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42 of 57 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Five go Mentally Insane in Vermont. Or Do They?, 28 Mar. 2011
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This review is from: Sucker Punch (Incl. Extended Cut) [Blu-ray + DVD] [2011] [Region Free] (Blu-ray)
Sucker Punch has such an extraordinary trailer that there ought to be an Oscar category for trailers, just to reward it. That may be the only recognition the film ever gets, because no full length feature film in history could live up to that kind promise, just in terms of sheer bombast. And, judging by the initial critical reaction, nor has this one got a Babydoll's chance in a House for the Mentally Insane of getting any industry recognition: it's going down like a burning zeppelin with the critics. A "crass women's penitentiary picture reconceived for today's manga- and vidgame-savvy crowd" says one (presumably not manga- and "vidgame" savvy) critic; "built so as to dispense with the need for narrative logic" says another. A pity, because I think the critics are wildly wrong here. With any luck the public will have a different view, because Sucker Punch almost lives up to its trailer.

It could be the greatest fantasy motion picture since The Matrix. It could also be the greatest disaster since The Hindenburg. In either case the ringside seat is a scorcher.

Let's see, then.

In fairness, the film does miss a couple of the trailer's features: There's no Led Zeppelin on the soundtrack, for one thing. Nonetheless, Zack Snyder uses every trick in the book. It's beautifully shot. Every frame is a gem. The technology - there's more green screen here than in Sky Captain & The World Of Tomorrow- is sympathetic, clever and impressive. It's artistic. It oozes style. It is in glorious two dimensions.

There's a little preamble which winds up in an all-girl asylum before things descend impossibly into a psychotic imaginarium of kick-ass ninja dolls, samurai, monster robots, fire-breathing dragons, sepia-tinted Nazi zeppelins and crash-&-burning bi-planes: yea: all of the above. Amongst it all, statuesque, like a serene core at the eye of the storm is super-cool Scott Glenn, a multiple personality avatar dispensing one-line platitudes to his jailbait harem as if the structural integrity of universe required it. He intones Alexander Hamilton's aphorism: "Stand for something, or you'll fall for anything".

Sucker Punch, indeed, stands for everything. Anything, even. So much does it play like a seventeen-year-old's wet dream that it is tempting to write it off as one.

It would appear many critics have been duly tempted. Their major complaints: Lack of wit. No plot. Wafer-thin characters. Gratuitous girlitude. The last two, sure - but, come on: the context is comic book bravura. What did you expect: Kurosawa? Yes, parts of it are like stages of a video game, they are meant to be. Sucker Punch borrows from The Matrix, but repays with interest.

But lack of wit? This is a brilliantly funny picture. And no plot? Au contraire: that's a different story. In their haste to write this off, I fear the critics have forgotten to pay attention. Ladies and Gentlemen of the Jury: before you bemoan a lack of intellectual endeavour, use some of your own: at least have a go at trying to puzzle things out. And there are some puzzles, if you only look for them: narrative peculiarities which Snyder has gone to some lengths to achieve. It's only fair to suppose he did this for a reason.

Firstly, the opening scene: pay attention. We open in a vaudeville theatre. The velvet curtains open on a set that is a young girl's bedroom. We see a blonde girl sitting on her bed with her back to us. Take note: This is a theatrical set of some description. It's a play. It's not real. The camera tracks in and around the girl on the bed, and as it does so the set resolves into an actual house. Then we see the girl's face. It is Babydoll (Emily Browning). Note how we are introduced to Babydoll: on a stage. It is important.

Babydoll's mother is dead. An Evil Stepfather circles like a vulture. He tries to have his way with Babydoll. She resists. He locks the door, and turns to Babydoll's little sister. Babydoll tries to intervene, but little sister winds up dead. Again, remember this. Look out for parallels with other characters later in the movie.

Babydoll is framed for her sister's murder and corruptly declared insane. She is institutionalised and maliciously scheduled for a quick lobotomy. Again, note how this happens: To a reworking of Eurhythmics' Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This), a Black Maria rolls up the hill to "Lennox House", an institution "FOR THE MENTALLY INSANE" - or just of sweet dreams? Warders and orderlies leer. Babydoll is given a tour. She winds up in a common room full of crazies called "the theatre". At this point there is a sudden and jarring transition from Asylum to Bordello. Suddenly we are in a Burlesque Club of some sort - where did the Asylum go? We meet a showgirl Sweetpea, during a rehearsal. She breaks off, mid scene, aghast at the notion that the production should contemplate her character, an orphan, being sent to an asylum for a lobotomy. Again, note this scene.

