I’ve never intentionally walked out of a movie at the theater. And I didn’t here for Sucker Punch, either. But there was a moment after an hour of constant annoyance and tedious action scenes, right after the girls had just collected their second of four items to 'set them free', where one of the characters says “Yes! Halfway there!”. That’s when I started seriously contemplating in my head whether or not I should just leave. I wasn’t enjoying myself. I thought after a few minutes that I’ve probably already spent enough time here, that maybe I should just see it through to the end. Maybe the ending will be redeeming or something.
I probably should have just left the theater in retrospect.
Sucker Punch is basically one giant mess of a movie. The narrative is so painfully flawed and pointless that it started to become frustrating to watch. I’ve read some of the few positive reviews and comments about this film, and they all pretty much just say to turn your brain off and you’ll be fine. It’s just a dumb action movie, just sit back and enjoy the ride! My brain couldn’t have been more off. I was basically in a coma watching Sucker Punch, a coma it put me in. Even with zero brain function, this movie was too dumb for me. I felt like Alex in Clockwork Orange, sitting there with my eyes forced open, watching a bit of the old ultra-violence, and getting sick to my stomach.
Not that I was offended by anything in Sucker Punch, not by a long shot. (Well, the only offensive thing about it is the 110 minute running time) But basically the movie is about a girl who gets sent to a mental hospital, then for some abnormal reason she imagines it as a brothel, to cope with being there. Why a brothel? No, I’m asking, could someone tell me why she would imagine she’s in a brothel? Then in that brothel fantasy, she she gets an escape plan from Scott Glenn doing a terrible David Carradine impression, where she must acquire four items to escape; a map, some fire, a knife, and a key. And there’s nothing subtle about that plot point either, the dialogue literally just says “You’ll need to find four things; a map, fire, a knife, and a key, good luck”. Finding items, by the way? It’s like I’m watching a video game. They even say they need the knife to get past guards at the checkpoints... Checkpoints, really? Honestly did I just watch a 2 hour video game highlight reel?
Anyway, the way they acquire the items is by Emily Browning’s character doing a hypnotic striptease dance that mesmerizes all the male onlookers. A dance that she can only do, for some reason, by imagining a fantasy action sequence (so stupid), and then her scantily-clad friends steal the items while the guys are drooling over her sexy dance (which they never actually show). Prostitutes stealing from dudes during a striptease… Score one for Women’s Lib, am I right?!?!
The action sequences are just mindless drivel. Cool effects, sure, in some cases, but they are so needless to the actual story that I started getting angry that I had to keep watching them. It’s just, arrrgg, it’s such a stupid plot device. Without the action scenes it would still be the same story, they don’t actually effect the characters in any way, they are only used as colorful filler. Because watching her dance while her friend steals a lighter from a dude’s pocket is boring. But that’s what the movie is, a really boring story with needless action scenes crammed down everyone’s throats unwillingly. I know a big selling point to a lot of people is “whoa, she’s fighting zombie nazis made of steam, then takes down a dragon with a WWII bomber, WOO-HOO!”, But I’m having trouble putting to words just how unnecessary anything “cool” about this movie actually is.
Well, imagine if in E.T., in order for Elliott to sneak the alien into the house, he had to get Drew Barrymore to tell their mom a long, needless story to distract her. Which was visualized in the movie by Elliott and E.T crawling through a subterranean tunnel filled with vampires with lasers for eyes which they kill with blowtorches shooting lava. But in actuality all that’s happening is he’s sneaking in the backdoor while Drew Barrymore is distracting the Mom with a dumb story. That’s essentially the pointless kind of storytelling that’s taking place in Sucker Punch on a regular basis. And it wastes everyone’s time.
Remember Pan’s Labyrinth, that movie from a few years ago about the imaginative girl who needs to fantasize about mystical worlds in order to escape the traumatic real world she was living in? But it was done with class, imagination, and real cinematic skill, remember? Sucker Punch is basically the SyFy Channel made-for-TV movie version of Pan’s Labyrinth. Attack of the 30 Foot Samurai, hey, that even sounds like a SyFy Channel movie title!
