Friday, April 1, 2011

It Came From The Cineplex: Sucker Punch

Sucker Punch is the latest movie from Zack Snyder, director of the Dawn of the Dead remake, 300 and Watchmen. How to describe it? It's a main course of Inception and Shutter Island with a side dish of Kill Bill and An Incident At Owl Creek Bridge. Or call it Inception-Lite (tastes great, less filling).

After the death or her mother, Baby Doll (everyone in the movie has cutesy nicknames like that) and her younger sister are left in the care of their vile stepfather. When the stepfather attempts to molest the younger sister, Baby Doll attacks him. Unfortunately in the melee she inadvertently kills her sister. The stepfather then commits Baby Doll to a horrible mental institution in order to get her out of the way so he'll inherit the mother's fortune.

Inside the institution, a slimy orderly assures the stepfather that he’ll see to it that Baby Doll is lobotomized so that she'll never be able to squeal to the authorities about his attrocities. Baby Doll has five days before her lobotomy is scheduled. When the doctor arrives to perform the operation, Baby Doll retreats into a fantasy world, where she lives in some sort of PG-13 rated brothel with several other women, performing Moulin Rouge-like dance numbers (and apparently nothing else) for the high roller clientele.

We never actually see Baby Doll perform, as each time she begins one of her dances, her mind slips into yet another fantasy world. This one is very much like a video game world, where a mysterious mentor/guide outlines the mission parameters for Baby Doll and her team (her fellow Brothel dancers). In the first mission, the guide gives Baby Doll a list of items she'll need to escape the Brothel (and presumably the Asylum in the real world), and she has to single-handedly take on a variety of giant Japanese golems. Next up she and her team are in a bizarre World War I fantasy world, full of cool looking steam-powered zombie German soldiers. The third mission is a World War II setting, except that the Nazis appear to be Orcs. Oh, and there are dragons as well. The final mission is set on a futuristic moon of Saturn, full of hordes of deadly robots and nuclear bombs. When the missions are over, Baby Doll snaps back into the fantasy world of the Brothel.

The girls formulate an escape plan from the Brothel, collecting various items needed to distract the guards and allow them to flee. Several of the girls fall along the way, and the one who ultimately escapes the Brothel (and into the real world) is the one you least expect.

Many have dismissed the movie as being mindless, but there's much more going on than is readily apparent, if you're willing to think about it a bit.

The various levels of reality are very distinct, so there should be no confusion as to which world you're watching. The second level fantasy worlds are all very imaginative and well designed. They play very much like the cut scenes in modern video games, with mission parameters, fights scenes and even a "boss" to defeat at the end of each sequence. Also, Baby Doll becomes a veritable superhero in these worlds, as she jumps, kicks and punches with the power of Superman. The only problem is the movie spends very little time in each one. I'd have liked to have seen more of these various fantasy worlds.

There's one part of the movie that puzzles me a bit. When Baby Doll first arrives in the Mental Institution, the harsh reality of her situation cause her to escape into a fantasy world in her mind. So she conjures up a 1940s Brothel, which doesn’t seem all that much better than the Institution. If you’re going to retreat from reality, why would you think up a world that's only marginally better? Why not a pleasant world full of unicorns and rainbows?

I really liked the opening sequence in which we see Baby Doll’s back story. Told wordlessly, there's never any doubt or confusion as to what's happening. It's similar to the opening credits of Watchmen, and Snyder seems to be a master at this type of sequence. I don’t know if you could pull such a style for an entire movie, but it would be an interesting experiment some day.

Critics and most audiences have savagely ripped this movie apart, proclaiming it the worst they've ever seen. A large number even said they walked out halfway through. I really don’t understand all the hate. It’s full of scantily clad attractive women fighting dragons and robots. What’s not to like? I was entertained by it, and isn't that a movie's job? I was entertained by it, and isn't that a movie's job? I give it a B.


  1. After paragraph 10 I get deja vu

  2. A complete Masterpiece to me, best movie of the year (at the moment). Snyder is the new genious of the entertainment, all his movies are pure gold.

  3. KW: Whoah! Not sure what happened there, but it's fixed.

  4. I personally loved it for what it was. I mean really - steam-powered zombie nazis! How could someone who decides to spend money on this movie (assuming your movie-choosing involves something more than closing your eyes and pointing at the movie listings) not love this film? Chicks & guns & corsets, oh my! (in the interest of full disclosure - I am a chick)

  5. chandra: I agree! It seemed like a nerd's paradise to me. Hot chicks + steampunk + orcs + dragons... there was something in it for every branch of geekdom.

    As for the people who say it's the worst movie they've ever seen, I wonder what they were expecting it to be? It was pretty much exactly what I thought it would be from seeing the trailer.

  6. I think those people should be forced to watch 'Manos; Hands of Fate' and then get back to me on their new standard of "Worst Movie Ever".

  7. Chandra: Ha! Whenever someone says to me that some recent movie was the "worst ever made," I just smile and pat them on the head. I've seen movies that would make their head explode.


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