Monday night I had the fortune of seeing what I assumed to be (and was later confirmed to be) the first test screening of Zack Snyder's "Sucker Punch," set to be released nation wide on March 3, 2011. The screening was all the way out in Chatsworth, but I was determined that win or lose the movie would worth the trek. Oddly, once in line there was a woman asking potential audience memebers whether or not they attended this year's Comic Con and then checking their names against a 2 page list. Several people were asked to leave. After lying about my attendance I was able to get in and scored premium seats in the back row. Before the lights dropped Zack Fuckin Snyder came in from the back door in a baseball cap and sat 3 seats away. The lights dimmed and the movie began. All backstory, titles and credits roll over a soundless motage set to a Pixies cover. We are introduced to the protagonist, Baby Doll has a younger sister and their mother has just passed. Their stepfather terrorizes them and the next night locks Babydoll in a room and goes after the younger sister. Babydoll escapes and shoots him, inadvertently killing her sister. She is then placed in an insane asylum and the person in charge is paid to have her lobotmoized in order to keep quiet. In a few days the doctor arrives and in the moment before the spike is hammered into her face, we are transported into Babydoll's mind. Here the asylum is a whorehouse, the therapist a dance instructor, the patients prostitutes, the warden their pimp, and the leacherous stepfather a priest. Babydoll is told that in a few days the Highroller will arrive to take her virginity. She is then forced to dance. It is in this moment that we once again retreat into Babydoll's mind, a breathtaking snowy feudal Japan scene where Babydoll is given a sword and a gun and told that she must find key items in order to escape her fate. What ensues is a awesome fight against 3 15 foot samurais, including one with a gattling gun. Babydoll decimates the samurais and we are brought back into the whorehouse reality, the crowd stunned at the unseen dance they'd just witnessed. Babydoll then befriends the other prostitutes and enlists them into her plan to escape the brothel. As they go about collecting the items, Babydoll does her entrancing dance as a distraction, and each time we are transported into a different fantasy setting in which Babydoll and the other women work together to achieve a quest associated with the item they are attempting to procure. First there is a WW1 trenchwarfare scene with bi planes, zepplins, mutated German soldiers and mech suits! The next fantasy setting is straight up Lord of the Rings, as the women attempt to take something from a dragon in the middle of a castle siege and battle between knights and orcs. The final escape is a train heist against an army of robots. I won't spoil how it all turns out, how closely the fantasy quests are associated with the whorehouse and the asylum. I will tell you that the connection are all there, embedded thoughout the mulitple layers in some really cool ways. Of the young girls, all are phenemenal! Emily Browning in particular is jaw dropping, even without a line of dialogue for the first half hour or so. She is sexy, tough, vulnerable and entrancing, even without the dance. Oscar Isaac is the true villain and is charming, intelligent and sinister with every line he delivers. This guy hasn't done much before this movie, but he really steals the show. Jon Hamm shows up briefly, just enough to deliver his now trademark gravitas and pomp. The CGI and Greenscreen were some of the best I've ever seen, with the exception of the train scene. Regardless of how unfinished that scene was, the robot design itself was too generic for my tastes, too I Robot. In the castle siege scene, the Orcs look like they were Lord of the Rings leftovers pulled from wardrobe and the dragon CGI is a little too rubbery. The movie is Snyder through and through, meaning a washed out color scheme, a lot of slow motion and sudden speed up. Unlike previous Snyder remakes and adaptations, however; this film is equal parts flash and substance. The mutli layered dream worlds are well fleshed out, but do bring to mind thoughts of Inception. Unlike that film, the protagonist here is all too willing to dream bigger and bigger. The film flows at a good pace, and even without the fantasy action pieces every 20 minutes the events transpiring in the whorehouse world are captivating in and of thereselves. It is difficult to focus on Snyder's "vision." Although the movie is consistently arresting visually, it does seem that I've seen some of these sights in my own doodles in the margins of school papers. At the same time, there is a charming quality in seeing these post pubescent concepts translated to the big screen; something I never imagined possible. Snyder blows his load early on the samurai scene, and although the WW1 scene is equally intense, the castle siege and train heist are less impressive in comparison. This movie was constantly entertaining and visually revolutionary, in both special effects, as well as camera tricks. Brutally violent, this will get a PG 13 because 95% of the violence is against non human enemies. One thing I couldn't shake while watching this was just how shockingly badass and convinving these women were; Joss Whedon's strong female characters look like a step backward in comparison. In the end this may have been my favorite film experience of the year. It is what the trailer portrays: scantily clad women kicking a lot of ass in crazy settings. I remember a random critic that said Scott Pilgrim was an "indulgence of everything a not-quite-adult, no-longer-a-kid manchild could want from women" and shudder to think what she will say of this film. If you give it a chance you will see that Sucker Punch has a lot to offer and a lot to say besides the simple set up of the trailer, though.And now here's BLANK's somewhat tempered review.