Also the action fantasy sequences stopped making any sense after a while, making me even angrier at their existence. At first they at least slightly had a theme with the item they were stealing. To get a map she fantasized about taking it from a nazi cartographer, and to get fire (a lighter) she had to kill a fire-breathing dragon. But to get a knife, she had to disarm a bomb on a speeding futuristic train filled with robots? What does that have to do with a knife? Also, I wasn’t really sure why a 20 year old girl was having fantasies about fighting giant samurai, zombies, dragons, and robots, with ninja weaponry nonetheless, while wearing skimpy school girl outfits? It’s like she got Incepted by a Red Bull-hyper teenage boy.
All the characters also have dumb names: Baby Doll, Sweet Pea, Rocket, Blondie (but she has BLACK hair, COOL, RIGHT? … … …), etc. The acting is all terrible and the dialogue is even worse. Carla Gugino has an awful Russian accent for some reason. This whole movie was oozing with uncoolness. Which is disturbing because I’ve never seen a movie try so hard to be cool. And will people stop casting Jamie Chung in things? She might be one of the lamest people on the planet.
I don’t even want to go into the soundtrack it was so terrible. Actually, the music choices were right up my alley (Pixies, Beatles, Iggy Pop, Jefferson Airplane) but they were all done as HORRIBLE cover versions, just the worst covers you’ve ever heard of these songs. I take back my statement about not being offended. That soundtrack offended me. They used the real version of Zeppelin's "When the Levee Breaks" in the trailer, why did they reduce the actual soundtrack to bad industrial-karaoke?
Basically, the argument that this movie is only good for watching hot chicks kicking butt, and that’s why it’s good, because that’s all it is; that argument is just stupid. Wanna see hot chicks? Go on the internet. Wanna see butts getting kicked? Watch a thousand other options of better action movies. Want to watch both of those things together? I don’t know, just watch Kill Bill.
So in summary, I thought this was the greatest movie ever created, and Orson Welles would be impressed by the story telling, and Stanley Kubrick would have fought for his career at the chance to work with this amazing script. It’s too bad that this came out in March, because the Academy Awards tend to forget movies released around this time, I think it could have swept if it came out during awards season. I look forward to one day telling my children that I saw Sucker Punch, in theaters, on opening weekend nonetheless, just to watch their eyes widen and their jaws drop in amazement.
Or, I'll forget it even existed in about two weeks... We'll see what happens...
Walking out of movies is a skill to be cultivated and treasured. Life is too short to watch crappy movies. I will gladly pull the trigger with very little provocation.
Bottom line: I'm there to be entertained. Fail, and I'll grab a slice of pizza on my way back to a DVR full of my favorite shows and movies I really want to see.
Now, I've never hated a movie enough, or frankly left early enough, that I asked for a refund...but all the more reason to know that, once they have my money, I owe them zero else. They work for ME. There's just no reason for sticking around a second longer than I want to.
[Scott Roberts] "That soundtrack offended me. They used the real version of Zeppelin's "When the Levee Breaks" in the trailer, why did they reduce the actual soundtrack to bad industrial-karaoke?"
Trailers are made long, long before picture lock. It's why trailers sometime have not the least resemblance to the movie. I remember that the trailer for The Kid had the movie's turning-point line yelled, and in the movie it was whimpered -- they shoulda used the first one. And for the second National Treasure movie, I'd guess as many as half the shots didn't make the final cut.
Additionally, some directors choose not to over-manage trailers. Yeah yeah, looks good. I have to keep today's shoot on schedule or I'll miss opening day. Not an option, so back to work for me.
More often, record labels will sign off on trailer rights -- shorter term, lower impact, so relatively low cost -- that require an entirely different negotiation for the film, which will also be used on DVD, cable, other ancillary markets (planes, etc), and generally available for as long as the film is -- decades and decades, for who knows how long into the future.
Kind of like how a royalty-free, low-cost image on an inside page requires big, big money AND a royalty to be used on a cover. The nature of the beast.
Cover versions tell you one of two things: the budget was too low to pay mechanical rights AND publishing rights, or the artist wouldn't consent to use their voice but didn't own the publishing.
So how did the movie LOOK to you? Zack Snyder is one of the new wave of movie lovers (in his 20s) now making movies and are trying to do something new. I really liked 300, Watchmen less but loved the look, and while I haven't seen Legends of the Guardian yet, what I've seen is quite striking visually.
Did this work visually for you?
You know, the basic premise of "blurred line between relity and imagination/fantasy" is ripe teritory for excellent story-telling, has been for a long time. And in the hands of someone capable, great movies and good ones can happen. I don't have a full plot synopsis to go on here, but it seems like what's missing is the balance of going back and forth from reality to fantasy, from "patient" viewpoint to "caregivers" viewpoint. I would have found it entertaining to see the character deal with the real world problems thru the lens of her fantasies, in much the same was as alluded to in "Pan's Labrynth".
