Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Weeks Too Late: Sucker Punch

Sucker Punch. Directed by Zack Snyder & Written by Steve Shibuya & Zak Snyder.

Preconceptions: After re-reading my Source Code review, I realized I have been feeling way too much "meh" about the movies I've been watching lately. For weeks I've been reading the polarized opinions regarding Sucker Punch. Well, I say polarizing, but almost everyone has been slagging this flick pretty hard. I figured that no matter what, I'd have a lot to say, either hate-filled ranting or contrarian battling (because if there is one thing I love more than feminism, it's being difficult). Add to that, the fact that I've mostly enjoyed Snyder's previous movies (despite some of them being ill-advised) and I was rather looking forward to Sucker Punch. I gleefully rubbed my hands together and waited to be entertained, one way or another.

General Review: Well, that was a resounding meh. Oh sure, it wasn't very good, but if ever a movie lacked the teeth to be properly controversial, it's Sucker Punch. Here is a flick that died the death of the PG-13 rating . It never had a chance to properly soar or plummet, because it wasn't allowed to get its claws bloody. It isn't the badness that makes it not worth your while, it's the blandness. You may be wondering to yourselves why I'm not railing against a movie that has three (unnecessary) layers, each stripping more dignity away from women than the last. A movie peppered with attempted and off-screen rape and abuse. To understand my feelings on this, I'm now going to share a terrible secret with you: I have a deep abiding fondness for Heavy Metal. I love the magazine, the movies and the concepts. Yes, yes, I know it's exploitative, violent and occasionally even misogynistic, but I guess there is just a part of me that will always be a twelve year old boy. I love chicks with swords, chicks with ray guns and epic fantasy and sci-fi adventures. I love the droolingly lovely art of Simon Bisley and Luis Royo, despite the occasional tastelessness of it.

Sucker Punch had an opportunity to be something of a live action Heavy Metal mag: jaw dropping visuals barely held together by a story and kick ass (but scantily clad) gals killing awesome monsters. And y'know what, exploitative or not that would have been a rad movie that I would have defended tooth and nail. It's weird that putting the chicks in more clothes and scaling back the violence is what made this movie weak, but there you have it. It was milky pale the whole way through, from the villains being evil and sexually abusive almost entirely off camera, to the skimpy but entirely concealing costuming, to the dull, dull, dull fight sequences. Heavy Metal-type fantasy works because it's visceral, it appeals directly to our monkey brains. How can we be expected to be roused to anger, desire or bloodlust with this poor fare? Instead of mucking around in my guts, and taking me out for Amaretto Sours at a strip club, Sucker Punch patted me on the head and fed me a bit of porridge in its underpants (but no sugar, it's too close to bed time).

Alright, I suppose I should tone down the general ranting and give you some of the tedious specifics. We'll st
art with the acting (what there was of it). I can't believe that an entire, multi-million dollar movie could be populated by actors as untalented as these ones seemed to be. Every person in this from Emily Browning right through to Jon Hamm, was wooden, awkward and unconvincing. I'm not sure if they were all having bad acting months, whether they were directed to act stiltedly or whether they were just uncomfortable with all the green screen work, but truly, the entire lot was terrible. There wasn't one actor in this who I'm going to give a pass. Even the Offspring (one of the worst movies I've reviewed) had Pollyanna McIntosh's reasonably good performance. This had no one. Scott Glenn appeared to be doing a rather bad John Carradine impression, Jon Hamm looked like he was reading off of cue cards and Emily Browning seems to have forgotten how to close her lips over her teeth, ala Megan Fox. Yes, my dear, we realize that you're capable of fellatio, even if the movie isn't allowed to mention it.

Now the actors certainly had their work cut out for them given the s
cript. Sucker Punch took place in three layers of reality, like Inception (another great meh of this year), each more pointless than the last. In order to deal with the horrors of her life, our heroine imagines herself...in a whorehouse? At nearly two hours, Sucker Punch is far too long for such a simple, cliche escape story. It even lacked the questionable enjoyment to be found in the classic Red Sonja rape and revenge type of story. The dialogue trails along clumsily, rather reminiscent of porn talk scenes, leading from one fight scene to the next.

Speaking of the fight scenes, I usually like Zack Snyder's stylistic choices (though I'm tired of his slow things down and then suddenly speed things up version of the bullet time effect). They're usually over the top and heavily filtered, but in a way I enjoy. In this, however, I found that nothing was blended very well. Normally, I can suspend my disbelief because everything looks kinda unreal. In Sucker Punch, while everything looked unreal, nothing looked like it matched. The overall look was uninspired. I hear "clockwork zombies" and you've got my attention, but if you then show me guys in coats with Vader masks, you've lost me again (Doctor Who, now that show knew how to deliver a Clockwork Man).
The costuming (as I'm sure you've guessed by now) was just as nondescript. We had pigtailed school girls, pseudo-armor and WWI chic, yawn. And oh the fighting in short, slitted skirts...while Ripley proved to us that a hero can be tough while fighting in her underoos, nobody can keep up even a facade of dignity when we're slow panning over their be-pantied crotch. That was a lot more Streetfighter than it was Alien.

Even picking Sucker Punch apart isn't fun. It wasn't even bad enough to properly raise my hackles. Honestly, what bothers me most is that a whole range of people seem to think that this is somehow worse than a typical lame action movie. It really, really isn't. Baby Doll and Sweet Pea simply aren't a whole lot worse than Selene (Underworld) or Alice (Resident Evil). I'm not exactly certain when our tough action chicks turned into such blandly sexy, cliche, milk sops, but there are a lot of them to go around right now. Yeah, Sucker Punch was bad, I guess, but it wasn't unusually bad or a particular affront to my lady sensibilities. I'll tell you what, though, it sure was an affront to my 12 year old boy sensibilities - it wasn't hot or violent enough by half.

Aside: Since I feel my feminist cred could rightly be put into question by my scandalous admissions, have a look at this to distract you: Strong Female Characters.

No comments:

Post a Comment