Socorro movie review: Sucker Punch
Directed by: Zack Snyder
Starring: Emily Browning, Abbie Cornish, Jena Malone, Vanessa Hudgens, and Jamie Chung
Showing nightly at the Loma Theater at 9:15 through May 6th
Simply put, this movie is a real mess. It has a very distinctive visual style, but that's not enough to save this film. I can almost appreciate what director Zack Snyder ("Dawn of the Dead," "300," "Watchmen") was trying to do. He wanted to make a completely mind blowing story, to match a whole bunch of mind blowing visuals. And though I found the visuals impressive, the story is so empty, the narrative so complicated, and the characters so lacking, it just made the movie fall flat.
Reality is fleeting in this movie, interspersed with fantasy worlds constructed by the main character Baby Doll (played awkwardly by Emily Browning,) who finds herself committed to an insane asylum, and given 5 days to get out before she is scheduled to undergo a lobotomy. In short order she figures out a plan to obtain patient-forbidden items (like a map, a lighter, a knife, etc.) in the hospital to escape. But rather then show the meat and bones realities of mental patients executing an escape plan (I'm reminded of "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest,") Snyder opts to have Baby Doll revert into fantasy worlds any time she is about to get the next item on her list, setting up a scenario that involves her and a group of patients (looking like Barbie dolls) pulling out big guns or swords, and killing hoards of baddies. So, it's complicated enough that we have the reality of the hospital, and various fantasy worlds, but we are also introduced to some odd meta-layer of reality where Baby Doll and her cohorts are either working in a high end brothel, or are professional dancers. This is not a recipe for coherence in storytelling. And it's too bad, since Snyder has shown in the past that he can direct a good movie. If he is given good source material (whether it's the remake of George Romero's "Dawn of the Dead," or his adaptation of the graphic novel "300,") he can make a competent film, with memorable visuals. But in this case, he directs and writes the story, showing a real lack of poise when it comes to creating a believable world from scratch.
Visually the movie is nothing short of stunning. Looking past the drab color palette he uses (quite on purpose,) the imagery is very intense. Even then, it gets so derivative at times. It is a hodge-podge of manga/Hong Kong/video game aesthetics, with a dose of Tarantino's classic character entrances (you know, cue hip music, and show characters walking in slow motion towards the camera,) and it all comes together well. Not nearly enough to make the slog of getting through the story worth it, though.
Visuals aside, there is nothing interesting about this movie. As much as I love movies that play easy and loose with character realities (see "The Matrix" or "Mulholland Drive,") it just doesn't make this film compelling. There is no date potential here, just stay away.