But the temptation to abandon story and just let the art direction take over seems to have been overwhelming here.
Art direction without story does not equal a movie. It barely equals a mediocre video game. That's the sensibility I get out of this; a video game where a lot of the background and plot and characterization, are hand-waved away and left to the audience to fill in. But without enough cues, the audience has no place to go with that. So you get a lot of action, but not a lot of story value. SO in turn, you can't care about the characters.
Empty, noisy experience.
I don't buy the excuse/rationale of reviewers or audiences that say: "turn your mind off, it's just mindless fun".
Even a Three Stooges Short has a plot arc, characterization, a narrative POV. To my way of thinking, "mindless" = thoughtless and heartless.
[Mark Suszko] "To my way of thinking, "mindless" = thoughtless and heartless."
To MY mind, "mindless" means 3 Stooges. I'd put it another way: "mindless fun" still has to be "fun."
A good recent example for me was "Red." They didn't make any pretense to being a "film." It was just a movie, with the intent to make everyone in the audience have as much fun as the moviemakers did. Giving folks their money's worth is a good goal, and really the only goal anyone needs.
I look at something like Sucker Punch (which I haven't seen) as a failed effort (and not just for Scott) by somebody who has established himself as a filmmaker of serious, or at least honest, intent to make a certain kind of high-concept action picture that borders on "branded" -- A Zack Snyder Film -- rather than heartless exploitation.
Not that it changes or excuses its shortcomings. It's just that, as fast as I am to walk to out of a theater, I'm slow to impute base motivations. As hard as it is to make a movie, I'm surprised ANY of them come out well.
If the studios are upset by low box office and bad DVD sales, it is not Red Box or Netflix that is to blame. It is Scott Roberts and his accurate movie reviews. After reading this I may not even pay RedBox $1 to see it. I may check it out piecemeal when it is in heavy rotation on HBO starting in May 2011.
I remember some of the reviews of 300 said that "every frame is a work of art" and it was a beautiful stylized film. Unfortunately, Zack Snyder has now become a cliche. Get this guy to do the movie and it will be a beautiful work of art.
Supposedly Snyder came up with this idea himself, which could be part of the problem. Directors turned auteurs don't always meet with success.
But the audience of a movie starring teenage girls kicking a$$ and fighting dragons is in fact, teenage boys, who could in most cases give a hoot about filmmaking. They want to be mindlessly entertained, go home and play video games and IM with their friends. Those of us in our 30's, 40's and 50's are gravy for the box office on this one, but our opinions don't matter.
That's why I went to see Battle Los Angeles yesterday. Check out that thread for more!
"Did this work visually for you?"
Yes, and no. From a special effects standpoint, the movie did a very good job (as you can see from the trailer, which is actually better than the film in my opinion). Everything looked good, compositing was great, it was a top of the line production from that standpoint. But it just became apparent so early in the film that the visually striking action scenes were just fluff for a weak story, that it became hard for me to enjoy them. It was as if I was watching a drama movie, then having a completely different action movie intercut between the scenes. By the time I was watching a robot gunfight on a train, I felt fatigued.
I completely agree with you, Tim, that Zack Snyder has failed here, on himself. I've liked everything of his previously (except the owl movie, which I also haven't seen), the Dawn of the Dead remake being my favorite, and I feel like Sucker Punch may have damaged his reputation irreversibly. I mean, in no way will he stop getting movie offers, but Sucker Punch has most likely left a sour taste in many people's mouths. He better hope his Superman remake doesn't suck! I think he'll bounce back, he seems to be better at remakes and other people's material than his own original thoughts. Even though I hated Sucker Punch, I want Zack Snyder to make more good movies. I'll hold no grudge, he's done enough good in the past. I'm crossing my fingers for Superman (at least he's got Christopher Nolan looking over his shoulder on that project).
So from what Mike said: "Supposedly Snyder came up with this idea himself, which could be part of the problem." I think that's a BIG part of the problem. Hire some screenwriters, Zack! You're teenage sensibilities have proven to be odd and almost creepy. At least when Tarantino gets creepy, he'll back it up with witty dialogue.
