This is going to be very Harry Knowlesesque. And probably my longest review of anything, ever.
Last week I went to the movies. My local 12 plex had a poster for Sucker Punch on the ‘now playing’ wall, and I’d heard periphery good things about it. Mind you I am mostly spoiler free, including trailers many times unless it is shown to me in front of a movie. IE, I’m forced to watch it. But ever since Morgan Freeman’s Kiss the Girls, I’m even wary of those since THEY GAVE AWAY THE WHOLE PLOT AND TWIST IN THE FREAKING TRAILER!
Ahem. But I digress.
So anyways, I went to buy a ticket, and was informed it came out this week instead. Cool, I thought, I’ll check it out then. Instead I went to see The Adjustment Bureau, which I need to write a review of as well.
Anyways, after a really long but good day at the office, I remembered this was out today and I was looking forward to seeing it based on my little knowledge of what it was supposed to be. The poster I had seen (left) looked kind of cool and quirky, and I thought perhaps some reglorified reboot of Alice In Wonderland ala Dirty Dozen, but with mechs. You know, for kids.
What I got was far more disjointed and concerning than I had ever imagined.
I’m actually really torn on how to write about this. I’m generally spoiler free, but in order to really delve into why I have committed this movie to a fate worse than hating it… simply not caring, I’m going to do two reviews.
The story: It’s like the writers had a brainstorming session with a madlib and a bunch of 14-year olds. On speed:
Abused teen framed for death of sister by evil stepfather is taken to mental institution, where she turns into… a caged abused woman in a brothel/club where she and the other women plan to escape. This plan consists of… her dancing and enthralling everyone who watches. And when she dances… wait for it… she becomes a ninja anime warrior fighting in different period battles.
I’m not even going to do my standard review setup for this… Let me put it this way: When you can get me to totally NOT care about steampunk zombie Nazis, then you’ve done something horribly, horribly wrong.
The graphics are good, but to me, graphics only work when you’re IN the story and the action. And they kicked me SO FAR out of suspension of disbelief that I could never really even appreciate the cinematography and effects work. There wasn’t anything that gripped me.
(Someone asked me to expound spoiler free, so here’s my best attempt):
The worst part of the movie is the premise(s) of who this girl is. Who she is in reality creates this horrific disconnect when she enters the movie’s dream sequences. And that disconnect comes early, yanks you out of the film and leaves you outside the movie for its remainder. The character development is minimalistic at best, so you never become attached to any of the characters. What few character choices are made during the movie defy logic (the pimp character being most outstanding) and the movie writers seem to be creating this horrific set of circumstances just to draw attention to the fact that they are being ‘edgy’ and have created a movie full of disjointed pop-culture references mashed together highlighted by women that are more scantily clad in most of the dream sequences than they are in their ‘real life’ cathouse.
Short form review: Save your $8.50 and go see The Adjustment Bureau instead.
2 out of 10 bunny mechs.
So if you don’t like suhpoilers, stop reading now.
Ok, I warned you. Nothing but spoiler after spoiler from here on out.
Review 2: Spoilertastic.
I want you to take a good hard look at BabyDoll’s face right there. Because that’s what it looks like pretty much the whole movie. I need to talk in-depth about why this thing goes soooo far off the freaking tracks so quickly, and to do that I need to break the story down component by component.
The first seven minutes of this movie are pure discomforting terror. Watchmen pooltable scene kind of terror. The kind that makes you squirm in your chair and wonder how far they are going to take this. But then there is the confrontation as the stepfather is abusing the youngest sister… BabyDoll shoots out a light… on the ceiling… and her little sister is dead?
And then she just willingly goes along to the mental institution? No attempting to explain her story, no screaming to be let free, just willingly goes? I guess I find it hard to believe that someone’s spirit can be so easily squelched. That may be my own failing, and that’s fine. But when people are talking about how they are going to have you lobotomized in five days, you know, in front of you… you would tend to want to fight back at least a little, right? But then we find out… it’s all a show?
And BabyDoll isn’t really a troubled teen, but instead an orphan delivered to a club/brothel where she is to be held hostage for five days until the High Roller comes to take her away. To a different life of slavery. But beyond the opening scene, which is apparently no longer true, by the way, there is no other extrapolation about BabyDoll or character development. Nothing to tie you to her, to make you care about her. Hell, I don’t think she has more than seven words for the first half of the whole movie.
