Monday, March 28, 2011

Sucker Punch - 1/2*

There is a scene late in Sucker Punch in which a guy running a fancy whorehouse/dance studio/prison describes what it's like to save virgins for the "High Roller"..."It's like I'm in the corner of the sandbox watching everyone else play with my toys." Watching Sucker Punch, a live-action manga nightmare, one can't help but think of writer/director Zack Snyder seeing his actresses in much the same way, as dolls to accessorize and play dress-up with, outfitting them with crazy weapons, and contorting them into sexy poses. I wouldn't really have a problem with that if there were a payoff, but Snyder keeps all of the fun for himself while boring the rest of us with a poorly-conceived story of a fight for freedom inside of a girl's head... inside of a girl's head.

The plot of Sucker Punch is almost impossible to follow. It's about an orphaned girl, Baby Doll, who is sent to an asylum by a sexually abusive step-father trying to silence her. He slips one of the orderlies two-thousand dollars to have her lobotomized by a doctor who is coming in five days. We're briefly told that the asylum's doctor uses a theatrical therapy, where the patients act out what happened to them on a stage, and we see Baby Doll's five days as a flashback to a high-class flophouse, presumably playing out as her role-play treatment, but is never really clear. It's a confusing turn, and I'm not sure what purpose it really serves other than to get the attractive female inmates into fish-nets and lingerie.

Baby Doll hatches an escape plan with the help of an Oracle in her mind who tells her to obtain five items and gives her a sword and pistols to get the job done, which she tests on the Gatling-gun/rocket-launcher-wielding giant samurai warriors guarding the exit. The heist of each item, while rather mundane in the whorehouse role-play world, get its own unique hyper-stylized action sequence which takes place in Baby Doll's head while she does a hypnotic dance that we never see, which distracts her captors while one of the girls gets the item. So xeroxing a map becomes battling steam-powered WWII German zombies; pick-pocketing the mayor's lighter turns into stealing the crystals from a dragon's throat; lifting the chef's knife translates to fighting robots on a bomb-train. What her life was like before being committed that would make her imagine these enemies is unclear, and is certainly the source material for a much more interesting film.

These scenes are going on inside of her imagination, but they play out much more like half-remembered dreams you'll die before making sense of. Actions within these sequences also don't seem to signify anything going on in either the role-play world or the real-world, which gets confusing, especially when we start to see things from other character's perspectives within Baby Doll's imagination. It would have been nice to see a capable heroine in an action film, but what we see is the disingenuous depiction of a girl who escapes objectification into a role-play world of objectification as a prostitute, from which she uses her imagination to escape into the Zack Snyder world of nonsensical hyper-fetishistic objectification.

It wasn't until very late in the film that I made a clear connection between a character's emotion and something that was happening on screen, and it honestly wasn't half-bad. If only any of the other one-hundred and four minutes could have done something similar. And to those of you who think it would be cool to watch hot girls fight robots for two hours, let me remind you that it's PG-13... And trust me, there isn't enough cleavage in the world to make Sucker Punch appealing.

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