Sucker Punch (2011)

(In theatres, April 2011) Zack Snyder’s first fully-original film after four successive adaptations of existing material isn’t a disaster as long as you have a short attention span.  Sucker Punch is, like 300, quite a bit of fun to look at: Nearly the entire film seems post-processed to a smooth deliberate gloss, hopping between two levels of reality and four fantasies in an attempt to say something about female empowerment in-between scantily-clad women.  At times, it works: The first few minutes shows a great example of wordless storytelling, blunt but effective in telling us how a young woman lands in an insane asylum, headed for lobotomy.  After that, Sucker Punch periodically presents us with elaborate visual fantasies in which our heroines take on Japanese samurais, World-War-One Germans, dragons and robots.  (That last sequence ambitiously attempts to combine a continuous series of action into a continuous-but-blurry shot.)  Taken by themselves, snippets of the film show to which extent movie reality can be altered for storytelling purposes and, at the very least, can be enough to recommend the film on a purely visual level.  It’s when those elements are meant to be combined together that Sucker Punch becomes less impressive than the sum of its parts: While the film wants to be a female empowerment statement, it still does so at a rudimentary level where the heroines are infantilized (“Baby Doll”, “Sweet Pea”), sexualized, armed and asked to show a lot of skin.  The film is also annoying, on a structural level, in how it sets itself up in a series of levels that have to be endured before anything dramatically interesting happens.  (Attempts to avoid referring to video games in discussing the film usually end in failure.)  Rumours of fifteen minutes of deleted scenes may explain the gradual incoherence of the ending, but they’re unlikely to address the gulf between the empowerment fantasies we’re asked to enjoy, and the horror at the center of the plot.  While Sucker Punch really wants to be like Brazil, it doesn’t have the maturity to pull off the dramatic ironies necessary to an owl-creeking, nor the discipline to make use of its levels of reality.  See the film for the pretty pictures if you must, but don’t expect anything particularly interesting –the most remarkable thing about Sucker Punch being how dull it can feel after a while.

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