"Art direction without story does not equal a movie. It barely equals a mediocre video game. That's the sensibility I get out of this; a video game where a lot of the background and plot and characterization, are hand-waved away and left to the audience to fill in. But without enough cues, the audience has no place to go with that. So you get a lot of action, but not a lot of story value. SO in turn, you can't care about the characters."
You basically summed up the point I was trying to make with most of my post in one quick paragraph! Thanks! I went off on some tangents, I ironically may have "Sucker Punched" my original post a little bit...
I enjoyed "300" quite a bit, over-the-top as it was, because it DID have a story behind all the art direction. A decent plot arc, relatable characters. People you grow to have a stake in.
I've mentioned this before: when I was a kid in junior high, I took an 8mm film making class, mom and dad bought me the camera and projector, and a rudimentary editing block/viewer. One of the things I did with the gear was make war movies in the basement on an 8x4 sheet of wall board covered in sand and rocks, with my toy soliders. I spent hours stop-motion animating huge battles. I was a pint-sized Michel Bay.
It was 100 percent action.
It was 100 percent awful.
Unwatchable. Even by me.
Because I had no story, no plot, just: "the grey guys versus the green guys".
Look at (ugh) Pro Wrestling on TV: they spend a relatively short amount of time on the actual matches and LOTS of time on the character exposition, play-acting, and build-up of "story" that leads to each fight.
There's a reason for that. A very profitable reason.
[Scott Roberts] "I've liked everything of his previously (except the owl movie, which I also haven't seen), the Dawn of the Dead remake being my favorite, and I feel like Sucker Punch may have damaged his reputation irreversibly."
Jeez guys, you're being awfully hard on a guy with 5 features under his belt. So far ALL of them have returned at least 2x, and as long as that's true, he'll be making movies years after most of us are dead.
In fact, this movie WAS aimed strongly (although not exclusively) at girls. Seriously, with the exception of 2 movies based on video games, boys have never gone to action movies with girls or women in the lead - ever. Even with one of aforesaid comic book women, Angelena Jolie, as sole lead, Salt, which I really liked, barely broke even domestically. The Tourist, which I also really liked, failed to break even, even with Johnny Depp on board. You think he or the studio hadn't noticed this before?
His previous movie was aimed at children, based on a series of books aimed at pre-teens.
Stylized action movies for teens in general -I Am Number Four, Red Riding Hood, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, and Kick-Ass - have also fallen flat. None opened over $20 mil. Sucker Punch came closest.
It'll be fine though. It hasn't opened internationally, where he has traditionally cleaned up.
So if the worst thing you can say about the guy is that he's best off making adaptations that will "only" return 2-3x at the box office (ie, not counting video, etc.), and that he should aim for less diversity in his audiences, then that's not the worst thing you can say.
And as Scott observes, Dawn of the Dead (which I forgot about) was terrific, 300 entirely stuck the landing, Watchmen and Legends of the Guardian did what they needed to -- what's the problem here?
You don't like his movies, you don't like this movie? Cool. He's a nice guy, easy to work with, respectful of actors, studios and budgets and makes his bosses money. Even when his stuff fails, it's not formula. Studios would kill to have an army of guys like Zack. They SHOULD invest in guys with vision, even if ONCE in their careers so far they fail to return 2x.
As for del Toro, I like Pan's Labyrinth. As much as I enjoyed Hellboy, did you see Hellboy 2? EXACT SAME MONSTERS as Pan's Labyrinth. Mimic? Okay. Budget of 30, made 25. Blade II? BARELY okay. Budget of 85, made 75.
So with one more feature under his belt than Zack, we've got 3 pictures based on comic books, a studio adaptation, and 2 originals, only one of which made money. He was creative consultant on Megamind, which BIT. He's the executive producer of Kung Fu Panda 2 and Puss in Boots.
Are you freaking kidding me???
Yes, a director of vision with a couple of hits under his belt, including one that was remarkable, but in general, a higher clunker to hit ratio than Snyder. But a very nice guy, too, easy to work with, even the not-quite successes are creative, etc. Studios should cultivate a jillion guys like him -- which they have in Snyder and vice versa.
Sorry for the rant, but you get the point. It is ridiculously early to call ZS doomed -- he's nowhere near it. It's early to call the movie a bomb - not yet opened in front of the crowd that will like it best.
In the end, everyone gets a bad inning, but he's way ahead in this game. It fell flat, or worse, fine. Nobody will get hurt by this. Not Snyder. Not the studio.
