Saturday, March 26, 2011

Sucker Punch

Zach Snyder has never failed to astonish in his last two movies, 300 and The Watchmen, so I was completely onboard when his new movie, Sucker Punch, was released. The difference is that Sucker Punch is from new material co-written by Zach himself, while the other two were adapted from graphic novels. And, it seems, the difference is that two of these movies had well-written and thought-out stories, while the latter does not.

Sucker Punch is quite difficult to encapsulate. Even the beginning, brilliantly shot without dialogue in gray and blue-slate coloring, is hard to summarize. But picture a young woman, nicknamed Baby Doll, escaping from a difficult situation but being committed to a mental institution by a corrupt system run by thoroughly corrupt men.

It's a world within a world within a world, as Baby Doll conjures up two realities, apparently (it's not terribly clear) to deal with the first. In the second world, she's in a house of prostitution, where Dr. Gorski (Carla Gugino, the anchor to the story) takes care of all the young women and teaches them dance routines which are used to entice well-paying customers.

And when Baby Doll starts to dance, she enters her third world, where she and eventually the other women fight off zombie Nazis in a crazy, violent world, where they're capable of great physical feats and have command of many weapons.

The movie is brilliantly shot, there's no doubt about that. And I definitely felt an emotional jolt, particularly at the end, as I got to know all these young women with the ultra-cool names: Sweet Pea (Abbie Cornish), Rocket (Jena Malone), Blondie (Vanessa Hudgens), and Jamie Chung (Amber). And some of the shots have a certain amazing punctuation point, a definitive way of communicating situation and feeling.

But there's no awestruck factor, the same wow! thing I had at the end of 300 and again with The Watchmen. The Watchmen certainly evoked a kind of "What did I just see?" feeling that Sucker Punch did, but I had the certainty with the former that I was watching brilliant material that went into epic scope. Sucker Punch, maybe because of the purposeless Nazi fighting, did not lead me down that same path.

I have to honestly say, however, that I kept being distracted by the Baby Doll factor, the fact that these young women are dressed to allure, even when they're fighting Nazis. They're young manbait, and even though they exhibit strength and determination, they never stop being such in Snyder's dream. Very disturbing.

I would like to see it again because it's so visually compelling. Perhaps the problem is with the brilliance of Zack's other products: there's no comparison. I actually believe it's because of the holes in the screenplay. Still, it's worth watching.

Thumb's up for a disappointing third movie from a brilliant director.


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