Monday, October 21, 2013

Sucker Punch

WARNING: May contains trace of spoilers! People allergic to the discussion of any plot's elements before seeing a movie are strongly advised to take the necessary precautions for their safety and should avoid reading further.

“Close your eyes. Open your mind. You will be unprepared.”

Sucker Punch is an epic action fantasy that takes us into the vivid imagination of a young girl whose dream world provides the ultimate escape from her darker reality. Unrestrained by the boundaries of time and place, she is free to go where her mind takes her, and her incredible adventures blur the lines between what’s real and what is imaginary.”

“She has been locked away against her will, but Babydoll (Emily Browning) has not lost her will to survive. Determined to fight for her freedom, she urges four other young girls—the outspoken Rocket (Jena Malone), the street-smart Blondie (Vanessa Hudgens), the fiercely loyal Amber (Jamie Chung) and the reluctant Sweet Pea (Abbie Cornish)—to band together and try to escape their terrible fate at the hands of their captors, Blue (Oscar Isaac), Madam Gorski (Carla Gugino) and the High Roller (Jon Hamm).”

“Led by Babydoll, the girls engage in fantastical warfare against everything from samurais to serpents, with a virtual arsenal at their disposal. Together, they must decide what they are willing to sacrifice in order to stay alive. But with the help of a Wise Man (Scott Glenn), their unbelievable journey—if they succeed—will set them free.” [Official Synopsis]

I just caught this movie on Showcase the other day and I was blown away. I had heard about it and seen some promising illustrations, but on release it was demolished by the critics (Rotten Tomatoes gave it a 23% rating for the critics and 46% for the audience) and I forgot about it. However it's created by a reputable director, Zack Snyder (300, Watchman, Man of Steel), and even if it far from perfect it is quite a piece of beautiful entertainment. It is told with very little dialog, lots of music and astonishing CGI.

It starts with a sad story: a mother dies leaving her fortune to her two daughters. The abusive stepfather is unhappy with this and, as he is about to take it out on the girls, the oldest escapes her room and tries to kill him. However, the bullet ricochets on a steel pipe and kills the younger sister instead. The stepfather seizes this opportunity and has her institutionalized because of her supposedly violent and murderous behaviour. He makes a deal with the orderly that runs the place that she will be “taken care of”. In a few days, a special doctor will come to lobotomize her. That's just the introduction. The girl, known as Babydoll, uses her imagination to escape her grim circumstances. The mental hospital becomes a brothel where's the girls entertain the customers. But the Babydoll of the imaginary world escapes her own ordeal in a fantasy world where she is a warrior and has to gather five items in order to free herself: a map, a lighter, a knife, a key and a mysterious item that will be revealed at the end. The Babydolls of all worlds are determined to fight for their freedom.

The use of music and its sketch movie style reminds me of the eclectic storytelling of Heavy Metal where you had several unrelated segments united by one main story. Here you have an Inception's style asylum mindfuck that opens into segments set into four anachronistic mishmash fantasy world worthy of the most excessive mecha anime and video games: a Kungfu Panda style samurai fight where Babydoll acquires her only weapons: a katana and a Gluck, a WWI steampunk nazi zombie world where they acquire the map, a WW2 dragonslaying medieval fantasy world where they acquire the fire and a futuristic high train robbery meet bomb squad mission with a Vietnam war era helicopter where they acquire the knife (but not without a cost).

Snyder succeeds in capturing the pop culture of the current generation in the same way that Tarentino (Pulp Fiction, Kill Bill, Djando Unchained) captured the pop culture of the baby boomers. With its story inside a story, inside a story, the movie offers a clever storytelling. It also has a fascinating and beautiful visual. Unfortunately, the story is uneven and doesn't always make sense, the acting is rather average, and the ending is quite disappointing: it delivers a soppy philosophical moral about self-determination and strength of character. I find solace in the fact that it is not really an happy ending. And, yes, it is sexist! But it is well worth watching (for a sci-fi loving male audience of course)!

Sucker Punch: USA, 2011, 110 min.; Dir.: Zack Snyder; Scr.: Zack Snyder & Steve Shibuya (based on a story by Zack Snyder); Phot.: Larry Fong; Ed.: William Hoy; Mus.: Tyler Bates, Marius de Vries; Prod.: Deborah & Zack Snyder; Studio: Legendary Pictures, Cruel and Unusual Films; Distr.: Warner Bros; Cast: Emily Browning (Babydoll), Abbie Cornish (Sweet Pea), Jena Malone (Rocket), Vanessa Hudgens (Blondie), Jamie Chung (Amber), Carla Gugino (Madam Gorski), Oscar Isaac (Blue), Jon Hamm (High Roller), Scott Glenn (Wise Man).
For more information you can visit the following websites:
Sucker Punch © 2011 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

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