*** Major Spoilers ***
sucker punch (noun) – an unexpected punch or blow.
That’s exactly what I got when I left the theatre last Tuesday night after watching Zack Snyder’s latest movie. Oh Zack. Why? This was all I kept thinking. I didn’t go in with high expectations but I didn’t think it was going to be this bad. All that money thrown at this film with all those snazzy special effects and slow motion action set pieces and no one thought of creating a really good story?
Story is what was missing here. I commend Mr. Snyder for trying to do something original instead of adapting someone else’s work (300, Watchmen and that owl movie to name a few). I actually like his movies and I’m a BIG fan of his despite the flack he gets from hardcore fanboys. I think he’s way better than Michael Bay.
Zack Snyder definitely has style (love it or hate it – this is MY opinion) and he can really direct great action sequences. The slow-mo is sometimes overdone but I still like it. There’s SO much happening on the screen that it’s like he’s giving us a moment to catch our breath. Sometimes I feel like I’m watching an anime film come to life. Say what you want but I like it.
Getting back to the story or lack thereof. I was just so disappointed. No matter how many fire-breathing dragons you throw up on the screen or gas-powered zombie WWI soldiers or giant samurai-wielding Japanese warriors with the occasional Gatlin gun, it all means nothing without worthwhile characters or a solid story.
I am not going to go over the details of the plot because quite frankly, you’ve either seen the movie or read other Snyder-bashing reviews. I am really surprised at how movies are green-lit in Hollywood with no afterthought. I was expecting some sort of Alice in Wonderland type tale or even an Inception-inspired story but what we got was a mashup of every movie/video game we’ve ever played/watched rolled up into a glossy, expensive soul-less movie.
Much has been said about the girls in the film. Were they exploited or were they portrayed as empowered ass-kicking young women? I don’t know. The scantily clad costumes they wore sent a double message and the violence committed against them didn’t seem to help either. At times I felt uncomfortable in the theatre watching this film. Are the girls dancers or are they sex slaves in this fantasy world? The men in the movie were disgusting and repulsive. Seeing Amber (Jamie Chung) brushing up against the geriatric and corpulent major, kissing his neck while attempting to grab his lighter stashed in his chest pocket was simply not necessary. I’m no prude but as a guy, even scenes like this put me off. What were you thinking Zack?
The actions scenes that we’re all too familiar now from watching the commercials ad nauseum, all take place in Baby Doll’s head (played by Emily Browning) while she’s dancing, distracting the onlookers while her co-conspirators attempt to get four items that will help them escape from their prison. Huh? That doesn’t make any sense to me. It was implied that her dancing (which we never see) seems to mesmerize onlookers and leaves them in a trance (as evidenced by the cook when they attempt to get the knife). So, while she’s dancing she goes off into this imaginary world filled with assassin robots and orcs and such… and this relates to what in the story? Nothing at all. It was just one big excuse to tie-in great visuals and special effects to an otherwise weak story.
Then there’s the imagination within an imagined altered reality going on in Baby Doll’s head within the asylum that just confuses the audience watching this film. In one moment she’s being shown the common area (where the inhabitants go to be social and interact with one another) when Baby Doll first arrives and the next moment it’s a nightclub with dancers prepping up for a show for their various important clients. I get it. This was all in Babydoll’s head, trying to escape that morbid reality within her prison. The execution of this important part of the film however, left people scratching their heads and not in a good way a la Inception.
I do have a question regarding one part of the story: if they’re in an asylum and this is all imagined by Baby Doll, where did Blue Jones (the boss orderly played by Oscar Isaac) get the gun to kill Amber and Blondie (Vanessa Hudgens). Did he really kill them? I can only assume that he really did. If he did so, didn’t the guards hear the gunshots? How can one explain two dead patients with bullets in the back of their heads? If he did kill them in some other fashion in the real world, it wasn’t really made clear. Loophole?
The ending. Well, you can assume that Scott Glenn who’s credited as the “Wise Man” is playing the guardian angel in this movie. He’s the one that sends Baby Doll to aid Sweet Pea (Abbie Cornish) in her escape. The focus in the entire movie is on Baby Doll when in reality, it was all about Sweet Pea. We feel cheated in the end because what little we know of Baby Doll, we’ve become invested in her character and want to see her survive. Instead we’re thrown a sucker punch (is that what you meant by the title, Zack?) and our whole paradigm shifts 180 for a character we barely even know. No, it didn’t work for me.
Like I stated earlier, I like Zack’s visuals and his style. The girls were great in their action sequences and really looked great kicking ass. You can tell they really trained well and pulled off their fighting scenes believably. As far as the imagination sequences, they were fantastically done but simply thrown in for the sake of being thrown in but satisfying nonetheless.
Zack, I still have hope for you when you reboot the Superman franchise. Don’t let us down. I also have hope that someday you’ll come up with a really good original story for you to direct.
As for me, I’m happy I only spent $6 at the local theatre (Bargain Tuesdays) to see this film, lessening the full impact of the punch to my wallet.