it's simply Zack Snyder throwing everything he thinks is cool into one movie? Wrong. It's about the progression of iconic cinematic imagery across the 20th century.
Sucker Punch manages to be all of these things, and then none of these things. If you're just looking for 100 minutes of explodey action scenes and girls in skimpy clothes, you'll get some of that. If you're looking for an essay on the male gaze and how it manages to fetishize everything it sees, or any other kind of idiotic reading, you'll get some of that too. If, however, you're looking for 100 minutes of fun, well then I suggest you look elsewhere, because Zack Snyder is far too busy unpacking his various sexual and cultural hangups to bother having any.
|Dancing||1/10 (I'm not convinced Emily Browning can dance)|
|Original Song Choices||2/10|
MINORITY REPORT: When I asked Jay Dub how the movie was, he told me "I'm still wrestling with it." Having no idea what that means, I can only assume that by "wrestling" he means "masturbating," and by "with" he means "to", and by "it" he means "Jon Hamm." - Martin R. "Vargo" Schneider
TOTAL WRECK - crazy-eyed hound is covered in cobwebs, has a vespiary on back, graffiti on side and savage thirst for boat fuel. Frankly, I'm in over my head. He's in room 115 at Motel 6, yours free. 555-2851
Yes, it's the perfect form for surviving a car crash. But it's also the perfect form for so much more, like surviving the trauma of reading any news headline in 2016.
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