Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Ten Statements About....SUCKER PUNCH (2011)

This film is built almost entirely on the look in those eyes...
1) I have to agree with a number of other writers when they say that Zack Snyder is arguably the most successful director whose aesthetic and storytelling is fully and totally informed by comic books. Every choice he makes--even his use of slow motion to make certain key movements static, like they are in a comic book panel--is designed to give us the sense that we are turning the pages of a comic story. Even the title card, formed out of the condensation of the raindrops as Baby Doll is being taken to the asylum, gives us the feel of something between the covers of a Vertigo graphic novel...

2) However....while Snyder does use the slow motion more subtlety here (confining it almost exclusively to the 'game missions' of Baby Doll), there is one sequence where he gives up and indulges in his love of 'ramp up' technology (you know, that whole sloooooooow-down-then-speedup thingie) and ends up complicating things instead of clarifying it.

3) Without a doubt, the biggest flaw--and it's a massively gaping one--is Snyder's use of contemporary music in the film. It's really annoying given how Snyder usually is very astute at handling music, and how he's painstaking in making sure the two other worlds of the film are identified as period pieces. That being said, I'd gladly buy an album of Carla Gugino singing hits of the 80's in that mock-Polish accent...or one of Emily Browning doing the same.

Somewhere down the line...the Spice Girls got weirdly militant...
4) About those three worlds--the 'game mission' world where Baby Doll and her coterie of female companions led by 'Wiseman' (Scott Glenn looking like he's having the time of his life getting his Yoda on), the real world and the intermediary world--Snyder is not as skillful in keeping the worlds distinct. Yes, we understand that the final twist depends on us realizing one of these worlds is false; but making one world almost as stylized as the 'game mission' world, it makes the switch as to which is real and which is false not make sense.

5) Snyder needed Emily Browning for the lead. There's such a gorgeous tension between the wounded look in her beautiful eyes and the way she walks like a panther that you can believe people read into her what they want. Thus, predators see her as a victim whereas victims see her as a savior...and they're both right.

6) All of the women are pretty decent--yes, even Vanessa Hudgens (who is called Blondie, even though she's not). Not as successful are the male characters. Oscar Issacs is all surface playing Blue, and he's never seems to be more than a cardboard villain. The other men are little more than ciphers (except, oddly enough, Jon Hamm, who gives one of his dual roles a great deal more depth than it needed). Of course, maybe that's because...

"Yep...I'm evil..."
7) It's obvious from the first moment, where we pass through a proscenium arch to begin the story, that Snyder intends this to be a fairy tale. However, the story he tells is much more Ambrose Bierce than L. Frank Baum, and the storytelling suffers from the misguided direction.

8) I do like the fact that even though Baby Doll has a sort of super-power in the way her dancing draws all the attention in the room, we never actually see her performance--each time she dances opens up the gateway to the game mission world, and Snyder is so clear on that rule that when her dance is interrupted in one sequence, she is briefly snapped back to her reality. A similar rule is enacted whenever Blue--who has the power of life and death over these girls--does kill some characters; we never see the gun fired, or the results of his actions...

" evil I'm thinking of slapping that weird
animal off Carla Gugino's head." 
9) If I had to guess, I would think that the negative reaction most people are having to this film lies in the fact that the ultimate resolution is extremely dark and unapologetic. It snatches a clear cut uplifting ending out of the hands of an audience who was led to expect one in favor of one that is more metaphysical and abstract.

10) Most of the game mission world's settings make sense in the context of the world in which Baby Doll exists at the for the last one, which is way, way, way too much late 90's video game as opposed to late 50's movie--something that makes sense for Baby Doll to be inspired by given all the movie posters her place of dwelling is decorated with.

In it a failure? Hell, no. Is it a triumph? Hell, no. It's somewhere toward the bottom of Snyder's canon, but it's by no mean a disaster. If anything, it fails because it's too ambitious for his skills at the time.

I was back to the AMC Loews' Village 7. The trailers were a strange mismash, although I managed to see two things I definitely didn't expect--a trailer for Friends With Benefit, a rom-com that seems to be cloned from the earlier No Strings Attached except that it seems, you know, genuinely funny (I actually laughed with delight when Mila Kunis goes off on a rant against Katherinne 'I Have A Stupid Face' Hiegl), and one for Your Highness, which actually seems to be amusing and has Zoe Deschanel as a Renfair dream come true. Even more amazing was the Firstlook piece on Pirates of The Carribean: On Stranger Tides which was actually innovative and was hosted by Jack Sparrow....

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