Sucker Punch

Posted by james on Jan. 8, 2012

I was excited to see this one when I saw the preview. Girls fighting dragons & demon samurais with ninja swords & machine guns. What's not to like. It sounds absolutely ridiculous, and it is. But with great special effects, I thought this might be a neat crazy fantasy movie.

Warning signs went off when I found out that the movie was based around a girl trapped in a mental institute, and she used her imagination to fight for her freedom (which explains the dragons & guns). Those type of surreal movies can work when they artsy or deep (The Machinist), but this did *not* look like a deep movie. It looked like someone took a piece of paper, wrote "What do boys think are cool?"... and then took way too many of them and put them in one movie. I really wasn't looking for a deeper meaning to this one.

Good thing too. On the plus side, it's very stylistic, the special effects are amazing, and there's a lot of cool stuff to admire here. If they had chosen one fantasy setting and made a movie out of it, they could have had a pretty neat dragon fighting / zombie / world-war one steam punk / or girl SWAT team type of movie. I liked the hand-to-hand and gun maneuvering when they weren't obscured by way-over-the-top matrix 2/3 style camera motion. Makes sense - I found out the Bourne Identity fight choreographer worked on this one. Good stuff.

But the bad - the entire thing is a mess. The overall plot is confusing and strange. The text (you really can't call it subtext in a movie this shallow & obvious) is something about freedom, but it doesn't really stick. There's a lot of fantasy / surreal / layered reality here, and while cohesive it still doesn't make much sense. Why do this? What's the point? What ties this all together? Last, this movie makes you feel dirty. It starts with a step father sexually assault his young daughters, then with a mental institute where the male orderlies are sexually abusing the patients (which I suppose explains their escapes from reality), and to retreat from this they live in a fantasy world where they're prostitutes in a harem. Wow. This is like The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (original title of that film in the original Swedish: "Men Who Hate Women"), but without the substance that makes it more than just watching women get abused. Note: special effects & zombies, while cool, are not a substitute for substance.

In the end, I think this is exactly what it looks like. A boy wrote down all the things he thought was cool, and crammed them into one movie. Eliminating half of them and filling the rest with substance would've made this a pretty cool movie. Also, more clothes for the women - they must've gotten cold only wearing half their costumes all the time.