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Sucker Punch (2011)

October 14, 2011

3/10 Lollipop Chainsaws

Exactly why 13-year-old boys with anime girlfriends aren’t allowed to make movies.

Sucker Punch is about a girl who gets sent to an insane asylum when her evil stepfather frames her for her sister’s murder. Upon entering the loony bin, she taps into her vivid imagination that transforms the roach motel into a high-class nightclub of sorts where she’s the latest saucy attraction in a lineup of female dancers. In order for her to escape from this hellhole before getting lobotomized into a vegetable, she dives even further into her imagination where she has to battle some seriously crazy shit to obtain the five key items that will set her and her fellow heroines free.

I feel like I need to add an extra sentence to that last paragraph in order for this story to make sense, but alas, explanations are hard to come by with this one.

So if there’s a selling point to this movie, it’s that it’s the brainchild of writer/director Zack Snyder. Now, a lot of people really seem to like Zack Snyder. I thought he did a bang-up job with Dawn of the Dead, I was one of the many young men who went home and started doing push-ups after feeling like the fattest bastard alive thanks to 300, but ever since then, things just haven’t been the same between Zack and I. Maybe it was a bad idea to have anyone adapt Watchmen into a movie in the first place, but the night I saw that movie in a packed theater in Harlem filled with way more kids and their crappy parents than I can still fathom was the very night I realized everything I don’t like about Zack Snyder movies:

Slow-motion overkill and a glorification of men beating the everloving tar out of women. Pretty sure the latter wasn’t an issue in The Owls of Ga’Hoole, but those were the two reasons I still don’t like Watchmen and those are two reasons I didn’t like Sucker Punch.

The good thing is that the slow-mo isn’t as much of a hindrance here because it doesn’t get in the way of the story like it did in Watchmen. The action is noticeably better when it’s operating in real-time, but at this point, slow-mo just comes with the territory when you go into a Zack Snyder movie and it works for what it is. So I guess the real issue here is that there isn’t even a story for the slow-mo to dumb down.

The problem with the story is that it takes itself way too seriously and doesn’t make a lick of sense when it absolutely needs to. Not sure why Snyder went for that tone after writing the imaginary dragon-slaying scene, but the glove don’t fit. And while the list is long, the most criminal of the the said nonsensical aspects is without a doubt the way the characters go from dancing on a stage in one reality to fighting in a warzone the next. It’s never really explained how or why they get transported into a video game fantasy every time they start grooving to the music, and as much as we’re probably supposed to just go with the flow on this one, I was a hell of a lot more confused than I was wowed. This is a running theme.

And then there’s the whole misogyny thing that’s only gotten worse since Carla Gugino got her face beat into hamburger in Watchmen. Now, I’m all for tough women in movies and I can understand a gal getting roughed up in the heat of battle or something along the lines of Sarah Conner getting stabbed in the shoulder by the T-1000. That happens, I can let that slide, but then girls start getting shot in the brain execution style like something out of The Pianist, and we’ve got ourselves a problem. Again, I don’t see what that adds to the movie or why Snyder thought that’d be a fine addition to the script, but it’s awfully warped and I have no freaking clue how this got away with a PG-13 rating.

On top of all this, there’s the soundtrack, and I honestly don’t know how you fuck up a soundtrack this badly without having every song be an autotuned version of “Walking on Sunshine.” The kicker is that every one of these songs had the potential to be winners. “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This),” “White Rabbit,” “Search and Destroy,” “Where is My Mind?,” and “Asleep” are all damn good tunes on their own right (except for the Eurythmics, never really liked them). But rather than leave them be and use them in their already awesome states, the powers that be decided that all these classics were in dire need of covers because, let’s face it, even the most classic of ballads can never be “too emo.” It wouldn’t be that bad if the originals weren’t so good to begin with, but now with this fresh coat of synth and moaning thrown into the mix, the songs blow and the soundtrack is an embarrassment to the artists it tries to “honor.” Unless you’re all about listening to bastardized versions of “We Will Rock You” and “Tomorrow Never Knows” while a girl named “Babydoll” butchers members of the steampunk Nazi party, I think you’ll agree. Freddie Mercury and John Lennon would not approve.

