Review: SUCKER PUNCH (2011) | Casey's Movie Mania | Movie Reviews, Features & Others

Sunday, 27 March 2011

Review: SUCKER PUNCH (2011)

RATING: 1.5/5

All style and no substance. That is pretty much described for Zack Snyder's highly-anticipated action fantasy, SUCKER PUNCH. Of course, you have to give him credit for making his first visionary picture from scratch (which is not particularly adapted from comic book or graphic novel) but SUCKER PUNCH is all skin deep -- a bloated mess of genre mash-up that is surprisingly hollow and empty-headed cinematic experience.

Still the movie opens promisingly enough with a wordless prologue scored to "Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This)" sung by Emily Browning where we first learn how depressing 20-year-old Babydoll (Browning) learns that her beloved mother (Kelora Clingwell) has died, while she and her younger sister (Frederique De Raucourt) have to live in constant fear with their evil stepfather (Gerard Plunkett). During one stormy night, her stepfather attempts to rape her younger sister while she is being locked inside her bedroom. But Babydoll manages to find her way out of her bedroom and attempts to rescue her younger sister. Unfortunately she accidentally kills her with a gun meant to shoot at her stepfather.

After the unfortunate incident, she is committed to Lennox House, a mental asylum where she is scheduled for lobotomy in five days' time. There, she befriends fellow inmates -- Blondie (Vanessa Hudgens), Amber (Jamie Chung), and headstrong sisters Sweet Pea (Abbie Cornish) and Rocket (Jena Malone). At the same time, she also learns that the asylum is actually a cover-up for a high-end brothel where they are forced to dance for their perverted male clients by their despicable warden Blue (Oscar Isaac).

And this is where Babydoll starts to free her mind and plunges into her own imagination as she begins to dance. Her vivid imagination immediately transports into a snow-covered temple, in which she meets a mysterious Wise Man (Scott Glenn) that her path to freedom lies in the collection of five objects—a map, fire, a knife, a key, and an unknown item she needs to figure out on her own. Upon leaving the temple, she have to face her first obstacle -- in the movie's most exciting action set-piece where she battles against three gigantic robot samurai.

But once she overcomes her obstacle, the movie goes downhill and everything starts to spin a series of repetitive circles. She explains her friends that they need these particularly five objects in order to set themselves free. So all they have to do is cooperate each other and manipulate whoever important person to get these objects at all cost with Babydoll dancing away into a different world filled with various gonzo missions. For instance, to get the map, Babydoll and the rest of her four friends will transport into some fantasy lands, fully equipped with weapons and dressed in fetish gears. Each time they are on a mission, they will have their Wise Man in various incarnations giving them some spiritual guidance. Of course they eventually possess their needed object and proceed to the next level. Rinse and repeat. See the pattern here?

It is this particular pattern where the line between reality and fantasy via a series of dream sequences is not fully realized here. Apart from catering such fanboy staples including role-playing avatars (e.g. Babydoll in Japanese schoolgirl uniform), anime, video-game, and Frank Miller-like stylistic excess, screenwriters Snyder and Steve Shibuya fail to develop their elaborate setup with coherent narrative structure. Basically the movie is all overloaded with iconic images one after another, but every story elements here doesn't really gel together. Suffice to say, it's all about pouring various ideas into the mix but pretty bad in laying execution. Such colossal mistake has subsequently made the movie all the more muddled experience to sit through. It's like watching a collage of meticulously-crafted visual pastiche without any satisfying meaning lies within. It doesn't help either when the dialogues are exceptionally stilted, and any sense of dramatic weight or emotional connection are strictly out of the question here. It becomes very obvious that Snyder isn't skilled enough to tell his own story here.

The characters, in the meantime, are strict caricatures. Apart from looking physically fit in an action-oriented mode, Emily Browning's (a role originated for Amanda Seyfried) performance is largely wooden with her wide-eyed vacant stare resembled of a Barbie plastic doll. The rest are equally forgettable as well, and it's such a waste to see the better-talented actresses by the likes of Abbie Cornish and Jena Malone are neglected into some ciphers. They may look good when they are engaged in a series of battle sequences but little else about giving standout performances. The less said the better for the supporting casts -- Carla Gugino who played Dr. Vera Gorski, Oscar Isaac and Scott Glenn -- all reduced into thankless roles.

