A movie for those with a stomach for the bizarre and psycho-surreal

2011-04-25 00:00

ZACK Snyder is a visual maestro and I am a great admirer of Watchmen, his take on the superhero genre that went beneath the surface of generic expectation. It exposed the fragmentation of human souls lost in a post-modern fairground of competing fantasies and signification. It is a world where human endeavour can be cruelly twisted and all is not what it seems.

The danger though of such thematic meditation and by default stylistic invention is that it can lead us far from the madding crowd and Sucker Punch, in evolving Snyder’s penchant for chimeras, is likely to dismay audiences.The resulting mismatch of tone, in what can be best described as a metaphysical action picture, muddies the waters in between the thematic concerns of freedom and revenge.

Sucker Punch shares some DNA with the brilliant Inception by operating on multiple levels, but forgoes logic for the eclectic. Taken on face value the film appears shallow and lacking in resonance, but knowing Snyder the film is more likely a comment on contemporary society and our evolution as viewers.

Babydoll (Emily Browning), the main protagonist, is Manga in her conception — big eyes, pigtails and sailor-collared school outfit. She is wrongfully incarcerated in an asylum after the death of her sister and lives out her yearning for freedom in multi-layered fantasies. The first layer of fantasy is a Cabaret-ish burlesque world of dancing girls and chauvinist men. Here the power is sexual and Babydoll bonds with four other girls in a plan to escape. She needs to acquire a map, a key, a knife and a lighter to fulfill the plan and can only do so by descending into another fantasy world. A further facet of her Id is revealed in the ensuing violent battlegrounds, populated by steampunk zombie-nazis, giant mechanical samurai, robots and dragons. For the PlayStation generation Snyder’s visuals connote our subconscious as a pastiche of video games.

Perhaps as Phillip K. Dick wondered whether androids dream of electric sheep, so to we may wonder whether the media and technology will rewire our subconscious into expressions of exotic electronic carnage. Can we gain solace in fantasies of revenge? For Babydoll there is no redemption and no escape. This candyfloss tastes salty. ***

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