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18 June 2011 @ 02:14 pm
Youth culture today is much like it was several generations ago in the early 20th century with one significant difference. We live in a more sexually relaxed society today, which is ironically less promiscuous than it was for young adults in the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s. Indeed, a higher percentage of children today reach their 19th and even 20th birthdays with their virginity than their parents did. It isn’t uncommon, if you speak to this minority of young people, to hear outlandish, fantastical, or absurd descriptions of their ideal boyfriend/girlfriend or first sexual encounter. Childhood exposure to “sweet romance” films linger unhealthily and sabotage these older virgins. This is especially true in Japan, where depopulation is a serious social issue.

Hirokazu Koreeda’s Air Doll is a film about this phenomenon, or I interpret it as one. Unfortunately, any review you read is going to be jaded by the film’s abyss of ambiguity. A few of the director’s intentions are identifiable, but a lot of it features the titular doll wandering about and experiencing her new human life. These segments are well-filmed and emotionally grounded in a generic childhood discovery theme, lacking the more interesting focal points of the director’s other films. The viewer is thus left to apply cultural implications to the film for it to be more than pure cinema.

The air doll is an inflatable sex toy owned by a middle-aged man who calls her Nozomi and treats her as his girlfriend. They eat dinner together, walk through the park, and have sex all on his schedule, and he loves her a lot. Nozomi “realizes [she] has a heart” and wakes up one day when her master goes to work. She wanders around for a while, taking everything in, and visits a movie store. She begins working there and falls in love with one of her coworkers. More wonder sequences play, this time featuring the pair’s almost-dialog free courtship. On paper it sounds mundane, but lead actress Bae Doona bolsters the emotionality of these scenes with her performance which is reminiscent of a Disney Princess role minus the artificial sentiment. The camera frequently grants us a close ups of her and her boyfriend, encouraging our intimacy with their romance.

Koreeda overtly references Disney’s version of The Little Mermaid, specifically in Nozomi’s observation of a girl who mistakes a fork for a comb. The girl’s father tells her that a fork isn’t for grooming, which becomes entwined with the narrative when Nozomi punctures herself. Her boyfriend “blows life into her” through her air hole, an indirect form of sexual expression, but Nozomi doesn’t understand its implications. This reaffirms the latent misogyny of the many Disney films, where the woman character subtly confuses her psychological needs with those of society and her prince. A perfect conclusion follows: Nozomi stabs her boyfriend in his navel to breathe into him, and he bleeds to death. Her desire for mutual intimacy cannot be realized, and she suffers for it. In her grief, she throws herself in a trash heap.

Perhaps Air Doll can thus be seen as an encompassing metaphor for coming social collapse brought about by youth’s (Japanese or otherwise) alienation from itself. Beyond the birth rate decline, people are more likely to encourage their perversions when they are entirely alone. Watching contrived romantic films only worsens an already vulnerable populace’s efforts to get what it wants, at some level.


15th of 2011
Kim Ji-woon is a good director, fluent in film history and how to adapt it to his own literary vision, which has given us many interesting movies over the years. His A Tale of Two Sisters was one of the most effective genre horror films of the last decade, so even his mediocre new film I Saw the Devil is more meaningful than just about any contemporary thriller. I can’t pinpoint if its shortcomings are lamentable self-indulgence or unfortunate exuberance, yet either results in tedium and de-sensitizing (more on this later). Still, it’s too well conceived to be shunned by the mentally mature.

What mainstream media has indicated about the film’s violence, bloodshed, and depravity should not be understated. It’s a visceral experience that is acted out as seriously as it should be. Still, many viewers and critics have made the mistake of assuming the film actively glorifies its grisly subjects, which isn’t true. The violence is instead utilized for storytelling purposes and is necessary for the narrative. The antagonist Kyung-chul is a psychopath whose targets are young, attractive women. His motivations are primarily sexual, and he prefers to quickly finish his victims. He enjoys his victims’ agony and quizzically ignores their pleas for mercy. Their humane logic is incapable of moving him. As the movie starts, he abducts a woman stranded by the side of the road and does his business with her. Her dismembered body is located the next day, and her fiancé Soo-hyun vows revenge.

Soo-hyun works as an agent in the Korean equivalent of the FBI and discovers the suspects in the case. The discovery process doesn’t take long, though there is some humor in his “interrogation” of incorrect suspects. Soo-hyun finds Kyung-chul, disrupts another murder, and beats him badly before forcibly inserting a tracking device down his throat. He makes sure not to kill him. What follows from this first segment is a cat-and-mouse chase where Soo-hyun stalks his victim and continues to pester him. After many losses, Kyung-chul retreats to his genre-nodding cannibal friends’ house and gets some helpful advice: he and his pursuer are the same. If he wants to win this conflict, he must not let Soo-hyun kill him, and the only way to guarantee that is by surrendering to police.