Anyways, she makes friends with the other captive girls, ‘friends’ being the measure of how dead they already are inside measurable by their eyes. Regardless, the ‘favorite’ girl, star of the show catty type doesn’t want anything to do with her, and is Rocket’s sister only for drama/tension purposes. Then we have Rocket, the firecracker, who reminds me visually a lot of a young Meg Ryan. Blondie, the hispanic chick, the Asian and some other cliche I can’t even bother to remember at this point.
Rocket is the only bird whose eyes aren’t dead, who has hope in her heart. She befriends BabyDoll and is given a tour of her new cage.
The foreshadowing is so blatant in the early stages of the movie, that someone should literally be shouting “FORESHADOWING” across the soundtrack as we get zoom-ins and closeups of maps, lighters, knives and keys.
Anyways, BabyDoll is forced to dance, dance, dance for the congregation of pimps and whores.
…and apparently she turns into a ninja. In her dreams. While she’s dancing. And she formulates a plan to escape.
I need to dwell on this for a moment and expound. I get that it’s a dream sequence. I get that she’s imagining all this. But here was the most jarring disconnect possible.
She’s a young girl who’s had everything taken away from her, regardless of which narrative you choose to believe. Either she’s a traumatized teen who tried to protect her sister and failed; or she’s an orphan in a whorehouse who is emotionally downtrodden and defeated.
So suddenly, when in her dreams, she’s the most badass ninja EVAR, it makes no sense, and the disconnect is immediate. And jarring. Remember, this is the same person that had no hope while people were talking about lobotomizing her. The same person that just let herself be handed over by the priest.
And the special fx/wirefu is kind of bad. The effects on the whole throughout the movie are OK, but nothing is super special, especially since it all feels disjointed.
The only shot of the entire movie I can say started to impress me was when the first stone samurai walked up, and we got to see he was 20 feet tall to her 5’5″ frame. Every step was deliberate and weighty. I thought this was going to be good. But then everyone started flipping around like ninja cat rabbits. There was no ‘get beatdown a bit but learn and slowly gain confidence.’ She was a goddamned Jedi as soon as she closed her eyes. And call me a purist, but Samurai with miniguns just sort of serves to highlight that disconnect all the more. It just doesn’t work. And because it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work for the rest of the movie. And trust me kids, that disconnect hits you EARLY. Like at the 14 minute mark.
So anyways, BabyDoll comes up with an escape plan, where failure is death (because prostitutes are worth more dead? It makes no sense, honestly). I’m not going to point it out, but by now you can probably chant it with them from this review and foreshadowing when they write it down on the chalkboard.
I was laughing my ass off at one point in the movie because Sister Pissy at one point goes “This plan is ridiculous! You just dance and we take all the risks!” and BabyDoll nods and bats her eyelashes and grins enthusiastically and everyone agrees. Wow. That’s a redefined Jedi Mind Trick if I’ve ever seen one. I only thought that worked on guys?
So each member of their unremarkable, but scantily clad group has to steal one of the objects while BabyDoll keeps everyone mesmerized with her super-amazing dancing. Which we never see. Which is fine.
She’s now joined by the others in her dream sequences. They fight reanimated Zombie steampunk Nazis. And you don’t care.
They fight monsters, knights and a dragon. And you won’t care.
There’s a futuristic city/train heist! Against TERMINATORS! And you will shake your head and go ‘meh.’
People die, and then the pimp goes against the pimp code, and it further serves the disconnect that you experience so early in the beginning of the movie.
And I want to be clear here, I am not advocating nor endorsing violence against women. But from a logical perspective, if one were to value a person as a money-making tool, one would not kill them, as they would not ever make money for them again. So what I am pointing out, is that studio writers and executives are doing something even WORSE than portraying women forced into prostitution. They are doing so without thought and for the sake of trying to be controversial. To get your attention.
And I do not agree with that kind of pandering. At all.
At the end of the day, when I walked out of the theater, that’s what I felt the entire movie was. No story, no purpose. Let’s take every pop culture reference we can think of, and figure out a loose framework of a movie to put them all into together. Nothing has weight. Nothing has purpose.
The funny thing is that BabyDoll looks MORE like a stripper/callgirl when she’s in her dream sequences than when she’s in reality. I’m not sure what that says when that’s probably the dichotomy I think of the most when I reflect on the movie.
And since I’ve deviated so far on my standard no-spoilers policy with this one, let me go ahead and tell you how it ends.
BabyDoll gets lobotomized.
My friends, after watching Sucker Punch, I wholeheartedly think *she* was the lucky one.
2 out of 10 pink bunny mechs that get shown for maybe a total of 1 minute in the entire movie.