What makes a movie good? What makes it terrible? It’s certainly easy to tell the difference between the two, but when you get down to it, what makes a movie enjoyable varies from movie to movie. Some movies are enjoyed solely because they are terrible. Others are just regarded as terrible, despite only being mediocre.
You guys know where this is going: this week on Manic Movie Magic, we’re taking a look at the controversial fantasy-action-thriller Sucker Punch.
Sucker Punch was released not too long ago, back in March 2011, and everyone thought it was going to be terrible and stupid. And it was. And I like it more than I probably should.
Now before anyone goes for their pitchforks and torches, I thought the plot, the dialogue and the acting were terrible, and essentially irredeemable. But I didn’t watch it because I thought it was going to be the deepest movie in the world. I bought the ticket to see kick-ass women in cool costumes performing intricate fight choreography in beautifully rendered fantasy scenarios.
Is it so wrong that a movie be made purely for visual entertainment? Can a mildly bad film still be thoroughly enjoyed?
The thing is, you can’t watch this particular movie for the plot. If you try to follow it, all you are going to do is give yourself a giant headache. It’s very nonsensical, has tons of holes, and is trying to make puddles look like oceans.
Essentially, it goes like this. Babydoll, played by Emily Browning, is sent to a mental institution after attacking her step-father/care giver to keep him from molesting her younger sister. In order to survive mentally, Babydoll pretends she was sold into working at a brothel which fronts as a cabaret. In order to for her to perform as a dancer, and to help accomplish tasks to set an escape plan in motion, she escapes into a world where she and the other accomplices are in a war zone performing missions. Sounds confusing? That’s cause it is. It’s like a bad Inception rip-off.
Then, the whole plan falls apart as three of the five main would-be escapees are killed, and it somehow ends up with Babydoll getting a lobotomy while the only other survivor escapes on a bus back to her family. The corrupt mental institution finally comes under investigation and the rest of the women in the facility will now be saved…or so we are left to assume. There’s also something in there about sacrifice and life, and all that jazz but it’s not important. Or at least that’s how the movie treats it.
The acting is pretty sub-par. Emily Browning seems emotionally dead throughout the entire thing, never expressing any emotions beyond rage, and very calm sort of despair. Vanessa Hudgens, of High School Musical fame, plays Blondie, who ends up ruining the whole plan by squealing, is not terrible, but only because she doesn’t have a major role. Jamie Chung, Abbie Cornish, and Jena Malone all play their parts to a very standard degree as the other members of the group, but none of them are in any way great.
But ignore the plot, it makes the movie much more enjoyable. The cinematography is beyond spectacular – the scenery is beautifully rendered and very immersive. The fighting choreography is some of the best work I have ever seen. I’m sure they used stunt doubles and a lot of computer editing, but it’s so fluid and exciting it doesn’t affect the viewing at all. The scenes are creative and visually entrancing, able to keep the audience’s attention while being able to successfully suspended their belief. There’s not much more to be said other than it’s an amazing looking film, and it’s the film’s only saving grace.
Some people argue this film is anti-feminist, while others are pro-feminist. Here’s the thing, there is plenty of evidence on either side but the film really isn’t either of these thing, and it shouldn’t have to concern itself with that. The movie is moderate fan service for men, but as a woman, I didn’t feel offended, or disgusted at any point. In fact, many of my lady friends enjoyed this film just as much as I did, and while they recognized the women were in fetishy outfits, we just brushed that off. I truly believe it is the visuals that speak the loudest, and honestly, it might not have looked as good if it were men instead of women.
While Sucker Punch lacks any real plot, or memorable acting, it’s stylistic choices in its design and visuals still make it worth the watch. However, I cannot give this film a good review looking at it from the perspective as a feature film. So, for this special occasion, I will give this film two ratings.
As a film:
As a art-piece:
Be sure to stay tuned for next week, when I review the pandemic picture Contagion.