These are hardly subtle clues. Yet still this secret seems to have eluded Hollywood's finest: Is this film really about Babydoll? It is not. Whose world is imaginary and whose is real?

Sucker Punch is certainly not perfect - it's 20 minutes too long, and for a film featuring five bombshells in their knickers, it is oddly sexless. Blue Jones (Oscar Isaac) is a bloodless villain. But as far as science fiction/fantasy goes, it is so much more sophisticated and imaginative than Avatar, The Last Airbenderor utterly pitiful Mars Needs Moms as indeed to seem like Kurosawa. It is stylish. It is witty. It has more bombast than Elton John's birthday. It has an attention span of about thirty seconds.

A Matrix, therefore, for the YouTube generation. God forbid that they make a sequel.

Olly Buxton
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Showing 1-9 of 9 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 31 Mar 2011 17:00:03 BDT
effjott says:
As far as I know the movie isn't 20 minutes too long but 18 too short - due to PG classification (USA 13, Ireland 12RA, UK 15?). Let's hope, we get the uncut version on Blu-ray and DVD. I am an adult who can deal with all this vicious stuff like rough language and even beastier things...

In reply to an earlier post on 31 Mar 2011 18:03:34 BDT
Olly Buxton says:
definitely looking forward to the DVD. But it still could have been shorter in a couple of places. The action scenes, mostly.

Posted on 2 Apr 2011 10:20:24 BDT
Thanks for the balanced and entertaining review.

Will have to check this one out for myself!

I am hoping that there's some thought to be put into it, even as I feast my eyes, and your line ' who's reality is this?' gives me hope.

Posted on 10 Jun 2011 18:56:45 BDT
spot on review thanks

Posted on 3 Jul 2011 23:52:47 BDT
[Customers don't think this post adds to the discussion. Show post anyway. Show all unhelpful posts.]

In reply to an earlier post on 4 Jul 2011 06:54:03 BDT
Last edited by the author on 4 Jul 2011 12:13:06 BDT
Olly Buxton says:
What distinguishes a "professional critic" from an Amazon reviewer?

By all means trash my review (though it would be nice if you actually addressed any of its content) but don't trash the general quality of the Amazon reviewing. Present company (obviously) excepted, some of the very best film and book reviewing anywhere on the planet is right here on the Amazon site.

And much of the "professional criticism" of films - written by underpaid hacks just trying to hit a deadline - is rubbish.

Posted on 7 Jul 2011 23:40:43 BDT
"And much of the "professional criticism" of films - written by underpaid hacks just trying to hit a deadline - is rubbish."

I'm not sure a critic like Mark Kerdome is underpaid or a hack. While I completely agree there are some very good reviews on Amazon the 'average' reviewer probably hasn't studied film, hasn't the depth and bredth knowledge of film. .

"In their haste to write this off, I fear the critics have forgotten to pay attention. Ladies and Gentlemen of the Jury: before you bemoan a lack of intellectual endeavour, use some of your own: at least have a go at trying to puzzle things out."

This is what I had an issue with.

The rest of your review is really well written. I still don't believe Sucker Punch works as a film for many reasons but I was tired of reading two kinds of reviews. The first saying: Don't be so pretentious, disengage your brain and just enjoy the visuals and scantily clad chicks with big guns. The second: People who don't like this film don't understand/haven't seen its great depths. Unfortunately your review was the straw to break the camels back, so sorry if I offended you.

Posted on 9 Nov 2011 00:09:02 GMT
>It could be the greatest fantasy motion picture since The Matrix.

The precise moment I stopped reading this review. I'm afraid I cannot take you seriously.

In reply to an earlier post on 9 Nov 2011 07:40:28 GMT
Olly Buxton says:
Pity you didn't read the next line, then! "It could also be the greatest disaster since the Hindenburg". I'm not convinced it was that, but it was less appealing on second viewing and overall I think I was a bit kind in this review.
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