Now Playing Review – Sucker Punch

Sit tight kiddies, Lauren has got some rambling to do.  Last year I got to sit through a bunch of amazing panels (and some lackluster ones too) at Comic-Con for upcoming movies during my camping session in Hall H, and one of the highlights was finally getting to see a trailer for Sucker Punch.  In a nutshell, my mind exploded from overstimulation.  During that gap of time between then and now my excitement continued to grow, eventually peaking at the “THIS BETTER BE AWESOME OR I’M GONNA DIE!” point.  A little extreme, I’ll admit, but I was far from capable of controlling my excitement at this point, leaving little margin for error come time to watch it.  Long story short: I set myself up for disappointment.  Short story longer: once the movie was over I found myself frustrated at what was not achieved and I could not stop picking out the negatives that were pushing me deeper and deeper into my pit of despair.  Well, that was last night.  Tonight I am a little more level headed and I can honestly say that I have come to terms with a lot of my issues and have found my way back to liking the movie.  Not loving it, but hey, I’ll still pat myself on the back for the progress I’ve made.

Now here is where most of my issues are found: The story opens on a girl that we come to know as Baby Doll following an incident that leads her to being forced into an insane asylum by her evil stepfather.  Moments inside the doors everything changes in the blink of an eye as she decides to remove herself from the reality that she has been put into, losing herself in a fantasy that has changed the asylum into a brothel (you know, every girl’s fantasy).  But why stop there, as she tries to plot her escape before her scheduled lobotomy she identifies 4 items (the 5th still a mystery) that she must collect to aid her plan, diving one level deeper into an even crazier fantasy filled with larger than life obstacles for her to combat.

Though it doesn’t have the Arkham Asylum overtones of the reality, the brothel is far from a better experience than what is most likely masked by Baby Doll’s fantasy world.  Let’s just say that no one is swinging from ropes joyfully singing “Sparkling Diamonds.”  What?  That Moulin Rouge reference went over your head?  Then you are in luck!  In addition to the brothel, Baby Doll continues to dream up ridiculously fantastical worlds that seem more appropriate to the doodles of a teenage boy than that of a girl that looks like she would rather be playing with My Little Pony figures.  But hey, this film isn’t aimed at that kind of girl.  It is aimed at the girls and boys who have geekgasms at any number of the items on this list: towering samurai warriors, guns, orcs, Nazi zombies, more guns, jetpacks, robots, swords, more guns, dragons, and sexualized schoolgirls of Japanese manga.  If one of the fantasies had included her making a gamer a sammich then every base would have been covered.

Seeing as my room looks like that of a teenage boy I fall into the smaller percentage of girls that fit the demographic for this one, but I couldn’t help but roll my eyes at it all from time to time.  However, Zack Snyder got most of the panty flashes out of the way early on and for the remainder of the action sequences the female characters actually have a drive and strength to them hinting at empowerment, and I can respect the fact that though there is plenty of skin showing it is not oversexualized.  I mean, next to the Spartans of 300 they are practically wearing parkas.  Because of this, these girls appear to be completely believable and capable in these moments (ignoring the fact that it is all fantasy, and thus there is no real risk of danger).

With all the problems I have with the lack of integration of reality and the brothel fantasy level, what kept me from cursing Snyder’s name while I was watching were the action sequences that are truly amazing all around.  The computer graphics are phenomenal in each, creating epic environments for the girls to traverse during each separate mission, and though I started to feel that it was all a little too muddy in color and all started to look the same, I still couldn’t stop but gaze in wonder.  And as I said, though the main group of girls (played by Emily Browning, Abbie Cornish, Jena Malone, Vanessa Hudgens, and Jamie Chung) all show their range of acting during the brothel moments, they really impress in how effective they are during their moments of action, making it truly believable that the fear of breaking a nail is the last thing on their minds.

As impressive as the environments and action is within Baby Doll’s fantasies, what keeps me feeling at a loss is that the majority of the film is kept within the two levels of fantasy, removing almost all truth from the story, leaving almost everything up to the audience to interpret.  In addition to this initial frustration, I am almost saddened to think of the opportunities lost by not integrating the real world into more of the story.  Had the levels fractured and failed, flitting in and out of the three levels in a way that would further visually interpret her broken mind instead of keeping things so tidy, so much more depth would have been added to more effectively present what Snyder was trying to form.  Instead, all of the darker, seedier themes were swept under the rug, kept just under the surface away from the distracted eye of the audience.  But as I said before, the more I think about it the more I come to appreciate what Snyder was able to accomplish, and I cannot wait to see it again.

Final grade: B- (though at this point I am really hesitant to pin a grade on it)

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