tek's rating: meh and a half

Sucker Punch (PG-13)
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The DVD includes four animated shorts which are supposed to be "prequels" to the movie, so I watched those first. I thought they were kinda "meh," and didn't seem like they'd really do anything to enchance my understanding or appreciation of the movie, though they did kind of whet my appetite for the movie, I guess.

Anyway, the movie starts with this young woman (Emily Browning) and her little sister apparently inheriting their mother's money or whatever when she dies, and then their stepfather apparently kills the younger girl and blames her death on the older girl. That's what it seems like, anyway. There's no dialogue in the beginning (just some pseudo-philosophical and totally unhelpful narration), and we don't exactly see what happens. But then the young woman gets sent to an insane asylum by her stepfather. And he pays some guy who works there to forge the signature of the psychiatrist in charge, to get some visiting doctor to give the young woman a lobotomy. And just as a sort of spike is about to be hammered into her head, everything changes.

Suddenly, instead of the young woman in the chair, it's one of the other patients, who is called "Sweet Pea" (Abbie Cornish), but she herself orders the procedure stopped. It appears that... it's not so much an asylum as some kind of secret brothel. The psychiatrist, Vera Gorski (Carla Gugino), is like a dance instructor here, and all the patients are supposed to dance for wealthy clients, who may select them as prostitutes, I guess. We don't really see that, though. Anyway, the guy who's taken money from the young woman's stepfather is called Blue (Oscar Isaac), and he runs the place. And um, he calls the new girl "Babydoll." Sweet Pea is supposed to give her a tour of the facilities, but she passes on the task to her sister, Rocket (Jena Malone). The two of them soon become friends, though Sweet Pea doesn't seem to like Babydoll.

Anyway... we never actually get to see any dancing, because whenever Babydoll dances, we see instead these fantasies she has. However, it's clear that everyone else sees her dance, and it's mesmerizing. Like, so totally amazing that while they're watching her dance, the other girls are able to do things and go totally unnoticed. Aside from Sweet Pea and Rocket, the other girls include Blondie (Vanessa Hudgens) and Amber (Jamie Chung). Um, so in the first fantasy, Babydoll meets some guy who gives her a sword and a gun, and tells her to escape her prison she'll need to find a map, fire, a knife, and a key, and a fifth thing, which is a mystery. She also fights some giant demon samurai. Later, Babydoll enlists the help of the other girls in obtaining these objects. And each time, they are able to do so because she distracts everyone with her dancing. Meanwhile, we see fantasies of different combat scenarios, which are all rather fantastic. And the objectives of each scenario represent the objective that's being worked toward in reality. And the other four girls all appear in Babydoll's fantasies; they all have guns and stuff, and Amber may pilot a mecha or a fighter plane.

So... the fantasies are all sort of cool, but somehow they never felt quite as cool as they should have. The elements of coolness were there in spades, and I can't put my finger on why it all didn't work as well as it should have. There was nothing really wrong with any of it, that I could see. Maybe it was just that I was disconnected from it, knowing it was all fantasy. In fact, it constantly bothered me that it wasn't even as if these were things we knew to be happening in reality, in some less fantastic sense. In spite of being symbolic of what was going on, the fantasies had no direct correlation to what was going on in reality. Like I said, in reality, Baby was dancing, while the others procured the items they needed in a much more mundane fashion. Another thing that bothered me is that these fantasies were apparently happening within a fantasy. When I said earlier that "everything changes," it was immediately clear to me that even what passed for "reality" from that point on was in fact... not. The only thing that was unclear was exactly whose fantasy it all was. Even at the very end, when everything snaps back to reality... I dunno. We get a vague sense of... something approaching an explanation of all we'd just seen, but not really.

What else can I say? The music was cool. As for the complaints of critics, I don't know that I agree with all of them. Is it misogynistic? Absolutely; but while the costumes might be more blatantly so than in most movies, how many movies are there really, that don't intentionally make the stars look sexy? (Still, I guess this is more fetishistic than most movies.) Is the plot false feminist empowerment? I didn't see anything that remotely resembled feminist empowerment, so I couldn't call it false. Are the fantasy sequences too much like video games? I guess I can see that (not that there's anything wrong with that). But I could just as easily look at them as parodies of certain cinematic genres, such as fantasy epics, World War II movies, anime or wuxia movies, etc. I think there were really only a couple things that made me not like the movie. One is the lack of character development. We never really get to know Amber or Blondie at all. There is some stuff about Sweet Pea and Rocket that is vaguely interesting or potentially moving, I guess, but it's not all that well done. And Babydoll herself... is pretty bland, as a character. The other thing that bothered me about the movie is... it should be a totally bizarre mindscrew, and it's just not. It tries, and it fails. The whole movie is just redonkulous and predictable, in spite of not making any sense. I did kinda like the end, once we finally get back to reality. But not much. Do I feel like I wasted my time watching the movie? Nah, I guess it was okay. But I have zero interest in ever seeing it again.

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