Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Sucker Punch; will someone please buy Zack Snyder an X-Box?

And maybe a real girlfriend, I don't know.

It's certainly been a new experience. I don't often stir out of Conspiracy Towers' third floor operations room, not because it has everything I want, but because the blasted wasteland surrounding the Towers is utterly barren of the things my heart desires. Somehow I have to get by on the resources stockpiled in the operations room, and of course my own impressive reserves of self reliance and imagination. Still, a passing caravan of insane yokels dropped off a copy of Mr Snyder's new opus at the fleapit in the marketplace, so I put on protective clothing, made sure I had two forms of secure communication and an ample supply of the curious tokens the natives use for money, and set out on the arduous journey from the Towers to the echoing cavern of the fleapit.'re never too old to have a new experience. I have been the only person in a cinema before. I have been almost the only straight man in a CROWDED cinema before (The Devil Wears Prada; when I stood up at the end of the movie and saw the cinema just heaving with women and guys who had way too much grooming products, I almost grabbed the man I was with for comfort - but that would have sent exactly the message I didn't want to send....). This is definitely the first time that I've been able to say that if you added up the ages of everyone else in the cinema, it still would have summed to less than my own age. Way less. I was quite relieved to emerge blinking from the cinema and not find myself surrounded by armed police and child protective services, though mind you, in the newly pacified terrain surrounding Conspiracy Towers, it's generally best to PLAN for the occasions when you find yourself surrounded by armed police (personal best to date; 24, at which point I stopped counting for fear that they'd have a problem with my lips moving and shoot me on general principles).

It's my considered opinion that Sucker Punch is not suitable for thirteen year olds, even though it appears to have been written and directed by one. It will only give them the wrong ideas. Specifically, the wrong ideas about conflict resolution, negotiation technique, and the wisdom of trusting wizened old dudes who keep coming out with Chinese fortune cookie mottos instead of advice. If there are any 13 year old girls reading this blog, I have two things to say to you; firstly, for god's sake find something more useful to do with your time, and secondly, it's probably best not to take too much advice from old men who seem to be talking plausible nonsense.

Anyhow, Snyder has got terrible reviews for the movie, and it's not entirely fair. For example, the film is shockingly sexist, but the shocking part is that Snyder really, really hates men. Imaginary 13 year old girls who aren't reading this any more because I told them not to; men are not as appalling as Snyder thinks we are. We're dumb, heaven knows, and we'd probably rather be set on fire than try to explain what we're thinking or worse yet, try to understand what someone else might be thinking, but a sizeable majority of us get through our whole lives without pimping out the deranged, murdering the crap out of people at random, or even punching anyone outside of a playground. I'm just saying.

As for charges that Snyder disrespects women, you might as well charge him with disrespecting Venusians, because there's nothing in the movie to suggest that he's ever met, you know, actual women. Alternatively, I'm living in the wrong universe. Those are the two possible explanations for the fact that I've yet to meet a woman wearing an abbreviated sailor suit, thigh high stockings, a samurai sword and a Colt 45 with phone charms hanging out of it. I don't think I've ever spent any time at all in the company of any woman who dressed like anyone in this movie, at any time. So please, don't give Zack grief about how he depicts women. He depicts them with the same exacting attention to real life accuracy that he used for the Persian army in 300. Get over it.

The tagline for the movie is "You will be unprepared". This is only going to be true if you're brought into the cinema with a bag over your head, having been kidnapped from a country where they don't speak English, or have cinemas. Otherwise, you're pretty much going to be prepared. The only way you could conceivably be more prepared would be if the director came and personally tattooed the punchline on your head in mirror writing while holding you in front of a looking glass. It's not exactly a shocking twist ending. Anyone with the remotest familiarity with narrative technique is going to see the main punchline coming. So - and this may come as a newsflash to Zack Snyder and 13 year old girls everywhere, please dial down your expectations that you're going to be sitting through some shocking mutant cross breed of Inception and Donnie Darko. Not. So.

Which is not to say that it isn't fun. The dream sequences are daft fun, weird smorgasbords of video game tropes mashed through a hallucinogenic sieve. They're fun while they last, but it's surprising how quickly they become samey despite the visual flair and imagination with which they're carried off. Then you're back down to earth with a bang, watching the intermediate layers of dream and realising that a better movie about THAT phase could have been made by a better director. Everything which is wrong, and everything which is right, about Zack Snyder as a director, is summed up in the opening sequence. It's completely free of dialogue, it sets up the main action economically and with immense visual panache and emotional impact, and when it's over, it's all downhill from there. It's been said, with considerable justice, that the best bit of his adaptation of The Watchmen is the opening credits. This is more of the same. It's a little frustrating, really. Zack Snyder has talent, and can SHOW a story with real skill. He just doesn't seem to be able to TELL a story to the same effect.

As a purely personal grumble, I was disappointed in Emily Browning. Not just that Snyder isn't giving her much to do other than pout adorably and jump around athletically while showing us her pants (seriously, it's like some kind of sick live action Sailor Moon revival), but that somehow, in the seven years between her effective debut in A Series of Unfortunate Events and Sucker Punch, the utter luminosity she used to have has dissipated just a little. This happens. This is why I grumble about Chloe Moretz wasting her time on things. Teenage faces change so fast, and so unpredictably. Emily Browning is still a beautiful woman and a fine actress. But in her first film, she was quite literally otherworldly, and now she's not. The world is that little bit less marvellous. Ah well.

Anyhow, Sucker Punch. Is it a big pile of steaming dinosaur crap, or just another ho hum movie? In the end, it's just another ho hum movie. The fantasy sequences are big dumb fun, but the rest of the movie doesn't work well enough as a character drama for the catharsis of the fantasies to feel earned. Snyder does the spectacle well, if pointlessly, but can't quite hit the right tone in the real world. Which is not at all unexpected. I was not UNprepared. But having said that, he does a lot better at the real world than I thought he would. At no point is Sucker Punch an actively horrible movie. It isn't, for example, the sprawling self indulgent mess that Southland Tales was, to pick another personal vision movie with a gothic typeface for the title. And it's not remotely as eyewateringly terrible as Showgirls, a film which seems to have operated as Snyder's Cliff notes for the middle framing narrative.

On the other hand, a giant manga walking robot with machine gun hands and a pink fluffy bunny rabbit painted on its head is authentically awesome, and I want one just like it for my robot army.

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