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Sucker Punch (2011)
A high octane special effects film on acid!
Can anyone remember why Zack Snyder was once considered one of the best up and coming directors of our time? Wasn't he supposed to become the next special effects visionary on par with Stephen Spielberg and James Cameron? However, after seeing how poorly his film "Sucker Punch" was made, I'm starting to wonder if maybe...just maybe..he might actually be another M. Night Shymalan. Where sure he'll direct a few good films here and there but in the end, he's nothing more than a one trick pony. Granted, he's a much better director than Shymalan ever was, and I'll admit to liking many of his films such as "Watchmen" and "Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga' Hoole." Hell, I even found "300" to be halfway decent; in spite of how silly it was to see half naked dudes die in artistic slow motion. However, "Sucker Punch" really underwhelmed me. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying this film is freaking terrible, but it leaves a lot to be desired.
According to Zack Snyder, the film was inspired by the cult "Heavy Metal" cartoons. For those that are unfamiliar with "Heavy Metal" (Not the music, but the cartoon), then I should tell you it's an adult magazine featuring mature science fiction/fantasy based stories; with loads of violence and sexual portrayal of women. Anyways, this movie is sort of a homage to that series, as Zack put it; which would explain why it's a film featuring scantily clothed women kicking a** in a sci-fi/fantasy based universe.
The film essentially follows a young adolescent girl aptly named Baby Doll (Emily Browning), who gets institutionalized after her abusive step father frames her for the murder of her sister. Trapped inside the insane asylum, where she's scheduled to undergo a lobotomy in five days. Faced with unfathomable odds, she escapes into a fantastical world within her imagination where she and four other female inmates at the asylum, plot to escape the facility. The lines between reality and fantasy blur as Baby Doll and her four companions, as well as a mysterious guide, fight to retrieve the five items they need that will allow them to break free from their captors before it's too late. Will they succeed? Or will they all go down in flames? Who's to say, as you'll just have to see the film to find out.
Before I get into exactly why I didn't really care for this film, I want to point out some of the positives first; along with how this story could've worked better as a Japanese anime. Okay, lets start with the positives of this film. I liked how Zack Snyder was able to blur the lines of reality and fantasy so seamlessly that the audience could barely distinguish what was real and what wasn't. In fact, I even loved how the special effects, and the action choreography meshed so well together, as it made it almost impossible to tell where the CGI ends and the real actors begin. Although, the slow motion choreography does become borderline annoying halfway through the film. Honestly, can Zack Snyder direct one action sequence that isn't in artistic slow motion? Seriously? However, all gripes about Snyder's patented lust over shooting every action scene in artistic slow motion aside, the film pretty much delivers on visuals quite well. In fact, I don't think I've seen too many films that feature better CGI than "Sucker Punch" has. However, that's pretty much where all the positives end.
To be honest, I think had this film been shot as a Japanese anime, then it might've worked a lot better as a story. Unlike live action films, the audience for a Japanese anime isn't too caught with concepts of reality, as it's more about telling a great story with amazing visuals. Again, this is where having "Sucker Punch" being a anime movie would've worked a helluva a lot better. Not only would it allow for a deeper exploration into the characters' psyches using broad expressions to convey the emotions of the characters, but it would've also made it easier to blur the lines of reality and fantasy much more believably than this sad incarnation.
Granted, I know I said earlier that it does a great job blurring those lines, but what purpose does it serve? Does it give us a deeper insight to who Baby Doll truly is psychologically? Do the events that transpire in her fantasy world parallel the events that happen in the real world? Or is she just completely insane, as she imagined it the whole time? Sure, the film does a great job making the audience wonder if the events that transpired actually happened or not, but what purpose did it serve? How is Baby Doll imagining herself fighting a fire breathing dragon parallel to how her friend seduces an old fart out of his lighter have any meaning? Or any sort of significance? Is this to show how truly out of touch with reality that Baby Doll is that her only means of escape is through this imaginary world full of possibilities? And, how the hell was Baby Doll's fantasy world even necessary in telling an effective story? I could delve into my theories on this, but I don't really want to give away the ending for those that want to see this film. However, I will say this. I wouldn't pay to see this in a movie theater. Seriously, even if you're into the whole hot girl kicking a** concept, then you'd be wasting your money on this film. No, if I were you, I'd wait for the DVD, or until it comes out on basic cable, as this film isn't worth the price of a theater ticket.
By the way, speaking of other reasons why I think "Sucker Punch" would've worked better as an anime movie. Unlike live action films, in a Japanese anime, you don't necessarily have to explain everything, as that's part of it's allure. Just take a film like "Spirited Away", for instance. In "Spirited Away", it's never fully explained as to how long the protagonist and her family were inside the spiritual world. Nor was it ever explained why the scrupulous hell would the spirit world need a bathhouse, or why every inhabitant of the spirit world would need a job in the afterlife. However, since part of the allure of anime is the mystery behind some of it's symbolism, the viewer naturally just accepts this with very little explanation necessary.
Whereas in a live action film, the same mysterious allure behind the story doesn't exactly work. Like I said before, you can get away with it in a anime film. But in a live action film, it just comes off as a cheap way to tell a effective story. However, for what it's worth, I do think it paints a faithful live action homage to the cult "Heavy Metal" series.
Overall, I'm not saying "Sucker Punch" is a bad film, but I do think it leaves a lot to be desired. In the end, I would have to give this film a two out of four. I'm sure some audiences might find this amusing, as it truly is a visual treat for anyone to see. However, I wouldn't expect much out of it if I were you....