Thursday, April 14, 2011

Sucker Punch *

Director: Zack Snyder
Cast: Emily Browning, Abbie Cornish, Jena Malone
Vanessa Hudgens, Jamie Chung, Carla Gugino, Oscar Isaac
Jon Hamm, Scott Glenn

You know how some people lament the state of the environment and then you see them throw their garbage on the sidewalk? Zack Snyder would be one of them.
His Sucker Punch is a pseudo-feminist allegory filtered by the mind and eyes of a horny geek who thinks that women's liberation fantasies are dressed, or rather undressed, in the same clothes that men demand they wear in society.
The film is filled with sleek setpieces, Amsterdam sex shop costumes and an esthetically interesting design which more than please its audience are meant to polish the director's own knob.
Sucker Punch is Snyder's first fully original screenplay and you can detect all his influences in the way he references Tarantino, anime, rock music, westerns and video games. The story follows Babydoll (Browning) a troubled teenager who's institutionalized by her evil stepfather after she accidentally kills her sister.
The film opens with an almost silent sequence in which Babydoll tries to save her sister, here Snyder proves he has a keen eye for creating suspense and scenes that recall comic books; but he still hasn't learned a single thing about subtleties and he scores this Dickensian opening with an emo cover of The Eurythmics' Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This).
At the Lennox House for the Mentally Insane, Babydoll realizes her stepfather has paid an evil orderly (Isaac) to have her lobotomized within five days.
On the day of her lobotomy, seconds before the orbitoclast hits her body, Babydoll withdraws into a world of her own inside her mind. Here she's an orphan who has been taken to a burlesque/brothel where she is to be sold to a mysterious man called "the High Roller" within the next few days.
In the brothel Babydoll befriends fellow dancers Sweet Pea (Cornish), Rocket (Malone), Blondie (Hudgens) and Amber (Chung) and devises a plan for all of them to escape before the High Roller arrives. In order to escape they have to collect five items and each time they are about to do so, the film turns once again into subfilm in which the characters travel to different worlds.
When they need to collect a lighter, the fantasy turns into a proto-medieval adventure complete with Lord of the Rings' like orcs and vintage aeroplanes.
With all these layers of different universes within other universes, the film soon feels like Inception done for emo girls having their first acid trip. Curiously that might be precisely what Snyder wanted audiences to feel.
Throughout the film he seems to be completely unaware that what he delivers with utmost excitement as a version of "girl power" is nothing but false empathy from his side.
The worrisome thing about Sucker Punch is that Snyder at all times seems to be convinced that he is indeed telling a story about women becoming free. The fantasy sequences are filled with male villains as if to acknowledge the fact that all female troubles are caused by men. Yet this can be questioned because the villains in said sequences are usually deformed versions of men, whether they be zombie like creatures, robots or demonic samurai, none are really "human".
None of these sequences contains a female villain, except for one where a mother dragon attacks the girls only after they hurt her male offspring. Is Snyder saying that women only turn against other women when there's a male figure in the middle?
What the director fails to see at all times, is that his attempts at saving women from men are being done by himself: a man who obviously thinks of women like we expect heterosexual men to.
These heroines don't even have real names, who needs them when they have such badass nicknames huh? Yet the issue is that Snyder gives them innocent sounding aliases that barely cover the fact that Blondie could've easily been called Big Tits and Rocket, well, let's not even go there...
Every time the movie attempts to say something important about misogyny, it just manages to become even more abusive and offensive towards women. However it's not entirely easy to condemn the film because doing so would be to give in towards generalizations about the way we think women think.
It would be easy to say that no woman in her right mind would try to save herself from a rapist by wearing outfits used by Japanese prostitutes. But what if they do? At least one or two might feel identified with this strange fantasy, right?
Hopefully not but Snyder might get away easily using such hypotheses like that in order to point out that gender inequality is owed to both genders equally.
If women are objectified by men, should they attempt to repel this by creating new versions of femininity that don't click with the status quo? Or should they lure them with their own sexual fantasies and like the praying mantis just chop their heads off when they come to close?
All of the female characters in Sucker Punch are constantly being threatened by murderers or rapists who use their weapons and genitalia to subjugate them and keep them imprisoned for as long as they see fit.
More than this disturbing aura of threat, what comes obvious at some point is that the film is truly a door into the director's head and we see how his ideas come to light through the most seemingly inconspicuous moments. For example, we are informed by this movie that women who leave their families instantly become whores and they will only find salvation after atoning for their sins at strip clubs.
Funny to think that the figure Snyder chooses as their guardian angel is a multipurpose old guy played by Scott Glenn in full David Carradine from Kill Bill mode. What Snyder lacks, that Tarantino more than makes up for, is a completely surreal vision of femininity.
While Uma Thurman's "Bride" chopped bodies and severed heads to get her daughter back, she was never really objectified sexually, yet Browning's Babydoll plans every move in battle as if they were exclusively meant to highlight her breasts or vagina.
Sucker Punch feels like a school paper on feminism done by a stoned teenager who fell asleep playing Final Fantasy and wrote the first thing he came up with in the morning.
Even more interesting is to see Snyder's own takes on his perception of the modern female psyche, apparently he thinks that women's periods make them feel like they're in a Bjork video, that their professional fantasies are choreographed by Britney Spears and that their biggest dream is to get rid of urbanity and go back to the country.
Funniest thing in the whole movie? The lobotomist is played by matinee idol John Hamm, giving Snyder the last completely envious of the quarterback, pathetically dorky laugh.


M. Hufstader said...

All I have to say is your last four paragraphs had me snickering out loud. Well played, sir, well played.

Jose said...

M: my pleasure, glad you're having fun with the review cause the movie seriously lacked in that department.

Robert said...

I agree, your review was entertaining as usual! haha. But this is a shame. I was really hoping for a girl-power action movie but the fact that it's basically the complete opposite is disappointing. Especially because I was looking so forward to seeing Abbie Cornish kick some ass!

Simon said...

I love your reviews. Make them forever.

I liked this movie because it was weird and stupid and it made me feel all superior to men, all 'aw shit those guyses got no idea what women do'.

M. Hufstader said...

Yo! You've proven yourself to be exceptionally badass, and I awarded you with the "Versatile Blogger Award." Come pick it up at my blog!