I got Sucker Punched

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After checking the review sites that I frequent, it seems that a lot of people didn't like Zack Snynder's new film, 
Sucker Punch. I happened to see it yesterday after work, so I thought I'd drop my opinion on the vast sea that we call the internet.

I LOVED SUCKER PUNCH.


Most of you that know me would probably assume as much, with the movie about strong women fighting their way to freedom with guns, swords, mechs, dragons and cool techno soundtracks. Yeah, it had all that, it had a great visual style, but what I liked most about it was that it broke out of the mold. We've seen so many movies in the past ten years that have taken individuals and given them superhuman abilities in a hyperreal setting. Since the Matrix did it in 1999, audiences across the country have eaten up the over the top visual style, bright colors and impossible acrobatics and choreography like hotcakes. (Note: Who actually eats hotcakes these days?). Not only did Snyder take this visual style and turn the dial up to 11, but he helped us to care about the characters. We want to see them succeed, because their current situation is so horrible. 

*Spoilers Below*

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I suppose a bit of explanation is needed. Sucker Punch is as story about a 20 year old woman who after a tragedy is forcibly taken to an asylum so that her stepfather can keep her late mother's wealth to herself. The stepfather pays one of the orderlies, Oscar Isaac's Blue Jones to forge a signature to order a lobotomy for the girl. After overhearing this, the girl, (Emily Browning's) Baby Doll (a nickname for having a very young face) has to find a way to escape before she's lobotomized. 

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This is where it gets weird, and maybe loses some of the audience. To cope with the horror of being committed, Baby Doll envisions the asylum as a dance hall/club. Each of the people in the asylum take on corresponding versions of themselves. The abusive orderly is now the abusive club owner. The psychologist is now the dance hall instructor. Other orderlies are now suit wearing patrons. This story within a story goes one level deeper when Baby Doll starts to dance, losing herself and her grip on reality once more as it changes into different battlegrounds. The tasks that she has to complete in order to escape are reflected in the battleground. When she needs to find a map, the world transforms into a battlefield of trenches filled with german soldiers, zeppelins and biplanes flying overhead. When she needs to find fire, she is storming a medieval castle and fighting a fire breathing dragon. Snyder's decision to use this dream within a dream idea (much like Chris Nolan's Inception) is a little confusing at first to wrap your head around, but once you suspend enough disbelief to go with it, the decision is actually quite brilliant, as  the entire movie is an exploration of Baby Doll's fragile mental state. Halfway through the movie, it was totally apparent that she did in fact belong in an asylum.

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Emily Browning plays 
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Baby Doll well, but she's definitely not the strongest actor in the movie. That would probably have to go to Oscar Isaac who plays Blue Jones, the head orderly/club owner. Isaac epitomizes the sleazy, abusive antagonist better than most in comparable roles. He reminded me of an abusive boyfriend who feels the need to constantly establish his dominance. It's painful and uncomfortable to watch, yet successfully achieved in his execution. 

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Following Isaac is Carla Gugino, who plays Dr. Vera Gorski, the resident psychologist/dance hall instructor/club madam. Gugino takes a somewhat stereotypically hard, strict Russian dance instructor role and breathes life and a bit of softness into what one might see as a two dimensional role. She shows a strong will, yet a compassion and motherly love for the patients in the asylum. 

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Baby Doll's group, composed of Abbie Cornish's 'Sweet Pea', Jena Malone's 'Rocket', Vanessa Hudgen's "Blondie" and Jamie Chung's "Amber" all shine in their own way, but none of them hit it out of the park. There are some good moments where Jena Malone seems like she's going to pull a strong, memorable performance out of a hat, but it stays just below the surface. 
None of them have a bad performance, per se. Quite the opposite actually, as they were all enjoyable to watch, but it seems the big guns were actually none of the principle characters. One strange edition was the Wise Man, played by Scott Glen.
 The Wise Man is the one who first gives Baby Doll her the weapons and the knowledge that she needs in order to escape. Before each mission, he explains to the group what they need to do to accomplish each task, ending with his catch phrase, "..oh, and one more thing..." followed by whatever twist the girls have to somehow find a way of overcoming. Of all the characters, The Wise Man was, in my opinion the most underused, as he was a character with obviously a strong backstory that was never told, yet stole each scene in which he was featured.

Besides the beautiful sets, visceral choreography and over the top action, the soundtrack was fantastic and features mostly of covers of originals such as Sweet Dreams (Are Made of These), Army of Me, We Will Rock You, Search and Destroy, Where is My Mind and more. These adaptations are infused with a gritty techno electronic tone, perfectly mirroring the chaotic nature of each scene. They're dark, moody, maybe a bit emo, and they definitely quicken the pulse. With artists such as Bjork, Skunk Anansie and Yoav (featuring Emily Browning, the actor playing Baby Doll), they really couldn't go wrong.

Sucker_Punch_rev630-thumb-630xauto-31433So what else did I like about the film? For one, the entire first act is filmed as a music video with extremely little dialogue. One thing that I read about film making was to show the audience the story, not tell it to them. Snyder pulled this off brilliantly by having us experience the moment of Baby Doll's mother's death, the terror she feels for her (most likely sexually) abusive stepfather, the 
accidental death of her sister, and eventual imprisonment in the asylum. Many reviewers have found this to distract from the overall movie, and some have even called it a cop out, claiming that it was only used as a prologue, and  not properly explored. On the contrary, I thought this was an imaginative and pretty gutsy way to bring the audience into the story, especially because so much of the movie focuses on the score, which was the only thing playing at this time in the movie. 

*End Spoilers*

SuckerPunchMany are going to watch this movie in the theater, or on DVD in a few months and discount it as a cool, flashy yet easily forgettable action movie starring some very attractive protagonists. I think that those people are missing out on a very original take on the exploration of one girl's very loose grip on the reality of her situation. Package that with the thrilling action pieces (the train scene was one of my favorite shots in the entire movie) and a soundtrack that will be blaring through my headphones for a while to come and you have a satisfying break away from typical Hollywood that was a breath of fresh air.