Beaks, I was in the audience last night for one of the first ever showings of Zach Snyder’s “Sucker Punch” and wanted to write in to tell you about it. Call me BLANK. As I was watching this movie I couldn’t help but think of M. Night Shyamalan’s The Last Airbender. What does a movie about a tattooed Alopecia-suffering midget have in common with a bunch of slutty Cosplay women in an action flick? The answer is, my initial HUGE interest in both movies after watching the teasers and my MASSIVE letdown with what I saw on film later. When I saw the teaser for Sucker Punch I thought maybe Zack Snyder just had a misfire with impossible subject matter on “Watchmen” and now was back to making movies I wanted to see! Fuck me if I wasn’t completely wrong on that one. I know many viewers have a hard time writing a review of a film that is still in a rough state without all of the visual effects, color correction, finalized score, or editing not finished. This movie was way closer to completion than you would expect for a movie being six months from release (guessing it was this finished so early on so they could send it to off for a postproduction 3D conversion). All the visual effects looked 95% done with only tweaks to be finished. The only reason I tell you this is so you don’t think I am being overly critical for a film in its premature state. ********SOME SPOILERS BELOW*********** While there is no date given in the beginning we assume this movie takes place sometime in the mid 60s. The movie begins with Emily Browning’s character Babydollhaving just lost her mother to some ailment. Through the course of a music video montage set to a new version of Eurythmics Sweet Dreamswe are introduced to Babydoll’s younger sister and her pedophile stepfather. Long story short, kid sister is killed by stray bullet meant for child molester stepdad after he goes to rape them. This is the set up for sending Babydoll to the Sanitarium. In the Sanitarium we are introduced to Oscar Isaac’s character Blue. He is the head orderly in charge of all the patients and is the one that takes the bribe from pedophile stepdad to lobotomize Babydoll so she won’t talk to the police. She is to be given the lobotomy in three days. At this point we are transported from the grim real world setting of the Sanitarium to Babydoll’s alternate reality (her fantastical reinterpretation) of a burlesque whorehouse setting. It’s here where we are introduced to the rest of the girls in her group. The leader is Abbie Cornish’s Sweet Pea followed by her sister Rocket (Jena Malone). There is also Jaime Chung’s Amber and Vanessa Hudgens Blondie. Nothing spectacular to report from any of the acting from this bunch. Together they form a dance group that performs for high rollers that come to the burlesque house. They are marshaled by Madam Gorski (Carla Gugino doing a very bad Polish impersonation) who oversees their training and makes sure the girls stay in line. Since this is an interpretation of Babydoll’s reality we are told there is big spender coming in three days to take what is implied to be her virginity. By now in the movie I am wondering where in the holy hell are the flying dragons having sex with ninjas effects aversion therapy that gave me eye boners from the teaser trailer?? Well, this comes into play when Babydoll is told to dance in one of the training sessions for the girls. Whenever she “dances” we are transported to the magical world CGI eyeball sex. It’s in these worlds we are introduced to Scott Glenn’s Wiseman. He informs her to escape the Burlesque house/Sanitarium she will need five items: a map, a knife, a key, a lighter, and one final special thing. What goes on from there is sequences of Babydoll’s dances where her viewers are so captivated by the dance that the rest of the girls can grab the items necessary to make their escape. By now I am sure you are wondering whether if I am really bad at laying out the storyline or is the plot really this anemic?? Turns out, right on both accounts. ********SPOILERS END*************** My problem with the movie is that the story doesn’t seem fully realized. Love or hate Avatar with its storyline, Jim Cameron kept your eyes busy with an environment that was pretty spectacular. If you want to keep me interested you will need a lot more than 20 minutes of fantasy CGI sequences sprinkled throughout a 120 minute trek. Having all of your primary actresses’ dressed in Fredericks of Hollywood’s finest doesn’t hurt but ultimately wears thin………….zing! The fantasy sequences are amazing although heavily borrowed from other movies in the art direction department. Drawing from Blood: the Last Vampire to Lord of the Rings to I, Robot there is really nothing new under the sun with where they went in designing the fantasy scenes. The ending felt rushed and unfinished and I am certain that is where a lot work needs to be done so I won’t comment on that. All I can really say is if I would have paid to see this next March (for what I am sure to be a post-converted 3D film) I would have been greatly disappointed. I think Zack Snyder can be a good director but needs to stay away from writing his own movies. As long as Chris Nolan keeps him on a tight leash on Superman: Man of Steel we might have something actually look forward to in 2 years.SUCKER PUNCH opens theatrically March 25th, 2011.