Originally Reviewed – 4/2/2011
Call me lucky, picky or even snobbish, but I rarely see bad movies. Being I spend entirely too much time on websites like this one, I’m usually aware of what the critics say and I typically go with their recommendations when it comes to what I watch, especially if I’m forking over cash to do so. However, once in a while, I’ll succumb to my baser temptations and in the defiance of critical approval, I’ll see something I know is going to stink. Last year it was The Expendables, a completely terrible film yet one I had a blast watching, if only to laugh at its ineptitude. So, when a friend and I missed a screening of Tim Burton’s Beetlejuice this past weekend and was stuck needing something to see, a combination of a convenient starting time, an IMAX presentation and the promise of things blowing up urged us to see the latest film by Zach Snyder, Sucker Punch. Our expectations were low: sure it was going to be bad, but maybe deliciously so, much like that horrible Stallone effort from the previous year. Sadly, the flick didn’t even reach that low strung expectation as it not only fails as a cinematic experience, it fails to even raise the heart rate of comic book audience it was intended for. Sucker Punch, in short, is a soulless bore.
Doomed from the beginning, Sucker Punch jumps out of the gate covered in lame sauce, presenting the audience with an uncomfortable opening sequence involving some fat guy attacking our lead heroine for some reason or another. According to Wikipedia, which I seriously need to refer to in order provide any sort of synopsis, during this sequence our hero, dubbed Baby Doll, mistakenly kills her sister in an attempt to save her from her abusive father. As a result, she is sent to a mental hospital by her father and is scheduled to be lobotomized in five days. During that time she delves into her imagination to keep herself sane while she awaits her demise. Again, I had to go to Wiki-freaking-pedia to get that because if that’s what the film was trying to say, it sure as snot didn’t do a good job of it. Instead, we get jangly rock music, a bunch of slow motion scenes with Baby Doll staring doe faced into the camera and bullet casings hitting the floor. In slow motion, no less! What a visual treat!
And what a segue into the only thing people are really seeing this for, the visuals. Now, Snyder has made a career of pushing the envelope when it comes to computer generated spectacle, with films such as 300 and to a lesser extent, Watchmen. Sucker Punch provides much of the same visual bombast only times a thousand. In short, it’s too much for anybody to absorb, never mind take seriously. In any one scene you have bullets flying, robots getting destroyed, places crashing, stuff exploding and buildings crumbling. Sounds great, right? So, why did these action scenes not only bore me but put the crowd of opening weekend fanboys I saw it with to sleep as well? Because all that noise becomes sleep inducing without a competent story to give it context and meaning. Sucker Punch makes the grand mistake of thinking it has something important to say when the tale is as shallow as teenage fan fiction. The action scenes only highlight the weakness of the material because the female characters are just as hollow as the mindless thugs and robots they slaughter by the thousands. Snyder may know how to program a special effects computer but he has not an inkling of insight into human motivations or what elicits emotion from an audience and frankly, I don’t think he cares. Sucker Punch would have made for a fine ten minute tech demo but that’s about it.
As for the action in Sucker Punch being described as “videogamey” by some critics, that moniker is nothing but an insult to video games. Even the most intense gaming experiences provide some sort of character development and since the person playing them is personally involved in the events of the story, they naturally connect to the game. Sadly, we don’t play movies, we passively watch them, which is why there’s more to filmmaking than fancy visuals and visceral thrills. Sitting through the action scenes of Sucker Punch is like watching a friend play Call of Duty for two plus hours; it grabs your attention for the first ten minutes but after awhile, either you want to grab the controller yourself or do something you can actually care about. Films need story and character development to keep our attention, two things that Sucker Punch not only fails miserably at, never makes an honest attempt at providing.
In fact, it’s that very subject that brings the most bile to my throat when discussing this waste of time. The biggest crime committed by Sucker Punch is way it treats its characters, its story and ultimately its audience. Staged like levels in a 1990’s video game, the film flips between scenes of emotionally ravaged hookers either cowering to their alpha-male superiors or using their sexuality to get the best of them and the aforementioned fantasy fight scenes. Framing his female characters like Charles Manson likely would, Snyder presents them as quivering weaklings only able to muster strength when they delve into their imaginations. This 1850’s way of thinking of women is at the core of the storyline and the film just bleeds this disdain out from its pores. Creating a band of femme fatales can be a ton of sexy, edgy fun but that fun derives from the strength of character in the women involved. Sucker Punch sets up the action as solely existing in the imaginations of our broken down protagonists and as a result, gives us actions that nobody could possibly care about. The fact that Snyder would assume that we as an audience would care about these paper cut out characters without any sort of proper development is downright insulting.
Needless to say, I could go on and on. Much like the Star Wars prequels, one could write a Masters thesis on Sucker Punch with the topic being, “How Not To Make An Action Movie”. Filmed and written as if Hollywood gave $82 million to a horny 15 year old and said, “Go make a movie, sonny”, Sucker Punch treats its characters and story with such a misogynistic and mean-hearted slant, I actually question the soul of the director responsible. Not to turn this into a personal attack, but if Zach Snyder actually thinks this noisy, mean and borderline sadistic piece of white noise should actually be considered entertainment, I have to wonder about the maturity of this so called artist. Full of plot holes, contrivances and an ending that screams hack at the top its computer generated lungs, Sucker Punch is schlock that swears it’s Shakespeare and what’s worse, assumes you the viewer doesn’t know the difference. One of the few movies I’ve paid to see that I felt compelled to walk out on an hour in, Sucker Punch is exactly as advertised: a punch in the gut to anybody who feels they deserve more from a film than two hours of ear splitting din.
Score – 10%
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