Saturday, March 26, 2011

Zack Snyder's Sucker Punch

Zack Snyder’s Sucker Punch opens with a powerful music montage that depicts the sordid events that land Baby Doll (Emily Browning) in an institution for the mentally insane, a living hell she does not deserve. Victimized by her brutal stepfather, she is relinquished to the custody of abusive hospital orderlies. For Baby Doll and her friends, Sweet Pea (Abbie Cornish, doing some heartfelt acting), Rocket (Jena Malone in constant bitter and rebellious mode), Blondie (Vanessa Hudgens, looking totally uncomfortable outside the Disney Channel), and Amber (Jamie Chung, merely modeling sexy outfits), freedom is only a dream, and perhaps the only freedom they can attain is inside their minds where they strut their stuff into four set-piece battles.

Clad in the thigh-highs, garters, and fetishistic dance-girl costumes that turn them into sex objects for the kind of abusive men that populate this film, Baby Doll and her wild bunch blaze away with automatic weapons at gigantic samurai; steam-powered clockwork World War I German soldiers (I liked the Germans spewing steam instead of blood; and they're not zombies); armored ogres; a dragon; and chrome robots, and all this is set in fantasy-scapes, rendered in steampunk greens and browns, the kind of CGI feast we expect form Zack Snyder, with gratuitous slow-mo close ups of ejecting cartridge casings.

Yeah, yeah, you could say that Snyder is making the statement that the girls are decked out in titillating fashion as would be expected by the abusive, victimizing male ogres that watch over Baby Doll and her friends with their stripper-girl nicknames and the expectation that they “perform” for the ogling sexist wolves, and that when our heroines go to war in those costumes and blaze away with huge guns, it is a demonstration of courage and defiance that defies what their victimizers would expect of them. But at the same time, Snyder gets a lot of titillation out of bitchin’ babes blasting bad bastards on full auto.

I don’t know. You be the judge. But when the battles are over – the samurai combat and the World War I battle are visually fascinating, but they go on too long; the dragon fight is okay, but we’ve been there, done that; and the robot thing goes on and on and on – the ending is sincerely touching, tragic, yet uplifting. Baby Doll redeems herself. Sweet Pea finds (SPOILER!) freedom, and the credits roll with outtake nonsense.

Is it all nonsense? Scott Glenn is way silly as the girls’ guru “Wise Man.” “And another thing,” directors need to know when to cut the action. But Emily Browning’s face is hauntingly gorgeous, Abbie Cornish has solid presence, the steam-spewing clockwork krauts are something different, and I have to say that Snyder frames some memorable images – though for some viewers, what’s most memorable won’t be the CGI landscapes.


FilmDr said...

Nice review. The more I think and hear about this film, the weirder it gets (but I sense that was Snyder's primary intention--to mess with the expectations of the viewer). Have you heard of Snyder's (spoiler alert) original ending?

From a recent interview, Snyder said that after Baby Doll's lobotomy, "she gets up, and the camera dollies in on her and then goes around her head – and you see that she’s on a stage in the theater and she signs “O-o-h Child” at the very end. After that, all the dead girls come out and they sing together, then the curtain closes. That’s the end."

Singing corpses harmonizing along with the lobotomized main character? That's so meta, it ends up being goofy.

Hokahey said...

Thanks for the thoughts, FilmDr. That Zack Snyder is a wacky dude, but I'm glad he didn't include the ending you describe - although I could have done with an ending that gets into her head and shows that she is still fantasizing.

In regards to the whole "theater" theme, I like how the film starts out with the image of the stage.

And you're right, this movie is weird in many different ways. Just imagine having the money and the power in the Hollywood system to be able to express your weirdnesses. What weirdnesses would you express in a film if you could?

Yuba Guy said...

Slumming again, eh? Bottom feeder! What did it cost you to get off on this one? $7.50 for a Cape matinee? Why not send the money to Japan tsunami relief instead of feeding the Cheap Thrills Machine? I know, you want them to keep coming. I'd feel ashamed.

Yuba Guy said...

What? I'm not typing up my comment again. Let me summarize, then: throwing money at this cheap crap is shameful and enabling. You can do better.

Hokahey said...

Thanks for the sensitive comment, Yuba Guy. Did you SEE the movie? And I didn't pay for the movie; I'm still running on gift cards given to me by my students. I'll tell you when I run out.