I Saw the Devil is reminiscent of Stephen Spielberg’s Duel (1971), albeit removed of a strong Hitchcock influence. The outcome of either is generally known, and the filmmakers have to find some other way of making it interesting. Spielberg’s version is appropriately light on story and should be inferior to Ji-woon’s movie. I Saw the Devil is less organic filmmaking with only the viewer’s possibly incorrect interpretations of its plot to compensate its shortcomings. Unlike Duel, this film’s protagonist is hardly pitiable. He spares no effort in assaulting his prey, violating his governmental role, hurting others and himself, and even helping Kyung-chul evade capture. He still doesn’t kill him, leaving him in a scaffold until passersby activate a guillotine. Soo-hyun, as the title suggests, “sees the devil” while simultaneously assuming that role. The film could work both as a sly critique of masculine violence or a subversion of Duel and its ilk even if it isn’t shot as well.

There is some certainty within the moral ambiguity. The plot is a series of repetitive short films that induces the same perversion in the audience that it reveals of its characters. There is some black humor within the cannibal hillbilly segment, but sadism should never be this boring.

14th of 2011
Sylvain Chomet’s film The Illusionist leaped into public awareness when it was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Animated Feature. The “international” slot seems to be filled every year, with the Irish fantasy The Secret of Kells taking last year’s spot. The international film actually won in 2002 when Spirited Away took top prize. Since the Academy is a domestic institution, it isn’t surprising that only one international film has won, despite yearly presence of more meaningful foreign pictures.

This could be another year where a better film is snubbed for a safer, popular choice. Toy Story 3 has all but taken the Oscar home with its Best Picture nomination, and it is little more than a nostalgia trip. The movie’s only “power” lies in how willing viewers are to indulge themselves. No “Best Animated Feature” should be so lazy. The other possible winner How to Train Your Dragon isn’t much more effective. At least it doesn’t rely on scourging personal nostalgia instead opting for a generic underdog formula.

Neither of these films has as much to offer viewers as The Illusionist, which is the only one of the three that isn’t disposable kiddie fodder. Instead of simply presenting age-old characters or ideas, Chomet actually creates a story tailored to the comedy of the late French actor Jacques Tati. Tati revitalized the silent filmmaking physical comedy of Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin by playing himself as a bumbling but harmless figure in haphazard situations. His lanky appearance and difficulty doing simple tasks made it difficult to interact with society, which was frequently criticized as being insensitive or arrogant. The protagonist (the titular illusionist) of this particular film is a caricature of Tati himself, and earns a living by performing magic tricks at various venues. His character meets a child at one place and buys a new pair of shoes for her. The girl later follows him to Scotland and the other countries he visits. He settles after a while.

The girl helps him maintain a nice apartment, and he buys more presents for her. Their conflicting ideas of proper dinner etiquette, for example, lead to many humorous moments. When he isn’t at home, he tries to find new jobs or performs in a local theater to few audiences. Ironically enough, nostalgia is a large part of the movie’s narrative. It isn’t stated directly, but the aging illusionist has to play in dives and do odd jobs because people have discovered other ways to entertain themselves. Unlike Toy Story 3, the movie doesn’t pander to its audience and doesn’t require knowledge of earlier films. It instead invokes a wistful, generational anxiety about the changing world. The humor is from the point-of-view of the illusionist and may reveal his personal take on the world around him. He has little dialog to muddle the viewer’s opinion. His behavior could have multiple implications.

Life goes on and becomes difficult for the illusionist and his adopted daughter. He takes a low-paying job as a security guard just to put food on the table. The girl, now a young woman, spies on her handsome neighbor who takes too long to get the message. He eventually gets it, and the story ends much like it begins, with the illusionist heading into a new town for a gig. Even the animation style subtly recognizes the clash between modernity and melancholy. Most of it is hand-drawn, while long shots of the city are computer generated.

Chomet’s earlier film The Triplets of Belleville was also nominated for an award. Perhaps his brand name will allow the Academy to end its Pixar streak and regain some of its lost prestige from earlier snubs. The award doesn’t matter, but winning may encourage more people to see this film and Tati’s work.


13th of 2011
Monday is (or was) Valentine’s Day, which means couples get yet another lovey-dovey weekend. People have spent millions and will keep spending through this week for their sweethearts or hopeful partners. Dinner and a movie is the clichéd date night, particularly for our age group, so expect to see many at hot-blooded rom-coms like No Strings Attached and Just Go With It. The irony behind this cultural charade is many of these couples won’t be together by the end of this year. Still, even if it weren’t Valentine’s Day, unrealistic romantic films would still be popular and profitable. Audiences are generally hesitant to see, much less enjoy, anything that doesn’t reinforce their fantasies about how relationships (probably) unfold. Typical rom-coms create a falsehood that is perpetuated with even more mindless movies and break-ups.

