Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Sucker Punch - A hasty review

Venturing away from adaptations (Dawn of the Dead remake, 300, Watchmen), Zack Snyder tries his hand at auteurship with his new action film Sucker Punch, which he has written, produced and directed.

A medley of slight sexploitation, stylized action scenes which cover every possible fan-boy genre and a nod at musicals, the film introduces Babydoll (Emily Browning) as an abused post-teen who has been institutionalized to an in(s)ane asylum by her stepfather, after she accidently killed her younger sister while fighting off his rape attempt.

Trying to escape an upcoming lobotomy she plunges into a fantasy world, where the asylum becomes a brothel, where she meets four other female character sketches with whom she is trying to escape by plunging again into another layer of imagination-dream-fantasy (???) where they fight: giant robot-demon-samurais, steam-punk-zombie-nazis, orcs, dragons and finally a horde of I, Robot (the film) inspired automatons.
It makes exactly as much sound as it sounds.

The concept of diving into one's mind to adjust reality is tackled in a similar way it was in The Matrix and Inception, but fails at a very simple level; those films made the rules of the game clear to the audience (how one enters this reality, how it effects the outside and most important what the consequences are (you die in The Matrix you die in the Real World, you die in Inception you go to Limbo; you die in Sucker Punch you get stabbed by a fat cook?)). Here the existence of such rules is not even hinted at.

After having hastily given an exposition, the film quickly manages to confuse the audience by turning the asylum which we have seen for two minutes into a brothel in the protagonist's mind, a frame within a frame which is never explained and serves no other distinguishable purpose than to pile plot-hole upon plot-hole.
Character development is skipped in the beginning, and although a botched attempt at is made during the course of the film, it is too little, far too late. Little empathy is to be had for any of the thinly drawn characters.

The film bares Snyder's trademark highly aesthetic visuals and fast-action (not forgetting to throw in the odd slo-mo) and is definitely a enchanting piece for the eye (teenage boys especially will find delight in the five scantly-dressed female warriors), yet after a short while even these stop being impressive, and the whole thing quickly falls apart, with audience giving up final attempts at discerning any logic threads.

The film is high in visuals and adrenalin inducing action scenes (though quite unremarkable ones), but on the story and character side it's on the shallow end.
Lacking a source material which would have taken care of plot, story and character development, Snyder finds himself having trouble creating them himself, so he sticks to what he knows best, which in this instance does barely suffice.

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