Sunday, March 27, 2011

REVIEW: Sucker Punch

Wow. I didn't know that Zack Snyder was actually Benjamin Button.

Well, what else am I to think after seeing the confounding visual confetti that is Sucker Punch? Clearly, the man is aging backwards. How else to explain the observation that has first feature film, the Dawn of the Dead remake, is his most mature work, while each subsequent movie has become increasingly juvenile? Were it not for the fact that his next film is the Superman reboot, I'd say Snyder's good and ready to film Dora the Explorer: The Geographic Epic! 

I imagine if I were to stumble across the creation of the Sucker Punch screenplay, by Snyder and Steve Shibuya, it would be like a text message exchange between two teenagers hopped up on Red Bull and aerosol huffing. Like so:

Zack300: So Steve, I've got this AWESUM idea for a movie!!!

Steve ShiBOO-YA: Yeah? Well it be as cool as that 72-hour X-box marathon we had last weekend??

Zack300: Better! Ya see, it'll have this big battle that's in, like, World War I, only it'll have planes and those big blimps, and things will be blowing up everywhere!!! 

Steve ShiBOO-YA: SWEET!! Hey, I got an idea! Let's write this together! We'll also have the German soldiers be, like, steampunk robots!

Zack300: Oh, I know what would be cool! We could have this big, like, hero robot that the good guys can ride, and then it flies and they shoot stuff down from the air!

Steve ShiBOO-YA: Nice! And then we can have the main guy shoot down the warplanes with a pistol!

Zack300: Yeah! And then in the next scene, they'll fight these dragons n' stuff! We can have one be a baby dragon, and then the mama dragon gets mad and breathes FIRE on em!!!


Zack300: Hey, how bout this: Let's have the heroes be girls with guns n' swords!

Steve ShiBOO-YA: Babes! Can we make em so we see their boobs??

Zack300: Aw, I'd like to but my folks would kill me. Their no fun. We can put em in tight outfits and push-up bras, tho!

Steve ShiBOO-YA: Wow! Your a genius!
Or something like that.

Now don't get me wrong. I don't think there's anything wrong with a movie that's an adolescent fantasy per se. And it's not like the action is your typical blizzard of editing with a paper shredder. Unlike Michael Bay, Snyder knows how to stage an action scene competently and with panache. Visually, Sucker Punch looks fabulous. All of Snyder's movies do.  Sure, the slo-mo has gotten a bit old, but he doesn't OD on it here. But the visual design is imaginative. I'm not sure why one of the sets has movie posters from golden-age Warner Bros. musicals like My Dream is Yours and Gold Diggers of 1933, but it's a nice touch for movie buffs.

While Sucker Punch is consistently ridiculous, I was rarely bored watching it. Snyder paces it well, and I found it more entertaining than the leaden, self-important Watchmen.  Emily Browning, Abbie Cornish and especially Jena Malone give committed performances, as if the whole thing actually meant something.

The problems are failures of tone and nerve. The divisions between fantasy and reality are never clearly explained. The action scenes, snazzy as they are, feel so unreal that I never believed the characters were actually in jeopardy. Only once does Snyder cross-cut between the action scenes and the "real world," such as it is, so when he does, it throws the movie off-center.

To make matters worse, Snyder tries to throw in a third-act twist that makes zero sense. And as if that weren't bad enough, he seems to want to take the whole thing seriously, after treating the previous two-thirds like they were so much visual Pop Rocks. No sale.

Snyder recently said that his Superman reboot would be his most "real" movie since Dawn of the Dead. God, I sure as hell hope so. As it stands, his movies remind me of another DC Comics hero, via the 60s Batman series, which would have the SOCK! POW! and ZAP! titles. Sucker Punch, however, is more of an OOF!


1 comment:

Allison M. Dickson said...

I love how a movie that seems like it's supposed to be about female empowerment has females trouncing around in bustiers and firing guns in the style of typical fan boy porn.