Couples, singles, and anyone else are encouraged to see a much better romantic film which is only playing at the Grande (Friendly Center), only if they can stomach not being force-fed pre-packaged good feelings. Its title is a calculated criticism against just that. In Blue Valentine, the featured couple cannot overcome their own incompatibilities and their marriage collapses. This alone doesn’t make compelling drama, and the film isn’t inarguably great. It is grounded by the emotional interactions of its main characters. They really act like reasonable people would near the end of a relationship. Experimental direction accommodates the story and elevates what would otherwise be tepid filmmaking.

Director Derek Cianfrance plays with the narrative, showing their first encounters, courtship, and marriage while the impending separation occurs in real time. Dean (Ryan Gosling) and Cindy (Michelle Williams) are a young couple with a daughter under five and jobs that take up most of their days. They have reached a point in their relationship where neither person appears to be in love with the other. They have no compelling reason to divorce, and their daughter is a compelling reason to stay together. Dean suggests they take a day to themselves at a cheesy love motel to rekindle lost passions. Cindy perfunctorily agrees perhaps because she just wants time away from work or because her boss is a misogynist. Dean has little to do with it, though he still has a presence in her life. She is much more important to him, and he reminds her of this during the whole movie. She recalls the woebegone era of their courtship as close-ups and colored filters separate her from her husband.

Another timely irony of Blue Valentine is Williams’ Academy Award nomination for her role. She is deserving of it, for sure, but her character is not the anchor of the story. Dean dominates the marriage, unaware of the feelings of his wife. He is in love with the idea of being with her than the actual her. When she doesn’t want to sleep with him, for example, he goes crazy and wrecks her office. Ryan Gosling makes the role work by never allowing the situation to affect his performance. There are many moments where he could have lightened his behavior and lessened the film’s impact but that does not happen. Williams’ role is actually less nuanced than Gosling’s. Cindy is reactionary to Dean’s behavior, and the power of her performance is her many rebuttals of his delusional love.

Blue Valentine is an evocative film that encourages multiple viewings, and ideally, viewings with other people. In that regard it’s a great date movie. Watching it could actually help couples figure out if their relationship has future potential or arm singles with ammo against fiery blind dates that seem unavoidable at this time of year. Just ignore the trailer and be careful when talking your partner or whoever into it.

12th of 2011

Time Magazine recently listed Justin Bieber as one of the most influential people in the world. Kudos to them; they are astute in keeping up with world culture. Beyond the millions of people that are captivated with him, Bieber is a fascinating figure. His existence inspires irrational hatred and confused admiration in seemingly all who encounter him. He is an ideal subject for a movie, and his presence appropriately compelled me to watch the documentary Justin Bieber: Never Say Never. The film is hardly well-fashioned, but has enough meat to warrant a viewing even for those who are uninterested in him.

The movie is actually quite repetitive and these three sequences repeat constantly: biographical information from a family member or production personnel, comment from a fan, except from a performance. Bieber began as a middle class child of a single mother living quietly in Ontario. He demonstrated musical ability from a young age and learned how to play drums before he was 10 years old. His mother began recording videos of him covering songs like “Respect” by Aretha Franklin and placed them on Youtube. As he became more popular, he was eventually signed and became a celebrity overnight.

Almost immediately after he became famous, Bieber was subject to strange, personal disgust from a lot of people. I did an experiment and asked several people why they did not like him. “I’m not sure,” was a common response. His fans aren’t sure either. Many of his contemporary fans are interviewed and provide us with intimate information about their level of devotion to him. Many read multiple gossip columns about him daily and berate his girlfriend Selena Gomez with death threats. Bieber grew organically through the tween and teen population by the sweetness of his music and his androgynous appearance. One fan says she doesn’t want to have sex with him, only that he’s so cute. It’s apparent that, for now, Bieber has a nice niche as the younger counterpart for girls who are not old enough to crush on Robert Pattinson and later Johnny Depp. A lot of the hate he receives may be people’s response to the larger cultural shift of greater femininity within men. It may also be why some of his fans see him as more of a friend than a potential romantic interest.

The frequent music clips, included because this is ostensibly a concert film, are actually unwelcome. It would have been a lot more insightful if more interviews had been included, especially of non-fans like the parents of concert-goers. Instead the movie pauses for a few minutes as more footage is revealed. The filmmakers should have released an official concert slideshow and left the movie as a pure documentary. The only people who are really going to appreciate the clips are the fans who haven’t attended a concert. Everyone else will be as entertained as they are open-minded even if it’s a big advertisement.


