Monday, July 4, 2011

Sucker Punch (2011)

The younger brother and I had a steak dinner via the stove top, as it was a hundred degrees outside, far too hot to do the holiday-grilling routine. After dinner, he had an espresso, and I settled in with a mug of coffee. I asked him if he wanted to watch a movie, maybe something off of Video on Demand, and he did. I perused the selection and narrowed my picks. I asked him to finalize my pick by choosing one to watch. Here is how I presented them:

1. Did he want to watch a Norwegian movie about trolls?

2. How about a German zombie flick? Or, it could be a viral-outbreak flick?

3. Did he want to see a Quarantine sequel sans Ms. Jennifer Carpenter? Maybe set on an airplane?

4. Sucker Punch. I heard it sucked and I've only seen one Zack Snyder film.

"Let's watch Sucker Punch," he said. So we did.

Within the first few minutes of Sucker Punch, I quickly realized that at thirty-six years old, I am three times older than its target audience. I had heard the Eurythmics song during its original incarnation as a child in the eighties, heard the Manson redux, and am certain that at least once more I will hear it again redone before I die. When I heard "Army of Me," I thought Tank Girl? And again later, was that the song from The Craft that played over its credits? From time to time, my brother paused the film, appropriately via the XBOX controller, and we bullshitted about movies.

Above all else, I value imagery in cinema. One striking composition can become memorable while a string of them can create lasting memories. At some point, those images become affecting, and the story that they tell can touch strong emotions and evoke deep thought. Likewise, cinema can just be beautiful scenes flickering along--that's cool, too.

Sucker Punch has narration, has emotion, and has a story. In order for me to grasp any of the mentioned three, I am going to have to watch Sucker Punch, again. Sucker Punch is a "theatre" movie. You're definitely looking at it.

During Dave Chappelle's brilliant run on Comedy Central on his sketch show, he had a skit where he presented a scene of himself entering into a laundry mat with a sack of dirty clothes over his shoulder. He sat down his laundry and said hello to an elderly woman folding her clothes. That was it, the whole scene, mundane and boring. Chappelle then presented the same scene again to his audience. This time Chappelle strolled into the laundry mat in slow-motion with an accompanying beat as the soundtrack. A wind machine blew his attire around, and the elderly woman folding her clothes appeared as a young woman, dancing to the soundtrack. Persuasively, Chappelle proved slow motion made everything look very cool.

Who doesn't love the scene of a snowy Japanese temple with a courtyard, imposing mountains looming over its walls while soothing soft light emits from candles within?
Whether it's Meiko Kaji, Lucy Liu, or Emily Browning in the frame, this imagery is a cinematic battle arena. It's live-action anime and gatling-gun crazy. Around the time dragons appeared within Sucker Punch, however, I was ready to watch something else or nothing at all. I flippantly told my brother that I would have loved this film when I was twelve.

"What movies did you love when you were twelve?" asked my brother. That espresso must have been jet fuel, because he was really alert.

Die Hard. Rambo. Robocop. The Lost Boys. As we bullshitted further, with the explosions in the background, we talked about how the best escapist movies were about escaping. The underlying trauma and situation from where the young women from Sucker Punch are escaping, when you stop to think about it, is quite horrible. If their situation was presented in any other way, then I wouldn't be writing like this. Who wants to travel across country to see his wife to whom he is separated and decide whether or not to stay together? Killing a bunch of terrorists in a high rise fills the void. Who wants to revisit a country on whose soil a major conflict took place with a highly unfavorable outcome? Well, just one man, who fucking kicks everyone's ass by himself. Who wants to go to a quickie mart at eleven o'clock at night only to encounter an armed robbery? Anyone, because there's a badass cyborg roaming the city as law enforcement. Who wants to move to a new town and make new friends? How about meeting vampires?

Sucker Punch is in the same vein of the cinema of my youth. Somewhere, I'm certain, there is someone echoing my original sentiments about The Lost Boys: "Man, that was so fucking cool." Lost Boys has some serious subtext, too. When I got older that Rob Lowe poster made a lot more sense to me. Sucker Punch is cinema which belongs to someone else, just as The Lost Boys belongs to me.

Beyond any criticism of the film, already espoused by professional critics, Snyder's film is a little too serious for me. Sucker Punch could have taken at least a minute or two of its nearly two-hour runtime to loosen up and do something unexpected. I actually love the fact that Snyder made Sucker Punch so unabashedly. It's like a primer for a whole generation of filmmakers with new cinematic tools.

Anyway, this blog entry on Sucker Punch turned out to be more musing than substantive review or criticism. I enjoyed hanging out with my brother, having dinner on a holiday weekend, and bullshitting about movies. Quiet Cool needed to loosen up anyway. I also watched the Norwegian film about trolls. It was quite funny. Happy Fourth.


BRENT said...

I think the key to this movie is not to take it too seriously. It is visually stunning and man it was in my face when I saw it on the big screen!!
Alot to like but alot to to dis-like as well. Certainly had a target audience and if I was twelve again I'd go 'best movie ever' but I aren't and so I can't!!
Sounds like you watched it at a good time when more relaxed and wanting something to just 'watch' rather than be 'involved in. Movies like that are good sometimes and this one fills that niche nicely.

Ty said...

Great write-up! You definitely hit the nail on the head with your review. This movie is perfect for 12 year olds.

I liked it for the action sequences and overall weirdness though.

Hans A. said...

@BRENT-- You're absolutely right. It had great visuals, I totally agree. Thanks for taking the time to read and leave your thoughts!

@Ty-- It's a fun film, definitely. Just not my kind of film, anymore, I guess. Be cool and Happy Fourth!

Kev D. said...

Doesn't everyone celebrate the fourth by staying up late and watching Norwegian movies about trolls?

Dr.LargePackage said...

When I watched Sucker Punch, I would have given anything for Jason Patric to appear and say "Just you! Just you!" Nostagia is large and in charge.