Monday, 4 April 2011

Sucker Punch (Zack Snyder, 2011) Review

It's like the feminist movement never happened in Zack Snyder's Sucker Punch (2011)

Zack Snyder's latest film, Sucker Punch, opens on a scene of domestic violence. A cover of the Eurhythmics 'Sweet Dreams' (by lead star Emily Browning) plays over the scene, which has the aesthetic of a music video. The setting is drab, but the visuals are slick and polished. This is the male-fantasy version of female empowerment. Some of them want to abuse you. That's the lyric Snyder chooses to play over the image of a father abusing his daughter. I read about this scene prior to seeing the film, and it offended me. The base simplicity of the scene, combined with the infantilization of violence, got me really angry. But when I actually watched it I felt quite differently. Because to even propose that Sucker Punch has an ideology, engages with sexual politics or is anything more than just reductionist, self-indulgent, fetishistic claptrap would be to assume more intelligence than it actually has. Critics have been raving about how awfully it treats women. And yes, if you care enough about the 'characters' to get worked up by their objectification, which is horrid, and if you're invested enough to walk out when the fourth burlesque dance leads to a skimpily-skirted samurai showdown, then I can understand the rants that have been hitting the web. But I was just bored out of my mind watching Sucker Punch. And for the record I don't think any woman is going to come out of Sucker Punch feeling as if they've been badly represented - they're going to come out thinking that this is the worst narrative film of the last twenty years...

Sucker Punch isn't misogynist, it's just stupid. Women won't feel badly represented because the characters here aren't recognizable as women. They're cardboard cutouts, 2D shells of real people - badly written and badly acted. Do I hate the fact that Snyder's idea of female empowerment is to dress his characters like they're in a strip club and then make them do battle with fantasy creatures half clothed? Yes, but I'd hate it more if he actually made them feminine, made me care about them, made them sympathetic and real - and then dressed them down for banal combat. I couldn't detect a single emotion in Sucker Punch, nor the faintest whiff of a story. If the crass objectification was taking place within a framework of strong women I cared about, that would be another story. But these girls are just like a bunch of pixels, which leads me to my next point... Sucker Punch isn't a film. It's a videogame.

It takes place on levels, with characters finding items to progress to the next stage. They have an instructional commander, played by Scott Glenn, much like the sort you would encounter on the training level of a videogame - the one who tells you which buttons to press. The fantasy environment and monsters recall several videogames including Ninja Gaiden and Dragon Age. One combat sequence on a train unfurls much like those interactive cutscenes that are popular in videogames at the moment - players press buttons on request to progress the on-rails action. It's five minutes of slow-motion camera twirling and hair flicking, and it's rubbish. I wish I had something nice to say about Sucker Punch. The moments where it doesn't look like a videogame it looks like a music video, and some of the songs are quite good. But if I wanted to listen to Björk's 'Army Of Me' I'd by the Post album. I wouldn't watch Sucker Punch. I really like Scott Glenn, but he's reduced to bland exposition, and given nothing to do but spout philosophical advice. The biggest problem with the film is that it's just so vacuous and boring. Snyder has no idea how to put a story together, and much less of an idea of how to handle subtlety. One scene has a cover of The Pixies' 'Where Is My Mind?' playing over Baby Doll (Browning) being led to lobotomy. Another scene sees a character giving us a tour of the insane asylum. "We like to call this room the theatre" he says. He opens the door, and it's a theatre! I can't even say that the film is short, because it runs for the best part of two hours and feels like longer. It's crass, stupid, narcissistic and devoid of any storytelling sensibilities whatsoever. Well done Sucker Punch. You're the worst film of the year so far...

1 comment:

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