Sunday, March 27, 2011

Babes in Toyland: The Sucker Punch Review

     The sub-genre of action/horror/thriller films that feature attractive women kicking ass has always held an enjoyable place deep inside the cockles of my heart. Whether it has been Ripley standing up to the horrific aliens in the Alien franchise ("Get away from her, you bitch!"), Sarah Connor bulking up and going toe-to-toe with T1000 in the second Terminator film, or Beatrix Kiddo (The Bride) violently destroying everything in her way in the whole bloody affair that is Kill Bill, these ladies always have two things in common: they're talented at killing things that deserve to be killed and they make my penis fill up with blood. Sucker Punch, the latest from 300 and Watchmen director Zack Snyder, features a number of scantily clad beautiful women annihilating various people, the undead, and mythical creatures; unfortunately, that's just about all it boils down to. With a simpleton plot and characters that you never feel any real danger for, Sucker Punch becomes a semi-entertaining night of watching someone else play a visually-amazing videogame. It's entertaining at first, and you might see come cool shit, but ultimately, you could be watching something better.
     Zack Snyder has a knack for opening a film with panache. The beginning credit sequence of the Dawn of the Dead remake and Watchmen are unbelievably well executed, and Snyder basically continues that trend here. Using a rendition of "Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)," the basic plot is set forth: facing up to her abusive stepfather, Babydoll is sent to an insane asylum (by him) and is to be lobotomized in five days time. Once there, she retreats into a fantastical world where she needs to recover 5 items (a map, a fire starter, a knife, a key, and something she will discover when the time is right) to able to escape the institution. She gains the trust of four other girls (Sweet Pea, Rocket, Blondie and Amber) and enlists them into helping her so they can all escape. (There's no need to get into the fact that all of the girls' names and attire could be the main plot of a pedophile's masturbatory fantasy.) There are layers of the fantasy world. In real life, the girls are in an dark and dreary institution. In Babydoll's main fantasy, the girls are all dancers/whores for a club owner (the sadistic asylum employee, in real life), and in five days time, Babydoll is going to be sold to the high roller (the lobotomist, in real life [played interestingly by Mad Men's Jon Hamm]). However, it goes even further. When Babydoll dances for customers in her fantasy world, everyone is transfixed, and she enters another dream world in which the girls metaphorically battle for the 5 items (one at a time) against horrific, demented and powerful beings and creatures. Confused yet? This will make it easier: As the girls fight for, say, the map, in the second layer of dreamworld against the scary monsters, the girls are stealing the map from the office in the main dream world. So the two dream worlds correspond into obtaining the same objective.
   This second dream world is where the main problem with the film lies: there is no real danger involved. It doesn't make a difference how many hundreds of robots or gas-mask-wearing zombies the girls kill--they are still just stuck in a mental institution, waiting to die or be lobotomized. By making the alternate reality a coping mechanism for Babydoll, it's taking away the emotional impact of the real life situation. They jump, they shoot, they kill giant-sized metal samurais and take down dragons with long swords. But instead of being excited by these killings (like Ripley and the Alien), I was left with my dick in my hand, wishing it was an Xbox controller, while also wishing I was watching Kill Bill for the 14th time. The film also has a line of dialogue that goes something like, "Don't write checks that your ass can't cash" and it has a loud noise to drown out the sound of one the girls saying "fucker" (ala Live Free or Die Hard). These two instances of shit hurt my enjoyment of the film. It's the little things, you know?
     As much as I just complained about how the dream fights took away from the real emotional impact of the film, I have to raise my rating a full letter grade due to it's amazing visual wizardry. From watching 300 or Watchmen, one can easily determine that Snyder's best talent as director is hugely stylized visual effects. Some of the fights really were quite breathtaking, and two or three times I even found myself excited when Babydoll closed her eyes and the magical dreamworld kicked in with the loudest music I have ever heard at a movie theater. Unfortunately, looks and style are clearly not everything when you don't have an exciting script to work with. Sucker Punch is like a donkey punch: exciting yet painful, dangerous and sexual, and it definitely did not leave me wanting more.     (C+)

1 comment:

  1. B- for sure. I don't think you appreciated the link between the "dream state" and the task at hand in the "real world".