That leaves the visual styling here which plays a huge part for this kind of genre movie. Kudos goes to Snyder, cinematographer Larry Fong and production designer Rick Carter for creating an amazingly-rendered, CG-filled environmental landscapes that is full of awe-inspiring moments. All the eye-popping backdrops where Babydoll and her friends battle against Nazi zombies, fire-breathing dragons and mechanized androids are certainly good enough to look at, and you can easily tell how Snyder and his crew really work hard to make this a first-class visual showmanship. Additionally, Tyler Bates and Marius de Vries' classic-rock-cover soundtrack are well-intended here.

Then there's Snyder's fluid cameraworks with all his stylish trademarks intact -- lots of slow-motion and sped-up ramps. He certainly knows how to place his camera to make all the action sequences look visually engaging, though it's sad to know, they are tend to get repetitive in the process. There's no denying that Snyder tends to get carried away with his visual excess. (Case in point: the overloaded slow-motion fight scene inside the speeding train against an army of mechanical androids which feels so redundant it's almost like forever).

For all its worth, SUCKER PUNCH could have been a genre masterpiece-in-the-making but Snyder blows it off big time. It's a huge, missed opportunity that someone should tell Snyder to stick into adaptations instead.


BernardGT said...

Imagine...watching 3 movies in one...
And the movie is more like exploitation of feminism

Not cool, Zack Snyder

peckinkub99 said...

As a matter of cat, I'm agree with you. Snyder is actually a visionary filmmaker but he needs to learn a lot about subtlety especially in scripting his own story...

The Strategist said...

*cough* Ok I'll sort this in a non-chronological manner.

Firstly, swordfight. You shouldn't deflect bullets with the side of your blade, it'll break the katana. Treat your blade with respect and use the sharp side of it Overall, decent skill usage of a sword. Not much stunts on sword, just clean cuts. *Flashback to weapons training*

Second, ending. I have to respect the producer's guts to make a movie such as this. It's surprising that almost everybody died in the end, was expecting everyone to go back safely. This is a 2-edged sword, as people will either take it with hostility (including killing women, too), or 'wow! Something different at last', which came unexpectedly and sadly, opposed to what the hyped-up, confident-looking women on the poster with an equally strong title 'Sucker Punch'. Personally it was somewhere in the middle for me, but then inclined towards 'bad'. I hate woman killers :c

Third, story. It is good, involving various elements from medieval times right to the future. Although very confusing for some people, I can understand the whole lot. It has a unique flair to it backed by a major turn-point.

Fourth, graphics. Nothing much needs to be said here. Epic genius. The slow-mo scenes intend to be in 3D, which is unavailable in Malaysia. The only flaw to this is that there's too many slow-mo during a scene, which makes it a tad dull. Lighting is awesome.

Fifth, character. From the all-innocent, scared looking baby doll to the confident and spunk-filled Rocket, they played pretty well.

Notes: They're in Western lands, how the heck does baby doll's father get his daughter a sailor-fuku? =.= The only logical explanation is that her father has a uniform fetish xD Any other explanation and it's just 'forced' into the story.

FAKK this comment's long!

The Strategist said...

Try this sword skills on for size xD

Anonymous said...

to "The Strategist"

cough,cough...ok lemme clear this up,

1st, seriously? babydoll and the rest of the gang obviously has super powers that makes them, and their weapons invincible, of course you can deflect the bullet using any sides of the blade if you're really watching the whole bit. like you would believe you can deflect bullets using an edge of a REAL sword, c'mon!

2nd, no women were killed, if you REALLY watched the film, the brothel field is just her imagination as well, the only one who's hurt is the orderly, and also the lobotomized patient, babydoll.... it only just shows that the other girls, PLAYED a part in the escape "in the REAL WORLD" but backed out in the end, in her "IMAGINATION" they just died, you just have to figure that by yourself, you really need to watch the film in detail...

Notes: the sailor outfit you're mentioning was not given by anything, again, it is a "PART" of the girl's imagination, therefore, no further explanation is necessary as to where she got those, the outfit is just there so that it will compliment the katana slashing getup. that also goes with all the costumes that they have, ie, sweet pea's medieval and world war uniform amalgamated getup.