Monday, March 28, 2011

Punch Stunk

On Thursday, I wrote this about director Zach Snyder and his new movie Sucker Punch:
This means he now has the power to do what he wants. It also means he's about due for an epic failure that everyone knew was coming but no one had the guts to stop him. Hopefully, that will be his next movie and my weekend won't be ruined when I see Sucker Punch.
I hate being right. I also hate seeing my hopes dashed. Zach Snyder has now delivered an epic failure my weekend was ruined.

I was expecting to enjoy Sucker Punch. Even when I saw it's Tomatometer rating was in the low 30s (it's since dropped into the low 20s), I was optimistic. I don't look at reviews after I decide to review a movie myself so I didn't know why the rating was so low but I guessed that it had a stupid, nonsensical story for which Snyder's amazing visuals failed to compensate. After seeing it, I was so disappointed with it that I wanted to see if the world shared my misery and, while they hated it too, it was for entirely different reasons. Looking through the snippets of reviews on Rotten Tomatoes, the general consensus was that it was dumb, boring, misogynistic, and confusing. All these sentiments are skillfully expounded upon by Richard Roeper and, oddly, I completely disagree with them. I didn't think the story was dumb. After a bit of confusion in the beginning, I followed it fairly easily. I found it sorely lacking in misogyny. In addition to all that, I thought the visuals were simply amazing. Zach Snyder has this way of putting a camera behind his eyes and transferring his imagination directly to film and he has accomplished this once again. You know, this all sounds like a good review and, up to a certain point, it is. Then it happened. The event that pissed me off and soured me on the movie.

The story takes place on three levels, the Real World, the Dream and the Dream Within A Dream. The one doing the dreaming is Babydoll (Emily Browning). This, like almost every other name in the movie, almost certainly isn't real but rather a name she has assigned to real people about who she is now dreaming. In reality, Babydoll's mother dies and, upon finding out that she left her fortune to Babydoll and her sister, Babydoll's wicked pig of a stepfather flies into a drunken rage. First, he tries to rape Babydoll then he goes after the 10 year old sister. Babydoll escapes from where the stepfather locked her up and gets hold of his gun but the stepfather has already killed the sister. Babydoll is so traumatized by all of this that she's almost catatonic. This makes it possible for the stepfather to frame her for the sister's murder and lock her up in a mental institution where he pays a corrupt orderly named Blue (Oscar Isaac) to arrange for a lobotomy in five days. This is when Babydoll escapes her torment by embracing a fantasy but real life catches up with her there when real life events start corresponding to fantasy events.

In the dream, she's in a dance club/brothel run by Blue who plans to sell her to a man called the High Roller in five days. Here, though, she's lucid and she's also such a mesmerizing dancer that men are entranced. We, on the other hand, see an even deeper level of fantasy when she dances. Here, she and her fellow inmates/dancers are provocatively dressed members of an elite fighting force commanded by the Wiseman (Scott Glenn) who gives Babydoll a plan to escape that involves fighting demons, zombies, dragons and robots. No humans, probably because Babydoll isn't a killer, even in dreams. If she were, she'd have shot the stepfather in the face when she had the chance.

So, what didn't I like about it. That's where it gets hard. The reason I hated the movie is deep into spoiler territory. What I will say is this. What happened to Babydoll is, simply, one of the worst things that can happen to a human being. The fact that it was painted as some sort of victory made it even worse. While it was at least implied that Blue and the stepfather would have to pay for what they did, it didn't make up for doing what was done to her and, frankly, the people responsible for this movie should be ashamed of themselves. And no, I'm not exaggerating.

Snyder's visuals are amazing. The action scenes kick ass. The girls are gorgeous and Emily Browning has a face designed by nature to be featured in movie close ups. And none of that mattered. None of that kept the movie from crashing down. I imagine Snyder's next movie about Superman will end with Lex Luthor waving Superman's head around on a stick. If it does, it will still end better than Sucker Punch.

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