I think he'll be fine too, in the long run. But for now, he does have that tarnished image, which as I said could go away pretty quickly with an awesome version of Superman. Then, yes, Sucker Punch will just become a little misfire on the Zack Snyder timeline of success. So maybe 'irreversibly damaged' was a strong word choice, haha. You're correct, basically every director who's made a name for themselves have a bad movie or two floating around somewhere.
But the studios being happy with him at all times, I'm not so sure about that, actually. At least based on this article from last month at Slashfilm; Warner Bros wasn't very happy with the way Sucker Punch turned out (creatively, not financially, of course, as this was from a month before it's release):
Again, don't get me wrong, I like Zack Snyder and wish him the best. I think I'm one of the scarce few to have enjoyed Watchmen quite a bit...
If we are to compare Zack Snyder and Guillermo del Toro (Hollywood's big two 'visionary' directors), they are both pretty hit or miss apparently. But, even though you could easily say they have already broken through in a big way, they keep getting jobs and new creative outlets because they have a key element in their work: potential for greatness.
That's why Peter Jackson can make a messy flop like The Lovely Bones and still get to do basically whatever he wants next (thankfully he's going back to The Shire).
But on a complete side note, just to defend two movies (Scott Pilgrim and Kick-Ass) that you grouped together with I Am Number Four, Sucker Punch, and Red Riding Hood, I would NOT say they fall into the same demographic, or should be compared with those horrible teen angst films:
1. Pilgrim and Kick-Ass both come from popular, cult favorite comic books, and to the fans of those comics (like myself) the movies did great justice.
2. Not that it's a supreme gage of whether a movie is good or bad, but Pilgrim and Kick-Ass = above average-to-high Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic scores. The others = laughably low.
3. While it may appear to generally cover youth (i.e. teenagers), Scott Pilgrim is about kids in their early-to-mid 20s, and is very much targeting that demographic, as opposed to 16-17 year olds (that's not to say they didn't like it too). But in the references/homages/dialogue, Pilgrim (both film and comic) is catered more towards my age than that of a high schooler. And even though Kick--Ass is about a high school kid, that's also targeted towards an older demographic (much the way Superbad was) in their 20s as well. The fantastic source material of Kick-Ass is also probably 5x more graphically violent than the movie! And the movie was rated-R. The others = targeted only at dumb high-school kids.
4. Just from a personal opinion, Pilgrim and Kick-Ass were great, already have cult followings, and will be remembered for years to come. The others = already forgotten (and yes I'm aware that Red Riding Hood and Sucker Punch are still in theaters, I don't change my statement).
I wouldn't go as far as to even call Red Riding Hood or I Am Number Four stylized action teen pics, they are more throwaway teen trash.
I might be too close to the genre demographic to be making sense. Haha, sorry, if I really like something that gets grouped with something terrible for some reason, I feel the need to defend it. I am Number Four is no Kick-Ass, and Sucker Punch is no Scott Pilgrim. They are in different leagues. I guess it might be the similar thing, though, if I went up to a fan of metal music who was listening to two songs in playlist and ask;
Me - "Hey, what band sings those songs?"
Metalhead - "Are you serious, this isn't the same band! This isn't even the same genre! This is GRINDCORE and this other one is GERMAN SPEED METAL, are you deaf or something...?"
Me - "I apologize, they both just sounded like loud rubbish to me..."
(then I get beat up unmercifully)
Snyder is doing Superman? Zod help us.
Let's see. Bryan Singer did the last one. We have debated this endlessly - decent box office, a few good scenes, unusual plot, homage to Chris Reeve, overall boring movie. After The Usual Suspects and a few other decent films, he is now doing Battlestar Galactica and Valkyrie wasn't bad at all.
Studios care about box office. Fans care about their beloved characters. And the rest of us want to be entertained but also not treated like drones.
"They all sound like Cookie Monster to me":-)
PS I liked Watchmen a LOT, but it's a dystopian, sad movie, a tragedy, really. You're bummed out after experiencing it. Sad movies are hard to sell.
That actually looks better than the real movie!
My question is, how do people find the time to make things like this?!
As I predicted two years ago I have now seen Sucker Punch in dribs and drabs on HBO. It was just terrible. Very cool fantasy action sequences mind you but basically unwatchable. In fact I re-read this thread during the movie and do not feel like I missed anything important.
The Man of Steel trailers look good so hopefully Sucker Punch was an anomoly.