Monday, 16 April 2012

A gentle rant about Sucker Punch (Zack Snyder, 2011)...

The idiotic Dawn of the Dead remake in 2004 was a case of style over substance, and trading on the good work of others. 300 was the most homoerotic movie that homophobes ever called their own, and Watchmen (which I actually quite like, particularly in the Director's Cut form) was decidedly a case of trading on the good work of others – they were sticking so closely to the source material most of the time that it would have been extremely hard to ever make a hash of it. What all these previous Snyder movies have in common, however, is that none of them were written by Snyder himself – what does he have to say beyond music video visuals and over-abundant slow motion? Well, Sucker Punch is the answer to that question, with a story by Snyder himself and a screenplay he has co-written with Steve Shibuya.

Continue reading after the jump to see what the answer is...

The answer though, is that not an awful lot has changed. Almost the entire movie plays out like a music video – if the movie had no slow motion in it at all, it would surely be half the length, there is simply that much slow motion … enough to positively make 300 look like it was all at normal speed. There's some bollocks about guardian angels in an opening (and indeed closing) narration that's all rather over-cooked, seemingly pretending to be intelligent when instead it's nonsense, but beyond that there isn't much of a script.

The central plot is bare bones as it is – Emily Browning's 'Baby Doll' (everyone has a nickname, which is better than no name, like some characters in Dawn 2004) finds herself committed to the Lennox House of the Mentally Insane, in a retro-present that's all mouth and no trousers, by her perverted and greed-driven step-father. Locked up with a bunch of scantily-clad, barely-legal chicks (Sweet Pea, Rocket, Amber, and Blondie), they have to break out of the asylum – in a manner that's all-too-reminiscent of a videogame. In order to achieve her goals (acquiring a list of items in order to make her escape), she dances for a seedy gang of men who run the cabaret-cum-brothel in which they're all trapped (Baby Doll has escaped into a conveniently cinematic fantasy world to deal with her real-life problems). Each of these dances transports us to one videogame-like level after another.

Initially we end up somewhere vaguely Asian, which means Baby Doll is wearing a school girl's outfit (fans of upskirt shots will be well served from now on) and fighting mutant Shogun warriors who happen to carry rocket launchers and miniguns … a fight ensues (Boss Battle #1, if you will) and then it's onwards to collect the other items, which takes entirely far too long, in entirely over-complicated action sequences that entirely substitute anything emotional, dramatic, or generally important.

Along the way though we are treated to visual extravaganzas that, while beautifully designed to appeal to the teenage boy inside us all, never holds much in way of meaning. Battling through Steam Punk versions of World War One trenches while slaying undead German soldiers might be fun (and ever-so reminiscent of the Playstation videogame Kill Zone), with Mech Warriors blasting Bi-Planes and helium blimps, but it all feels rather hollow all-too-soon. Returning twice more to this war-like setting (World War Two and Vietnam both get touched on stylistically, with the inclusion of a ruddy dragon to boot) with plodding stops back at the sex slave cabaret, it really doesn't need to take anywhere near as long as it does. I was half-way through the quest with these gun-toting, leather-clad-and-fishnet-wearing girls, and I was checking the info tab to see how long was left (several times).

Indulgent sums it up quite nicely, as does confused, visually-focused, simplistic, and exhibiting the most curious sexual politics. It's naturally considered wrong what the lascivious domineering males are doing (put bluntly, in the real world they're raping the inmates of the asylum), but these girls are forever in a state of semi-undress that only invites the viewer to lust after them … like I said, curious, and just a little bit creepy.

There is an extended cut out there, but considering that this theatrical version was entirely too long already, I can't imagine what a chore it would be to watch even more of this hyper-stylised gibberish. It's a gorgeous looking flick (Larry 'Super 8' Fong performs cinematography duties), with endlessly impressive examples of design throughout, but in support of a script that feels like it was written by an immature 13 year-old boy weened on nothing but Xbox Live and looped viewings of 300, it all adds up to the best depiction of style-over-substance there has ever been … and that's not something to be proud of.

It's not the total, complete, and utter disaster that I was expecting from the onslaught of duff reviews it garnered upon its release, but on the other hand it's all mouth and no trousers … the lights are on and performing an endless song and dance, but nobody's home. Scott Pilgrim vs The World was like a videogame-turned-into-a-movie (sourced from a graphic novel), but it had plentiful wit and intelligence to back-up the deftly-balanced visuals … Sucker Punch though, well, in summary, when Snyder isn't trading on the work of others to support his overly-aggressive visual style (to extremely varying degrees of success), all you've got left is two hours of slow motion and ever-so blunt choices of music … Where Is My Mind, indeed.

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