Friday, 1 April 2011

Sucker Punch: Game Over

So it looks like my inner child had to grow up sometime.

I made no secret of the juvenile glee that the promotional material for this film elicited in me, and I must admit that I even allowed myself the hope that the superficial pleasures of the posters, trailers and standees could just be the icing on a satisfying movie-cake.

Of course, this was wrong. The film has no more depth, emotion or entertainment factor than the dazzlement and titillation offered in the two-minute trailer.

The movie tells the story of Emily Browning's "Babydoll", a girl confined to an insane asylum by her wicked stepfather after her mother dies and she accidentally shoots her sister. Bummer. She has five days before she is lobotomised, so naturally she sets about escaping by imagining that the asylum is some kind of bordello and she and her fellow inmates are a "Charlie's Angels"/"Deadly Viper Assassination Squad"-type superhero team undertaking all sorts of wacky imaginary missions.

From the outset, the flights of fantasy are jarring and borderline nonsensical, and it becomes more and more clear that the fantasies of only one person are at work here: director Zack Snyder. His film seems to be set in the olden times - maybe the 1950s - and yet Babydoll's fantasies are filled with anachronistic weapons and references that a manga-viewing, video-gaming, comic-book nerd would take for granted, but a twenty-year old 1950s American girl would be hard pushed to come up with.

The soundtrack pursues this theme, laden as it is with hip covers of songs such as "Where is my Mind?", "White Rabbit" and "Tomorrow Never Knows" (some sung by Browning herself) that rob the film of any historical context whilst illustrating that Snyder's understanding of mental illness is gleaned entirely from pop-culture.

And, of course, there are the dubious sexual questions raised by the fantasy fetish gear and general representation of the young ladies in the picture. Snyder makes the leap into Babydoll's fantasy of the asylum as burlesque brothel with no explanation or logical reasoning, leaving us to assume that he believes that's where all female brains would head for in similar circumstances. Babydoll's fantasy missions all take place while she is dancing for the pleasure of some lecherous male, suggesting that - aside from dreams of physical strength or weapon-based action-fighting skill - the only tool she has to fight for freedom is the objectification of her body.

But surely this is supposed to be a piece of entertainment? To over-analyse the connotations and question the plausibility of its events is to spoil the fun of the film, right?

Nope. For a story so inherently ridiculous, there is a dearth of humour on display and a similar po-faced pomposity to that which you might find in a "Twilight" movie. As the story progresses, the movie becomes more and more callous towards its characters, but fails to garner an emotional response as we have had no chance to get to know anything about them other than the fact that they rock various scanty outfits really hard.

And what of the story? Much has been (and will be) said of the videogame-style plot-structure, and it is an obvious but accurate comparison. The girls are issued missions by gnarly Scott Glenn (Bill to their Vipers), playing a figment of Babydoll's imagination, before battling through various environments full of endless swathes of enemies in order to collect a certain item, usually after defeating a boss of some sort. Then it's all back to the bordello for a cut-scene.

The action-sequences are undoubtedly spectacular, featuring a plethora of memorable images (dragons and mechas and robo-samurai, oh my!) and some excellently choreographed and executed fighting from the Fit Five. Without a dramatic context, however, we can only observe passively until the eventual attempts to inject jeopardy and emotion fall flat from too-little-too-late syndrome.

I'm racking my brains for more positive points, but all I can think of is: It looks quite nice. The fights are quite good. The soundtrack is quite good, if a little incongruous. The acting is generally acceptable. Everything else just kind of isn't there.

People will probably try to compare "Sucker Punch" to "Inception", due to the dream-within-a-dream-fantasy-world type stuff, but it's probably more like what would happen if "Scott Pilgrim" lost its sense of humour on a "Shutter Island" full of ladies in their smalls.


  1. Funny you post this. It is a toss between Sucker Punch and Red Riding Hood and chill out the rest of the day. I guess I'll have to settle for great coffee and excellent company rather throw a couple of bucks to something I can get more entertainment from my PS3 and xBox.
    You were squeezing a turnip for good points here. :D

  2. What a disappointment. Unlike you, I didn't like the fight scenes much, because there didn't seem any palpable threat. Take the wonderful looking giant-robot-samurai. What a let down: I never felt it posed any real danger, particularly with it so early on in the film.

    I liked the ending though. As films with lobotomies go, it's right up there with Session 9.

  3. Oh! And the steam-powered clockwork Nazis from WWI! That kind of redeems things, doesn't it?

  4. Wow, good to know. I was really wanting to see this one, but I think I'll either wait for it to come out on DVD or for someone to offer to pay for me. It's a little sad to hear it isn't all there. It had so much potential. Alas, such is life.

  5. You saved me from buying the ticket. Thanks.

  6. everyone I know that has gone to see this ended up walking out...sounds like a mega disappointment!

  7. I was kind of excited to see this, but after your review and so many others, I'll definitely pass. Battle: LA already filled my quota for mindless and hollow entertainment.