The only saving grace to the playlist is a relatively untouched version of Bjork’s “Army of Me” which actually works damn well, but that’s very much the exception to the rule.

Ultimately, I just found myself asking “What’s the point?” far more often than is healthy for a two-hour investment. What’s the point of shooting those girls in the head? What’s the point of turning the “dances” into bullet ballets? What’s the point in general and why should I be giving a shit? That last one’s a biggie and it unfortunately never got answered. I’ve found myself asking a lot of questions like that in Zack Snyder movies lately, and unless I’m missing the point, I don’t think that’s a good thing.

Sucker Punch isn’t as bad as I was expecting it to be, it has style to spare, and some of the action scenes are surprisingly boss when Snyder cools it on the slow-mo. But like I said, it’s an exercise in the excessive, the unnecessary, and its “fight for your destiny” moral ends up falling on deaf ears when it’s set against the backdrop of scantily-clad leather mamas fighting minigun-toting mega samurai. The thing is, I know there’s an audience for this movie and I can totally understand how a young geek who just discovered The Matrix and porn could watch this ad nauseum and feel like Zack Snyder made a movie just for them. It’s not that that’s a bad thing, it’s just not my thing and I can’t help but wonder about a writer/director who goes out of their way to make it their thing. The ridiculous dialogue that tries way too hard to be badass, the story that didn’t stand a chance, and the cast that was doomed from the start – it just doesn’t work.

Stupid title, too.

31 Comments leave one →
  1. October 14, 2011 2:33 am

    Top review, my man, and almost a complete echo of my own thoughts (my own review is in the pipeline, so I’ll link to this when it comes up) with regards to the casual violence in a supposedly PG film. Like you, I couldn’t understand WHY we needed a film like this. It offers nothing but vacuous violence and stylized imagery, adding up to very little.

    • October 14, 2011 5:27 pm

      Thanks, man, and I totally agree about the style over substance thing. Just another proven example of how spectacle doesn’t count for shit when the story supporting it is garbage. Serenity now…

  2. October 14, 2011 6:59 am

    Never really had much of an interest in seeing this, and you have only further made me want to see it even less. Thanks Aiden!

  3. October 14, 2011 1:48 pm

    Gotta agree with Dan — your review reaffirmed my beliefs. I had no idea the soundtrack was composed of shitty covers either… what a joke.

    • October 14, 2011 5:26 pm

      A joke indeed. If they were covers of shitty songs, it’d be a non-issue, but why the fuck would you cover The Beatles and Queen, let alone use those two songs out of everything The Beatles and Queen released? Just a tragedy.

      • October 16, 2011 12:03 am

        I’m pretty sure that breaks an 11th Commandment or something. Covering Queen or The Beatles?! Fuck that.

      • October 16, 2011 10:54 am

        Haha. Agreed. Some lines you just don’t cross.

  4. October 17, 2011 2:38 am

    After the 300 fiasco, I just had to see this, hoping that I would be proven wrong by Mr. Zack Snyder. But I was right. Watching the movie was like watching someone play video games. It wasn’t any fun. But I do have to say, I can see the movie as a jerk-off video for some folks with… special tastes.

    • October 19, 2011 12:35 pm

      Agreed. Even as a lifelong gamer, sitting around watching other people play video games is generally as fun as a root canal. You weren’t a fan of 300 though?

      • October 23, 2011 2:01 pm

        Nope. You would think that with all the half-nakedness. But I was just so, for the lack of a better word, bored. I was also half-deaf. Too much screaming and yelling. It was pretty to look at, though.

      • October 27, 2011 3:51 pm

        Yup, it did look good. I’ll give it that. Everything else is pushing it.

  5. October 20, 2011 4:35 pm

    At the risk of losing all my credibility i am going to admit i didn’t actually hate this one.

    • October 27, 2011 3:48 pm

      Haha. It’s okay, I’ll let it slide. Didn’t hate it either myself, more just wondering why it exists?

