Today is a break from my plotting series. In case you are wondering, yes, it is because I am struggling with the next part.
Today I went and saw "Sucker Punch," the latest from director Zack Snyder (Dawn of the Dead, 300, Watchmen). I’ve been eying this one for a few weeks. As I posted on my Facebook account, it had three ingredients that engage my attention: cute girls in skimpy outfits, plenty of explosions and action, and lots of guns and swords. I figured: how bad could it be?
Well, it wasn’t a total implosion but it was rather forgettable.
The story centers around a young girl who goes by Baby Doll (we never learn any of the girls’ real names). After her mother dies and leaves Baby Doll and her young sister her inheritance, the girls’ stepfather loses his mind. He attacks them, killing the younger girl. Baby Doll attempts to blow his head off with the family pistol but is hauled to a mental institute for her trouble. (All of this is established in the first five minutes of the movie). With the help of a corrupt orderly, the stepfather arranges to have Baby Doll lobotomized, in order to claim guardianship of the family fortune.
To deal with her imprisonment and imminent trauma, Baby Doll escapes into varying levels of fantasy, including a lot of hack-n-slash action sequences involving dragons, evil giant samurai, steam-powered clockwork German soldiers (don’t ask), and shiny silver robots that spark when cut with a sword. Baby Doll meets her mentor – played by Scott Glenn, who must have unpaid gambling debts that led to accepting this role – who tells Baby Doll what they need to escape.
*** SPOLIER WARNING!! *** Do not highlight the next block unless you want the spoilers.
At first, it seems Baby Doll has imagined herself into a seamy burlesque house, where the other characters are showgirls who are also employed by the club owner as prostitutes. (The club owner is the corrupt orderly in the "real" world.) Baby Doll becomes a dancer of first magnitude, who is being saved for virginal purchase by the High Roller, who is to arrive in a few days (the lobotomizing doctor in the "real" world). In her dance, Baby Doll finds she has the power of her imagination; as her dance instructor says, "what happens in this world, you control."
Baby Doll and the other girls (Sweet Pea, Rocket, Amber, and Blondie) conspire to escape. The action sequences become Baby Doll’s ways of coping with their actions; a dance for the Mayor – who is an orderly always seen flicking his lighter – provides an opportunity for Amber to steal the man’s lighter, which the girls use to start a fire to cover their escape.
Of course, the club owner discovers the plot. Three of the girls are killed, leaving Baby Doll and Sweet Pea to attempt an escape on their own. In the end, Baby Doll sacrifices herself so Sweet Pea can escape. Back to the real world. Baby Doll is lobotomized but the orderly’s crime is uncovered, leading to the downfall of him and the stepfather. I think …. and I can’t stress enough that this was just my interpretation …. that the end of the movie reveals that Sweet Pea was truly the one telling the story and that the entire thing was driven by her imagination. Scott Glenn becomes the bus driver carrying her home, so apparently, even after her escape, Sweet Pea is still coping by controlling her fantasies. Fade into the sunset.
No, it is not revealed if the other girls were actually dead, or if Sweet Pea simply imagined their death to advance her story. No, Baby Doll’s ultimate fate is not revealed.
*** END SPOILER WARNING ***
The fight scenes were decent and the CGI was top-notch but I think we’re getting jaded, as it is just a variant of what we’ve seen again and again since Matrix‘s bullet time. One battle scene that stood out went on for five minutes without a camera break but simply spun and covered the action from different angles, and did so smoothly. That was pretty neat. The steampunk-ish feel of one of the fantasy worlds was intriguing. The opening sequence was told without any dialogue (voice-over narration were the only words in the first 5-6 minutes of the movie) and I appreciate that kind of experimental storytelling. And the girls were all cute in their own ways.
Beyond that, I think I could have done better. I went with Rob, a guy I work with. When it was over, he asked me, "Is that what an LSD trip is like?" I had no good answer. The plot was paper thin and the resolution will confuse too many people. As one might expect, the acting quality was average at best, atrocious at worst. Scott Glenn laid out the girls’ situation each time like he was briefing a group of gamers attempting a brand new mission on Halo.
Was I the sucker, then? Nah, I guess not. It wasn’t the worst movie I’ve seen but it won’t find a home on my action DVD shelf, either.
Okay, Zak Snyder. That’s two in a row that were disappointing: this and Watchmen. Three strikes …. well, you know the rest.
[Edit: Per above, I did not mean to imply I could have written something better but that I could have made a better use of my movie time. Maybe I could have written something better – but then I read some things I’ve written and think the proverbial thousand chimps randomly hitting keys would have me beat in five minutes.]