Saturday, June 25, 2011

Sucker Punch - Blu-ray Review


Blu-ray/DVD Release Date: June, 28 2011

If you're going to fail then fail least that seems to be the mantra writer/director Zack Snyder was shooting for with his very first original film. There really is nothing more heartbreaking to a film geek like myself when you see such potential in something that should have been a monster hit and then see it all turn out so poorly. You had guns, girls, mutant samurais, killer robots, dragons, goblins, giant anime inspired mech suits, steam powered zombies and even robust musical numbers but some how it all fell flat and ultimately became a waste of time for everyone involved from the people behind the camera to those of us in front of the television screen. Sucker Punch is without a doubt my biggest disappointment of the past couple years.

Review Vital Stats:
Format: Blu-ray
Player: Playstation 3
Monitor: Samsung 40' LCD Series 5
Picture Quality: 1080p
Sound Quality: DTS HD - English

This review is for the "Extended Cut" of the film.  If you are interested in my point of view on the original theatrical version they you can check that review out here.

Context...that is the word that keeps popping into my head whenever I try to understand this film. It is deceptively non-complex and wants you to think it has all these layers that need to be unraveled in order to better understand it. If you would bare with me here for a moment, imagine if you will the marvelously layered and infinitely deep Christopher Nolan film Inception but instead of all those layers of dreams that the characters delve into being directly tied to one another, picture it where if something happens in one reality it doesn't effect all the other realities beneath least not all the time. Where if a character was killed in one reality their death either didn't occur or it wasn't that big enough of a deal for anyone to mention it in the other realities. Or how about this one, where the main villain has power supreme in the fantasy reality and can get away with committing untold atrocities on others but in the real world has no power and is actually rather pathetic but still gets away those same atrocities. Are you confused yet?

You see, Sucker Punch thinks it is a whole lot smarter than it actually is. It wants us to buy into the lives of these girls and get invested in their journey but the simple fact that all these layers of different realities either don't effect or correspond with each other makes everything that occurs in any of the realities utterly pointless. There is no context, nothing to anchor us in any one reality. With Inception we always knew that if one of those characters didn't wake up when they needed to that they would die. Sucker Punch is constantly throwing it's characters into these fantasy realms where we really have no idea what would happen if something bad were to occur. To be fair though there is one scene very late in the film that tries to address this issue by briefly showing us what is happening while they are flying around in their airplanes and killing the shit out of everything.

But that just brings in a whole slew of other issues such as the fact that NONE of the girls are doing anything in the brothel reality, but are shown in the fantasy realms to be working as a team to accomplish a goal. In the brothel reality Babydoll is dancing, one random girl is trying to acquire something and the other three are just there watching. So why in the fantasy realm are they all strapped with heavy weaponry and taking on armies together? Furthermore why is it always Babydoll who retrieves the artifacts in the fantasy realms every time when in the brothel reality it is always a different girl that retrieves it? Once again, there is no context for any of the actions that take place in this film and only does a disservice to any of the moments where something devastating occurs in any of the realities and conveys a surprising lack of danger despite all the dangerous environments the girls visit. Every once in a while though you see something that corresponds but those moments only serve to make all the other moments where they don't stand out that much more.

There are many other problems with the film as well though. Such as where exactly do all this worlds that Babydoll imagine come from? Did she remember them from stories told to her by her mother or books she read on her own? I can see someone having an active imagination but seeing how this teenage girl who lived in a house that looked devoid of anything resembling entertainment was able to conjure up such elaborate and stunning vistas populated by fantastical creatures of all types is rather pushing it. All the filmmakers had to do was provide some sort of context for these worlds, maybe show Babydoll looking through some old books at the insane asylum that had dragons, war images or something. That is the most frustrating part of Sucker Punch though, it all could have been fixed or at the very least addressed in such simple ways in order to make it resonate with the viewer on a level beyond the pure visuals it is constantly throwing at us. And if you want to get philosophical with me and try the argument that the entire brothel reality is nothing more than one giant metaphor for Babydoll coming to grips with her destiny (which Zack Snyder does) then that only makes the biggest part of the film and all the characters other than her completely worthless since none of that stuff mattered.

And yes, the "Extended Cut" of the film with it's additional 17 minutes of footage did nothing to add any of that context it so needed which leads me to believe that Snyder really had no idea these problems existed. Perhaps if he had provided a proper commentary track to explain his vision a little clearer I might be able to forgive some of these issues but he apparently didn't feel the need to go into that much detail. The two major scenes added back into the film are a musical number that helps give some perspective on how the club in the brothel reality works and a moment between Babydoll and the High Roller which added some much needed context for her final moments in that reality. The music number performed by Oscar Isaac and Carla Gugino was fun and it was nice seeing all the girls doing their stage performances but it didn't add anything important to the narrative. The High Roller scene was probably the biggest omission and I have no idea was it was removed in the first place since it provides insight into one of the more pivotal moments in the film.