  6. October 27, 2011 10:27 am

    This was just too much for me. It’s clear that Snyder had something to say here, but he’s not a real storyteller as much as he’s just a visualist. In that respect I guess I could call Sucker Punch a success; it’s really stylish and it looks great. But it’s empty. It’s totally hollow and pretty meaningless as a result. I had a hard time caring about the girls’ ultimate fate as Snyder demonstrated repeatedly that his priorities lie in cool fights over anything substantive.

    • October 27, 2011 3:53 pm

      Yeah, I didn’t give a shit about any of the girls. The only time I card was when they were getting plugged in the head, but other than that, there might as well not have even been a story. Looks pretty, but that’s about it.

  7. October 27, 2011 3:39 pm

    good review Aideno. i skipped this at the cinema and watched it recently… on a plane!
    and you know what, i kind of enjoyed it, in that ‘im on a plane and this film is shit but im on a plane and im watching a film’ kind of way.
    it is a total mess though. and as you say, utterly utterly pointless

    • October 27, 2011 3:54 pm

      Hahaha. Yeah, you’re probably best off seeing this kind of thing on a plane where you’re watching with a “Fuck it, why not?” attitude. Lucky bastard…

  8. November 7, 2011 12:50 pm

    The “premise” of this movie was so convoluted and ridiculous I couldn’t even get past the first half hour. It might have helped if the director gave us ANY indication of how these little girls ended up with Satan for a stepfather and why Satan wanted to kill them and how Satan easily got away with offing one and putting the other in an asylum with no trial or any legal proceeding of any kind (that I recall).

    Great review, and spot-on. Stylistically, it’s flashy as hell and the women are HOT (Emily Browning oh my god are you kidding me), but I’m sorry, you need a story-line that makes sense on some level, and this makes no sense whatsoever. The teenage-geek-porn angle is the only angle that makes any sense, but Weird Science did it 10 thousand times better.

    I’m totally with you about the random-explicit-violence-toward-women garbage. If a woman is getting brutalized or murdered graphically in a film, it damn well better be a critical plot-point or you’ve lost me entirely. This movie is stylized stupidity.

    • November 8, 2011 5:20 pm

      Thanks, man! Yeah, this one really skimped on a lot of important details and that would have helped the story like gangbusters. And how much you wanna bet Snyder sees to it that Lois Lane gets her clock cleaned at least once in Man of Steel?

    • February 11, 2012 11:06 am

      I don’t see how learning how mom ended up with “Satan” would be relevant to the story at all. And you were probably just ranting, but he didn’t want to kill them. He had other things in mind because he’s a sick little freak, and unfortunately there are people like that in the real world. And he seemed like one of those big boss men whose word is law and people just automatically accept what he says, no questions asked. That, and he gives bribes when needed. He’s the crooked politician or whatever you want to characterize him as.

      Now, I haven’t seen the movie since theaters, but I think she accidentally killed her sister in trying to save her from the fate that “Babydoll” actually had a chance in defending herself from. Her world had just been turned upside down with the death of her mom, and then did a 360 with her little sister now gone, so she is completely out of it at this point. And the whole thing is from her messed up view as she’s trying to cope. Why it turns into a video game for her battle fantasies, I have no clue.

      I liked the movie. I know pretty much no one else did, and that’s fine. Maybe I got it, or maybe I just saw what I wanted to see. I expect a lot from movies, and am not easily pleased, so something was at work here for me.

  9. Michael permalink
    February 12, 2012 9:18 pm

    The title refers to what you and all who missed the point of this move has just been.

    Read this Review

  10. February 15, 2012 3:26 pm

    i refuse to watch any movie if the trailer shows a female hero falling from a great height and landing in that copycat pose with a hand on the ground, one leg out to the side, another leg bent, and the other arm in the air. how many times do we have to see that?

    • February 15, 2012 4:14 pm

      Such is the gift and the curse of The Matrix…

      • February 15, 2012 9:58 pm

        that’s where it was done first? didn’t know that. thanks.

  11. February 24, 2012 5:12 pm

    Nobody just talks in the movies anymore…
    Which is too fucking bad for me, since it’s exactly the kind of thing that I like.
    Emily Browning has strayed more and more since A Series Of Unfortunate Events.
    Remember that film?


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