Friday, April 01, 2011

Sucker Punch

To misquote Nicole Krauss:
Very rarely, a few times in a lifetime, you watch a film and when it finishes nothing can ever be the same. Walls have been pulled down, barriers broken, a dimension of feeling, of existence itself, has opened in you that was not there before.
Instead, I watched Sucker Punch last night.

It's good and original, which is to say the parts that are original aren't any good and ... oh dear, I can't even go on. I'm not sure there were any original parts to it, unless originality includes throwing stuff at a wall and hoping some of it sticks (in which case Pollock beat Snyder to the punch by quite a few decades), or any good parts either.

Well, ok, everyone likes cleavage, and everyone likes dragons, and I've always had a real soft spot for steam-powered clockwork Nazis, even if they are anachronistically scuttling round the World War One trenches that apparently surrounded Notre Dame. And quite a few people liked Inception, and quite a lot of people paid money to see Burlesque, and that Quentin Tarantino did alright with Kill Bill, didn't he, so surely if you stuffed that all into a middle-era Britney Spears video, everyone would be happy. Right? Right?

It's no good. David Carradine can't respond because he's dead, last seen near a suspicious piece of furniture. Inception actually had a go at explaining what was going on, or at least setting out the ground rules, whereas nothing in Sucker Punch bears much relation to anything else. It's the Brownian Motion approach to plot - something happens, then something happens, then something happens, with the occasional attempt to make it seem as though it All Means Something, without any idea how to do that.

Maybe it's a clever existential exercise to show the modern anomie of 21st century humans, as best demonstrated by a bunch of blokes in a trench not even looking up when five girls in not much clothing stalk past. On balance, probably not. Clever isn't a word you'd apply here.
"Fackin' hell, it's anuvver bunch of bints wearing hankies in our trench. Bleedin' liberty I tell yer"

Sucker Punch makes an awesome trailer, that much is clear already. But the giant robot samurai are a massive disappointment; when a man is tired of thirty-foot samurai firing gatling guns, he is tired of life, sir, and that's what Snyder has done. He's made me tired of zeppelins, and women doing backflips over swords, and dragons chasing B-17 bombers, and cleavage. And I really used to like cleavage, and now Zack Snyder has made me always associate decolletage with slightly unconvincing CGI and very unconvincing plot.

And because nobody seems in any danger of getting hurt, it's even more bamboozling when the rug is swept away from underneath you and people start dying later on. That doesn't stop you being bored; now it's just people you haven't got round to being emotionally invested in, dying unpleasantly. Way to go, Thursday night.

I like the twist at the end. No, not the awful stuff with the bus driver and the kid, more the way the whole film is an exercise in misdirection about who the protagonist really is, but we didn't need two hours to get there. And I'm not somebody who hates Snyder for ruining Dawn of the Dead1, or Watchmen2, because I don't believe he did. But after all the high hopes I had for what this was going to be, to find it's as flat as this is really disappointing3. It's like a grown up version of The Last Airbender, that's how bad this is.

(Mind you, I'd probably like it if I was 14. A bit like I liked Big Trouble In Little China, until I watched it again this year and realised most of the plot I had constructed myself in the intervening years, because really nothing much in that film ever makes sense when you cast a critical eye upon it. But Big Trouble In Little China was well-aimed as a cheap B-movie you'd happen upon by mistake one night - who's going to be watching Sucker Punch at 2am because there's nothing else on?)

1After all, Snyder's Dawn of the Dead was great. You can forget all that 'commentary on consumerism' waffle that people justify Romero with - the fact is that it's three hours of people not doing much in a shopping centre. Like Gorgeous George was attempting to make something that really, truly felt like a Neverending Story. With the Goblins as a soundtrack.
Snyder gutted it, slotted in a sub-nu-metal-whatever soundtrack, and taught his zombies to get a jog on. It might not have had a deep subtext or anythink, but I think it would have been much better for the 15-year-old me than watching the original.
2I liked Watchmen, which people didn't like because it went on a bit and upset Alan Moore, as though either of those were necessarily bad things. And as if those two things weren't being true to the book. Don't confuse a bloke who looks like an unkempt Gandalf with God, people, and don't think that just because Watchmen is a good comic, it isn't just a comic. Snyder could have been a bit more creatively and not just produced a verbatim live-action version of the book (apart from King Blue Dong's Attack on New York), but you can't have everything.
3For what feels like half a year, Sucker Punch has been teasing me. As
I've wandered through Asia, doing my level best to avoid any interaction with local culture by hiding in the cinema in every city I visit, there's been an enormous cardboard sign advertising it.
When times were hard (leaving The Green Hornet, soul crushed by two hours of Gondry's ruination of a comic book character nobody had evenheard of) I could seek succour in the thoughts of a film full of zeppelins and mecha and ... and ... and Stuff! Piles of stuff! The Unwashed Mass does a better job than I could of describing the anticipation everyone was feeling for whatever Snyder was going to put up on the screen. And was then similarly let down.


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