Saturday, July 2, 2011

Sucker Punch

Is it possible for a movie to be both good and bad at the same time? To be interesting and yet insipid? To be entertaining and yet boring? To be visually enthralling and yet profoundly mundane? To be exceedingly clever and yet so shallow it bordered on the insulting? Sucker Punch was all of those things, so I'm not sure if I'm recommending it or not, but I know I'm probably going to be so hard on it for what doesn't work, because it came so close to brilliance during the times that it did work. Anyway, Sucker Punch is a movie where lots of stuff happens, and the best I can probably say for it is that it is all very neat and interesting, but maybe not actually very good.

Sucker Punch is a film about a girl who... I dunno. On the surface it seems to be about a girl who is sent to an insane asylum, and who works through her emotional turmoil by retreating to an elaborate fantasy world she created within her imagination in order to retreat from the real world while attempting to make sense of what is happening around her. Or not. As I said, I really don't know what this movie was about, just that there was a girl who seems to be imagining lots of stuff to the point where you no longer know what is real or what isn't, but not necessarily in an interesting way like in 81/2 or Jacob's Ladder, but in the sloppy way of a filmmaker who doesn't necessarily understand his own story any more than we do. Or not. Maybe Zack Snyder really is the avant guarde genius he presented himself as by writing and directing this somewhat indescribable film.

Zack Snyder is certainly one of the most visually inventive filmmakers in modern cinema, creating truly breathtaking films that don't look like anything else you've ever seen... unless you've seen every other Zack Snyder film, that is. By this point we're starting to reach a been-there-done-that kind of moment with his films. The long tracking shot where the camera zooms around and speeds up as characters kill loads of enemies was amazing when we first saw it in 300, but then he did it again in Watchmen, and kept doing it again here, to the point where I was ready to see something new. However, he's still a talented guy, and there is just as much to marvel at that is new and original than there is that is old and recycled. At the end of the day, Snyder makes gorgeous films, and this is just about the most gorgeous thing he is ever done, and not just for the settings, camera tricks, and special effects, but for the cast containing some of the most breathtakingly beautiful women I have ever seen. If you have a sweet tooth for lots of eye candy, this movie will give your cataracts cavities.

There is one bravura set-piece that placed the main character Babydoll in a nightmarish version of the first World War where American soldiers fought in trenches against legions of zombie German Huns while zeppelins battled against solders wearing mecha exo-skeletons. This scene was one of the most phenomenal things I've ever seen in any movie, but it's just too bad it was only ten or fifteen minutes out of a two hour movie, and served no real point other than to somehow parallel the real world story that was boring, featuring a bunch of characters I didn't care about. It's a sad thing when the film winthin the film is more interesting and engaging than the film itself, since I wanted to stay in the fantasy instead of going back to the world of the asylum or strip club or wherever these ladies were supposed to be trying escape from. Oh, and just as an aside, but I've read lots of reviews where the enemies in this scene as "Nazis." These weren't Nazis, people, since it was World War I. They were just German.

So this movie had beautiful women, huge explosions, WWI era combat, dragons, samurai warriors, zombies, and strippers, all of which independently are some of my favorite things ever, so added up together they should have been mind blowing. But what this film did not have, unfortunately, was an engaging story, likable protagonists, and interesting villain, a setting and theme that was the least bit relateable, or, really, even any charm at all. But check it out because it's neat looking.

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