Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Sucker Punch

Like a lot of people I was really looking forward to Sucker Punch. The trailer gave us a glimpse of something that could be as visually stunning as we have come to expect from Zack Snyder but with a really interesting story to it. Well, this was half right.

Baby-doll (Emily Browning) is committed to an insane asylum by her stepfather, right after her mother dies and she accidentally shoots her sister! She is scheduled for a lobotomy in four days. She then descends into her own subconscious and imagines that she is in some sort of 50s style dance parlour (no explanation). This is where she meets fellow dancers/patients Sweet Pea, Amber, Rocket and Blondie. They decide they are going to escape and to do this they require a map, fire, a knife, and a key. Baby-doll distracts whoever is holding the desired item by dancing. As soon as she starts dancing, she and her companions are transported to another imaginary world which includes guns, robots, dragons, steam-powered soldiers and loud music! In each fantasy there is a wise old man to tell them what to do (Scott Glenn), who is a bit like a games-master Columbo: “Oh, and one more thing: don’t wake the mother!” The girls complete the task and return with the item (sounds like the Crystal Maze on LSD!).

It all sounds fairly nuts, and it is. I should start by saying that it looks glorious, with Snyder’s style being very obvious; particularly in the train fight where the girls are fighting with lots of shiny robots reminiscent of I Robot. The scene is stunning with lots of the slow and zoom camera style that Snyder uses so well. It almost looks like a single shot for a lot of it, but I’m sure that’s not the case. There are many scenes where live action, CG, and miniatures all blend flawlessly to give each fantasy enormous scale. Also worth a mention is the set piece where Baby doll fights three enormous mechanical Samurai; the scope and style are stunning.

A lot of the other set pieces are also stunning, but that’s where it all stops. For a start, the fantasy scenes are just set pieces joined together with some filler. A lot of it is just a jumble of ideas, with no real coherence. For all the ideas in the film (crazy, amazing, confusing and weird), they seemed to run out when entering Baby-doll's fantasy worlds, because every transition was the same: starts dancing, camera pans around her head and suddenly we’re somewhere else.

One of the main problems is the lack of character development. We have a vague bit of background of Baby-doll, but nothing of any of the other girls. Consequently, when they are in danger (though you never really feel that they are) we don’t really give a shit about any of them, because we don’t know them. Possibly the only character who develops at all is Blue Jones (Oscar Isaac), the baddie of the film; the warden of the mental institute/pimp of the parlour. This film really proves that you can have a great-looking flick, but if you don’t have decent characters, then you’re dead in the water.

A lot has been said of this film being misogynistic. I’m not sure that’s the case; I think it is just misguided. This is the first thing that Snyder has really written and directed (300 and Watchmen were both graphic novels, Dawn of the Dead was written by George A Romero). So I’m surprised that no-one really said “Whoa Zack! This doesn’t make any sense!” If this is what happens when he tries to write then perhaps he should stick to directing only. Well, he hasn’t written Man of Steel, so let’s see what becomes of that.

After all my negative points I did enjoy the film; like I say it looks amazing, and there is some great action. It’s just that you come away from it feeling a bit disappointed and hollow. Kind of like eating a Pot Noodle! It’s a guilty pleasure and you really fancy one; but at the end of it you don’t feel satisfied at all! For all its style I don’t think I’ll be buying it on DVD.