Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Sucker Punch and Battle Los Angeles (there be minor spoilers ahead)

Today was a rare convergence. It's my Spring Break, and it's one of my wife's regular days off, so we went to the movies. There were two movies out that we wanted to see, so we decided to see them both in one day. The first was one of the worst movies I've ever seen, and the second was, if not one of the best, certainly belongs in my top twenty. The first one we saw was Sucker Punch.

The title is pretty much how I felt when the end credits finally rolled. I have seen worse movies, but not many, and even fewer with the budget of this cinematic wankfest. I kept picturing the writer of the film being a 16 year old white virgin who watches only Quentin Tarantino films and plays video games. I picture a be-zitted introvert with a collection of fake Samurai weapons who thinks he wails with his 'chucks', and aside from his matronly mother has never spoken with a woman beyond a squeaky voiced order to the lunch lady. All of the women in Sucker Punch dress like they're getting ready for a Vegas fetish party, and the camera is frequently positioned just below and behind their fishnet bedecked butts. And even when we are in the video game-esque fantasy sequences there are more crotch shots than in a gynecological training film. And all of this adolescent objectification is wrapped in a story of such powerlessness and cruelty that you quickly wonder just what the fuck is the point. There is no real message, other than a schmaltzy voice over claiming that only you can prevent forest fires, or some other cheesy bullshit. To be honest I really didn't give a shit about anyone or anything by the end of this craptacular waste of money, time, and talent. Visually it's interesting, but not Watchmen or 300 interesting, and the worlds within worlds thing was hackneyed, ham fisted, and about as subtle and interesting as listening to a lecture on hemorrhoidal treatment. I have enjoyed many of Zack Snyder's offerings before, but this one will, I hope, quickly fade from my memory like a root canal that outlasted the Novocaine.

On the other side of the ledger we have Battle Los Angeles. Now this is how an alien invasion film should be made. The plot isn't complicated, aliens invade Earth and we follow a group of US Marines as they attempt to rescue some civilians in Los Angeles. The movie hits the ground running, and after a minimum of exposition to tell you who the leading players are, all Hell breaks loose and the action doesn't really let up for the next 110 minutes or so. The performances are spot on, the dialogue snappy and believable, the effects perfectly suited to the feel of the movie, and the ending does not feel one bit contrived. The pace is fast, but not so fast as to lose the audience, and it even manages to twang a heart string or two. I've heard folks criticize it for its lack of comic relief, but I never felt that. Whereas Sucker Punch had me checking my watch within thirty minutes, Battle Los Angeles flew by, and even though there is the inevitable comparison to Aliens to be wrestled with, I think this movie holds up quite well in that respect. It was well written, well acted, and very well edited, and I suspect I'll own the bluray once it comes out.

I will say this for these two films; I feel no need to equivocate on them. Sucker Punch is utter crap, and Battle Los Angeles is fantastic.

In my opinion, of course. Your actual mileage may vary.




Duke said...

As for sucker punch, two things: I didnt think you could miss the point so utterly and completely. I am honestly surprised. I suppose you went to the movie expecting an something different. It is tarentino esque, and just like tarentino there is a lot more to the film then violence and girls. Secondly, as for the girls, when did you become such a prude as not to enjoy a few good crotch shots? Alien anyone? hello? I'm not saying SP is oscar worthy or the best ever, but it is the most orginal movie I have seen probably since the Usual Suspects. Unlike Battle, which I have seen several times over and while I am sure it is a good retelling, it is still a retread of a tired storyline.

Marius said...

I'm really not sure why I didn't care for SP, as I seem to be in the minority, but it seemed more prurient than sexy, and felt, to me, like watching someone else play a video game. I went in with no real expectations, but it might help to know that I generally don't care for Tarentino's films, either.

Kennedy Gordon said...

I'm going to second Rick's point about movies like Sucker Punch. There's a real movement afoot to make movies that, as he says, look like watching someone else play a video game. For those of us (in the minority these days) who don't play video games and didn't grow up playing them, the effect can be jarring. Zach Snyder's style is cool — I am in another minority called People Who Loved Watchmen — but in the case of movies like Scott Pilgrim the effect wears thin pretty fast and leaves a headache.