So, I’m in the cinema, with two options. Both of them are over the top, visual extravaganzas that have both been getting rather crap views. Both of them have interesting premises, but ultimately, it’s one girls trip through a mental asylum that wins out.
Sucker Punch is a film for which the trailers looked incredibly good. When you go into a Zack Snyder film, you’re generally going to get that highly stylized look about things. And, as the trailers show, this is Zack Snyder at his most stylized.
Having said that though, I was interested in this flick for one reason really. We know Zack can do something that looks good. He proved that with 300 and Watchmen. But what’s he going to give us when he isn’t interpreting someone elses stuff, and he’s working on his own?
It depends on what sort of person you are, I guess.
Premise; a girl loses her mother, and the opening of the film suggests to us the father killed her for the inheritance. The evil father turns on the girl, and in a bout of fury and revenge, she tries to kill him. Unfortunately, she accidently kills her sister instead, and the father sends her to an insane asylum to get lobotomized, thus covering everything up, and getting the inheritance.
(Here’s the whole opening sequence for you, which gives you an idea of the style and the soundtrack playing together)
The premise is just a setup, and even Snyder himself says that he wanted some sort of reason to explain the idea he had in his head. Cool fight scenes where stuff happens that’s not entirely possible in the real world.
The premise is decent enough, but it’s rather apparent early on that the film is pulling an Inception type series of layers. The girl get committed. Early in she suddenly arrives again, but this time to a burlesque style whorehouse for orphans (ok …). We’re told early on that the asylum uses a ‘Polish style’ of therapy, where the committed act out and work through their problems on a stage. In the burlesque layer, the girl is dancing for her clients.
All that dancing, and therapy goes into another layer, one of pure action where presumably she’s working through her demons. And there’s your excuse for gravity defying action sequences that make little-to-no sense. She discovers in her first session that she wants freedom, and she’s told ultimately how to get that. Astute viewers will have noticed she’s given herself that plan by the things she looked at while being bought into the asylum.
So, the film goes through the bulk of its time giving us a feast for the eyes, and a soundtrack to match. It’s almost perfect, but I can see why people think it’s a bit on the disjointed side. The plot unfortunately makes it feel like we’re being dolled through the action sequences, although thankfully it does shift it up a bit before we get to the ‘uuh, roll on the next one now’.
And again, whether or not you like this sort of thing might come down to what sort of person you are. Personally, given the choice between Los Angeles being invaded by aliens in a realistic war film fashion or a film where reality isn’t what we think it is, I’m gonna go with the latter. That stuffs my writing theme bread and butter.
It’s the thing that ultimately kept me interested through the film. Yes, it looks lovely. But I spent most my time working out the layers, wondering if Snyder would be smart enough to do this or that. Was it going to turn out to be the film I thought it was, or was it going to just be a haphazard mess? Thankfully, he and I seemed to have the same sorta idea.
It’s at that minute level where the film could have done better though. After Inception, which was about as obvious as a slap in the face when it came to its layers, Sucker Punch was subtle. The girl (really, although I know her name, it’s barely important, and the film only really tells us half way through) spends most of her time in the burlesque level, which makes you wonder what sort of nastiness is going on in the real world.
As she hacks and slashes and murders her way through dancing/therapy/hunting the prizes, you have to wonder what’s going on back down on Earth, or is this part of things really all just in her head. Given the film opens with the idea of the world being what you make it, and you having the tools of your own destiny, it does end up in a decent place.
It’s just a pity that the girl spends most of the film in the burlesque, and almost no links are made back to the real world. Other than a few characters who have their base in the asylum workers, we never see much more beyond this middle world. There are subtle hints, just not enough I think to make it a truly great trip into the surreal. I think it’s still an idea that’s yet to be done well.
Even though this film isn’t going to win any awards, and I can see why it’s been panned in the reviews, I was cool with it. I got what I wanted, and in some ways (cuss at me if you want) I found it a bit more intelligent than Inception. Certainly a more pretty ride too. Some of the set pieces and soundtrack offers were stunning. And I won’t even get into the whole 13 year old’s wet dream view of the film. Although I can see why people think that as well.
In the end, I don’t feel ripped off for my $18 admission. And surely that’s what counts.
And in case if you haven’t already guessed. Battlefield Los Angeles was the other option. I’ll see that when it comes out on DVD. Maybe. I think I made the right choice.