27 July 2011

Movies: Sucker Punch

Sucker Punch (2011) http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0978764/

Fantasy/Sci-Fi/Action/Adventure drama. Yeah that's a mouthful.

About a young girl referred to as "Baby Doll". That's not her name, but that's the only reference we ever get to her. She uses her imagination to deal with being in a terrible place (mental institution) by putting herself in a different sort of terrible place (brothel), where she uses her fantasies to plot and execute an escape for herself and four of her institutionalized companions.

Film starts out with us watching Baby Doll as she finds out that her mother just died. Her stepfather is less than broken up about it. Actually he can't successfully suppress a smile at the news. After the funeral he checks out the will and realizes he gets nothing - all property goes to Baby Doll and her sister. Stepdad is a little miffed about that. He tries to get to Baby Doll, she fights back, so he then goes to the little sister. Kills her. Baby Doll tries to shoot him, doesn't succeed, he gets her institutionalized by blaming the sister's death on her not being able to handle the grief over her dead mother.

Yes, that's the opening sequence and without a bit of dialog. The movie really gets going in the mental institution. Stepdad pays the sketchy head orderly to take care of Baby Doll so she never talks to the cops. She finds out she's going to be lobotomized in 5 days.

Here comes the point when folks might get lost. Baby Doll's way to handle the situation she is in is to imagine  herself trapped in a brothel, a brothel where all the mental institution inmates are the dancing 'working girls' prostituted to gentlemen clients. The institution staff serve corresponding roles as brothel workers, guards, pimp, dance director.

This brothel world is all in her head, her imagination, her way of dealing with the reality of her situation.
When she dances in the brothel world, she goes to an inner place where a wise man tells her what she needs to do to achieve freedom. This is a fantasy world within her fantasy world.  Each time she dances she goes to this other world, where she and her compatriots (four other inmates of the institution) try to achieve the objectives to reach freedom. When her dance ends, she's back in the brothel.

It's crazy, watching a fantasy within a fantasy within the larger story context. It's visually stunning and stylistic. This film is like a video game comic book music video. It feels like Alice in Wonderland meets the Matrix in Lord of the Rings set in a mental institution with sprinkles of Brazil.
And it's great!

Where else are you going to see a film that has steampunk zombie nazis, zeppelins, helicopters, dragons, goblins, giants, robots, a mechanized battle exoskeleton, youngish girls in skimpy garb firing machine guns, slicing enemies in half with katanas,  wire-fu, and more?  Whew. Practically everything.

Directed by Zack Snyder of Watchmen, 300, remake of Dawn of the Dead fame. Well, he directed The Owls of Ga'Hoole too, but I never felt an urge to see that film.

Emily Browning sporting blond hair plays the central character Baby Doll. She played Violet in Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events.  She was also the central character in The Uninvited. Great supporting cast as well, including Oscar Isaac, the smarmy head orderly Mr. Blue, who was Prince John in Robin Hood and Orestes  in Agora.  Also has Jamie Chung, who played Chi Chi in "Dragonball: Evolution." Holy crap I thought I reviewed Dragonball. Guess not. I'm sure it was my best review ever. In my head.  And, for those who give a crap about pop culture and stolen cell phone pictures, Vanessa Hudgens is in a grown-up movie for once. And I say that without having yet seen "Beastly," which I'm debating on whether or not to bother keeping on the Netflix queue. My gut instinct is to nix it. Hmm ... Debate over. It's gone.

Great visuals, pretty good story, paced well, great music. Cast did great. I didn't pay much attention to quality of dialog, nothing stood out as terrible. Pretty much the film quickly establishes the sort of worlds occupied by the cast and everything basically flows within the rules of those worlds. Each world has clearly separate requirements for suspension of disbelief: the real world level, the re-imagined as a brothel level, and the fantasy during dance level. What's really slick that Snyder does is he ties her fantasy objectives to things set within the real world. You see her objectives almost right away during the opening sequence. Snyder is kind to the viewers by giving a quick reminder in-story of these connections between the real world items and fantasy world objectives.  He clearly observes the Chekov's Gun principle of drama - and not just with the objects, but with the people in the real world and how they reappear in the bordello fantasy world.

I didn't mind the borrowing from various stand-out films of particular genres because they're all mixed together into the same fantasy world where nothing belongs with anything else and it all makes sense in the greater whole of the film. It didn't feel like Zack Snyder was stealing from other filmmakers, it felt more organic, like Baby Doll's fantasy worlds were shaped with the cultural entertainment influences a 20yr old would have experienced.

It's a crazy fun trip within a trip in the head. I thoroughly enjoyed the film and will probably watch it again.

No comments:

Post a Comment