Sucker Punch (2011)
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.