I'm sure there were some other moments added in and scattered about as well (such as a new shot in the World War 1 fantasy showing the girls slowly enter on to the battlefield with the mech behind them) but the fact remains that this still isn't a very good film no matter how many extra scenes were added. So why don't I just slap it with a giant F and be done with it? Well because even with all it's problems I can't deny just how dam ambitious this film is. I have never seen some of things this film showed me and I have to give some credit where credit is due. Those fantasy realms are a treat to watch and I can't lie, seeing those girls in their skimpy outfits triggered the inner anime geek inside me and when you see them decimate everything in their path it can get quite exhilarating at times. While I can't say go out and see it immediately I can at the very least give it a mild recommendation for anyone out there curious about it who found those early trailers intriguing. Just don't get your hopes up and you should come out of the experience mildly entertained if not a little let down.

And I highly suggest that if you are looking for an in depth discussion on the meanings of the film then check out our highly informative conversation we had on The LRA Show upon the film's release.


What's on the disc?

Not much apparently. If you are into the whole Warner Brothers Maximum Movie Mode feature then you might find some useful nuggets of info here but overall this disc is pretty sad. You would think with a film that had so much imagination in it that there would be a wealth of angles to approach the film's production from but alas you get almost no insight into anything that even comes close to interesting. Perhaps there is an ultimate addition in the future but given how poorly this film was received I wouldn't hold out much hope for it. If this is what we get then so be it but even if you are a fan of the film you will feel a little ripped off here I think.


Maximum Movie Mode HD (This feature is only available on the "Extended Cut" of the film) - This interactive feature that runs during the entire film is great in theory. It provides all the behind the scenes and commentary features in one place have to watch the entire movie to see it all. I know that in order to listen to a commentary track that you must also watch the entire film for that as well but that is only ever one piece of the pie. Usually you can access all the other features separately at any time without being forced to watch the film again. Call me old fashioned but I much prefer to have all my features selectable without the burden of having to sit through the entire movie. That being said, the content within this feature is pretty good. You get some insight into why a lot of the sets were re-used, why certain scenes were cut out of the theatrical release, some much appreciated snippets from Snyder on how the structure of the film works (plus it is fun seeing him struggle when trying to explain different things from different realities and how they relate to each other). You also get a ton of behind the scenes footage that shows how many of the more complicated visual tricks were accomplished. It is a technically proficient track but it unfortunately lacks the more insightful information on the director's feelings on his film as a whole that an in depth commentary usually provides.

Sucker Punch: Animated Shorts HD - This collection of shorts was released shortly before the film itself in order to give some back story to the different fantasy worlds the girls visit. They are all well produced and have a unique art style to them and work well enough for providing some context for those worlds (their use here reminded me of the Animatrix in some ways) but I think I would have liked some back story on the girls instead seeing as we know so little about them. This is just one of the many symptoms that everyone involved on this project was looking at it in the wrong light.

"Feudal Warriors" HD (2:41)
"The Trenches" HD (2:57) 
"Dragon" HD (2:56) -
"Distant Planet" HD (2:52)

Sucker Punch: Behind the Soundtrack (2:41 min) HD - This is more of a promo to get people to go out and buy the soundtrack. While the music in the film has started to grow on me I still think it overwhelms the on screen action a bit much at times and some of the choices are questionable. Given how much work went into the music selection (Emily Browning sang two of the songs in the film) it is kind of sad to see so little effort put into this feature. Where are the behind the scenes with Emily recording her songs? You can skip this one.

Final Verdict:

Snyder addresses some of my issues with the film in the Maximum Movie Mode but I found his explanations to be more of an out than a real answer. I suppose you can find some way to explain away how the film deals or doesn't deal with certain issues but honestly the phrase ambiguous (used by Snyder by the way) just doesn't cut it when you are trying to emotionally invest your audience in the lives of these girls. Your mileage may vary when those end credits role but I can promise you this, there are thing of visual beauty in this film that you will never forget and because of that it is worth at least one viewing in my opinion. As for the disc itself I found the picture quality to be rather grainy for some reason and am unsure what happened here. Perhaps it was the film stock used but it just didn't look as sharp as one would expect. The audio fared much better and when those music tracks start up you will have no problem getting immersed into the world of Sucker Punch. The features leave much to be desired but most likely we will get an ultimate edition later down the road but as for this release though it is not very good and I think most will be disappointed by the lack of stand alone features.

Movie   -  C
Video   -  B
Audio   -  A-
Extras  -  D




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