We had a lot of time this evening to ponder what makes a good movie. 110 minutes in fact. The entire duration of Zack Snyder’s Sucker Punch.
I could just say it’s rubbish and stop there. But there has to be a point to suffering through this film. Perhaps we can prevent others from the same fate. Or even worse, paying to see it (we got free preview tickets – Thanks Flicks.co.nz
for the good intentions – we’ll try not to hold it against you.)
There’s usually a reason that a young director’s boyhood dream film doesn’t get made. So when said young director does well with his first few films (300, Watchmen, Dawn of the Dead), and is given free range with his next project, perhaps someone should keep an eye on it. For the love of humanity.
Sucker Punch is the film that a twelve year old boy, who plays too many video games, would come up with as a masturbation fantasy. It is bad on every level. It’s the kind of film that should have been kept in a quiet room with just him and his sock. It even makes his previous work look worse in hindsight.
It starts of with a bit of promise. A rocky remake of ‘Sweet Dreams’ underneath (or over the top of) a montage which shows the main character, Baby Doll (she never gets a real name – that would destroy little Zack’s dream), lose her mother, accidentally kill her sister while trying to defend herself against an evil step-father. I think we already saw this in Lemony Snickett
, which Emily Browning starred in seven years ago.
As soon as she arrives at the mental institute we are overwhelmed with a barrage of stereotypes, over-cranked music, flat acting, and a incomprehensible boring story-line. She enters a dream world (thanks, Inception
), where she is able to do a hypnotic dance which allures her captors. We never actually see this dance (no budget left for choreography), so are instead taken a step down the dream ladder to ‘battle scenes’. But she does kick ass alongside her fellow-scantily-clad dancer/captives (Coyote Ugly
These battle scenes are where Zack Snyder plays out his various dreams of making
- a samurai fight film,
- a steam-punk WWI film,
- a fantasy dragon slayer film and
- a futuristic spy-thriller splosion fest.
This may sound kinda cool, but after Baby Doll defeats the first of three bad guys in the first battle, it’s already getting boring. In fact, these are possibly the most boring action scenes I’ve ever scene. The effects were well done. The look, style and editing was fine. Their failing was in the lack of plot, tension, drama, consequences… you know, story-telling stuff).
Let’s back up a level. I like to call this the melodrama, stereotype level. Early on, I complained that the main bad guy was missing an evil moustache which he could dramatically twist. That was in the ‘reality’ level. In the melodrama level, he had a moustache, of course. The evil/tormented female side-kick had compulsory eastern European accent, although was missing an eye-patch. The cliche department dropped the ball there.
The mentor in the battle dream scenes was some kind of mutant hybrid of David Carradine’s character from Kill Bill and Dicky Fox from Jerry Maguire with his husky voice and terrible inspirational mottos; “If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything” etc. He even had a David Caruso sunglasses moment, although you’d have to watch right to the end to see that, so don’t bother.
borrows steals elements and stylistic techniques from many recent films. Moulin Rouge, Sin City, Lord of the Rings, Lemony Snickett and pretty much every Tim Burton film. It doesn’t achieve any of them successfully.
It lacks nuance. It doesn’t care about the characters so neither do we. It doesn’t invest in any of the scenes so their destruction is cheap. It lacks depth, passion, drama, tension. It lacks story. Many films these days lack some of these elements, but I’ve not seen any that lack all of them. It is comparable to a bad video game cut scene. All it was lacking was the bonus point graphics.
It may seem like I’m labouring a point, but so did the film. Only twice before have I wanted to walk out of a film (avoid Southland Tales and Pearl Harbour!), and if we hadn’t been sitting in the far right corner away from the exit, this would have been the first time I actually did.
I’ve heard it described by some reviewers as a glorious failure, but I’d remove the ‘glorious’ and leave it simply as a failure.