Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Sucker Punch

"Girls Acting Badly (Acting Badly)"
"Showgirls—The Sequel"

Look.  I'm a healthy, red-blooded American male and I can certainly appreciate gorgeous, pouty young women in provocatively scanty attire.  But Zack Snyder's semi-new Sucker Punch just made me angry.  And not just because the thing is so derivative as to be wholly unoriginal—that's usually not a deal-breaker with me, as my enthusiasm for Star Wars or Rango will attest.

But don't tell me you're making a movie about 
empowering women while objectifying them to the Nth degree in the manner of a "women-in-prison" film.  A women-in-prison film with a red-curtain veneer of strip-club in it.  Don't make an action film where giant things toss the femininjas through walls and across rooms without their make-up getting messed up (violence without consequences), and don't make the message of your film "Fight" and contrarily show 4/5 of those fighters being taken down (through their own actions) and the only one surviving being the one who isn't sure of the struggle. 

The messages are so mixed as to be incoherent.

But one shouldn't expect nutrition from eye-candy.

It's all about the illusion in this one, the presentation, and the surface.  It's "Alice in Green-Screen-Bump-and-Grinder-land: the Video-Game." All paste-up and no depth, just a good job of dry-wall, in the de-saturated style of Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow.  Looks great.  But rotten to the core.

And it is too bad.  We need more women-heroes.  We need more women-hero movies.  We just need someone with more enlightenment to create them so that they don't simultaneously make them strong and tear down the message by tarting them up (like William Moulton Marston, the shrink who created "Wonder Woman" and liked to put her in bondage situations).  I'm not saying all women-characters should be pedestal-toppers.  Let's just not kick the dignity out from underneath them.

And any writer worth his word processor shouldn't be undercutting his message, anyway.

If you're going to lower the bar so far you have to dig a trench six feet deep to do so, you might as well complete the job, dig the grave and toss the whole enterprise into it.

Young "Baby Doll" (Emily Browning) is having a bad time of it.  Her mother dies, and she and her sister are left in the care of her evil step-father (Gerard Plunkett) with nothing but abuse on his mind.  "Baby Doll" (that's her only name) tries to shoot him when he attempts to rape her sister, but ends up killing her with the bullet, instead.  As if this scenario weren't dire enough, Snyder films it all over-cranked to give it a lethargic, dreamy "bad portent" feel.  It's the type of overkill you can expect throughout the entire movie.  No lock goes bolted or unbolted except in clanking close-up.  Nothing is relevant unless it's in your face (AND it's in IMAX).

ES-F has "Baby Doll" committed to the Lennox House for the Mentally Insane, where he bribes an orderly (Oscar Isaac, no scenery goes unchewed) to lobotomize "Baby Doll" to shut her up so he can inherit his wife's fortune uncontested and in the five days before the doctor (Jon Hamm, who's actually subtle in this movie) arrives for the procedure, the girl fantasizes a scenario in which she's not in an asylum, but a strip-club/bordello and she recruits four other girls—"Blondie" (Vanessa Hudgens), "Amber" (Jamie Chung) and the sisters, "Rocket" (Jena Malone) and "Sweet Pea" (Abbie Cornish)* to plan an escape, an escape concocted in a "delusion within a delusion" (Hello, Inception!) when she rehearses her dance number for the john (whose the lobotomist in the slow-mo reality) to whom her virginity will be sold in five days.  This dance number is apparently so erotic that it paralyzes all, male and female, who watch it, so that the other girls can acquire those articles needed to escape.

We don't see the dance.  We see the resulting fantasies "Baby Doll" imagines in order TO dance, and these make up the action scenarios in the film: the first, a snowy martial arts fight with three giant statues; the second, a WWI fight in the trenches with steam-punk Nazis; the third, a Peter Jackson-ish Middle-Earth with dragons and Orcs; the fourth, a SCI-FI battle on a bullet-train that's part super-hero and part Matrixit becomes readily apparent that most of the thought and work of this film went into these second-level fantasy sequences, all played out over Moulin Rouge!-styled song mash-ups.

It is also apparent that the entire movie is a pre-lobotomized fantasy (only I think they got the timing wrong!).

So many good ideas are borrowed from other movies.  But, just because the ingredients are good doesn't mean the dish they create doesn't taste like dog-food.  I used to be a fan of Zack SnyderI thought 300 was dumb, but had flashes of clever presentationI genuinely admired his adaptation of Alan Moore's Watchmen, and still do.  But now with the 1-2 sucker-punch of Legend of the Guardians: the Owls of Ga'hoole and ...Sucker Punch, I'm going to have to do a gut-check before dropping all pretense that I can be objective before going to see another of his films. 

Which will be the new "Superman" film.  I don't even think The Blue Boy Scout can pull a rescue of that one.  We shall see... 

Sucker Punch is a Waste of Time.

The Cast of Sucker Punch...fooling themselves.

* Throughout, I kept imagining the nasty Twitter message Jane Campion would be sending her Bright Star lead after seeing this movie. 


Simon said...

Oh, Abbie...

Yojimbo_5 said...

"Oh," indeed....(emphasis on the disapproval)

Check out my review (in verse) of Bright Star, Si'. Click the title. I was proud of it.

Your SP review (or comment) was better than mine...

Walaka said...

Funny, Coco and I have been talking about this movie since we saw it Saturday, and while I leaned more toward your response, she saw it as an empowering feminist film. This from a woman who was made physically ill by Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle because of its sexist attitude. I won't try to parse her argument, but it was persuasive, at least to me.

Oh, and one thing everyone keeps getting wrong - there were no zombie Nazis - they were zombie Germans of the WWI era, agents of the Kaiser (Scott Glenn uses a phrase just like that). Totally different.

Yojimbo_5 said...

I'd like to hear that argument because I saw nothing empowering about that movie—any empowerment was a fantasy, and the only escapee did so from the others' sacrifice and charity. But, I'd like to hear the argument.

If I gave a shit about this movie, the Nazi mistake would bother me. Someone else on another site was all bent out of shape because they weren't supposed to be "steam-punk" but "diesel punk." That wasn't diesel I saw coming out of their wounds, but it points out to me of not just not seeing the forest for the trees, but arguing over what variety of tree is burning in the forest fire.