11th of 2011
January is notorious for being that time of year when the worst movies hit theaters. Most mainstream films that are released during this month are those which studios feel are the least likely to be well-received. If the first weekend of 2011 is any indication, it is going to be an ugly month. As the first new nationwide film, Season of the Witch sets a new sub-standard in January horribleness.
The movie is set during the Black Death era of the Middle Ages and begins with a ridiculous battle montage showing crusaders attacking heathens. This happens before the main characters are even introduced and displays post-300 slow motion battle shots in glorious PG-13 bloodless violence. The heroes are revealed to be war veterans Behmen (Nicolas Cage) and Felson (Ron Pearlman). They conveniently realize after several years of battles that their warmongering could threaten innocent people. So, they desert their posts but are captured and incarcerated thereafter. For their freedom, they agree to accompany a woman accused of witchcraft to be tried in a distant village. The journey’s duration introduces other characters who live exactly up to expectations, meaning they are killed off or act heroically whenever the script calls for it. The witch is presented as seductively evil, and there actually is a good line between her and Behmen. It’s the only well-written part of the whole film.
Behmen and Felson do not speak with British accents although other characters do. Their speech remains unmodified for the setting, which is indicative of the studio’s lack of belief that the movie would be good. Cage has a lot of debt, so he probably signed on under the condition he wouldn’t have to fake anything. Characters in smaller roles have a bit more freedom to experiment with accents, but sometimes forget to use it. A bad movie night game could be played determining whose voice just changed.
The story owes a great deal to Ingmar Bergman’s classic The Seventh Seal minus the ambiguity of the plot. Bergman would have been aggravated that this re-imagining of his story assumes audiences are idiots. Here is one of many examples: Behmen and company see a forest with heavy fog ahead of them, arrive, and finally alert us that the fog is thick. This technique is used yet again when the group arrives at the village. The titular witch is revealed to be a demon in disguise. It’s similarly applied to the film’s visuals by watching real world objects transform into cheesy CGI abominations. The special effects are very low budget, which signifies where the majority of the budget went.

Fortunately, the film’s popular title provides an opportunity to share interesting trivia. The first two Halloween films were followed by an unrelated sequel called Halloween III: Season of the Witch, which has now happened again if one considers the recent Rob Zombie films. Halloween III was given its subtitle despite witches or witchcraft having no part in the plot, similar to how this new film is actually about a demon. George Romero’s 1972 film Hungry Wives was re-titled Season of the Witch when Halloween III was released on home video and is the only one of the films to include Donovan’s song “Season of the Witch” on its soundtrack. It is also the only one of the three that actually concerns witchcraft.

Debating trivia with friends is likely to be a better experience than watching Season of the Witch. Even by both Nicolas Cage and January standards is it bad. The fact that it was directed by Dominic Sena who made the worst film of 2009 in Whiteout, completes a triangle of awfulness that is unlikely to be matched in 2011.

Not Recommended
10th of 2011
Patrick Lussier, director of Drive Angry and the modern My Bloody Valentine, has proven surprisingly competent in making new period-specific genre films. His movies are almost good enough to recommend to certain audiences. If both had been released in the 1970’s and 1980’s respectfully, they would be pleasant experiences for film students. Seeing as they weren’t, their best purpose is to entertain sporadically on cable television. They aren’t terrible, but they have no more appeal than any other period film. At least they’re more accessible.

Drive Angry is deceptively funny in its first half. We see another wigged Nicolas Cage character, by the name of John Milton (get it?), escape from hell for bloody revenge against Jonah King, who killed his daughter and took her baby. King is leader of some satanic cult that exists to serve as the antagonists in the movie. There are some good in-jokes about how deluded the cultists are in their “pact” with the dark lord, all delivered by his personal emissary, the Accountant, who is to collect Milton. Milton isn’t easy prey and befriends Piper, an attractive waitress, to help him accomplish his many goals. He needs the help, really. How can he keep himself sharp when he’s boozed up and shooting bad guys all while having sex? He also needs help beating up abusive hillbillies. These scenes are refreshingly irreverent and cheerfully violent. The movie makes the most of its ridiculous premise by including gimmicky 3D “jump at you” moments that are actually funnier if seen in 2D. It would appear that we have another Piranha in the making.

Keep your engines cooled, as it doesn’t come to be. Instead, the movie stiffens up and ditches its self-aware humor. Milton convinces the Accountant to allow him to kill King, which he does. All of this is made further impossible by the addition of a laughable soul-destroying weapon. Milton shoots King with it, but a piece of his skull is conveniently spared. He just has to drink a victory beer from it. The Accountant’s change of heart is cheap, but thinking we care so much about these characters to tolerate a pompous tonal shift is inexcusable. A movie like this shouldn’t adopt a dramatic storytelling approach. Piranha is so effective because Alexandre Aja never lets its story lose focus. It’s a comedic romp from beginning to end, all in the guise of a genre film. Lussier’s movie isn’t able to achieve that level of sophistication, rendering it rental fodder. If the first half weren’t as amusing, there would be no reason to see it.

Lussier has a problem finishing his movies. My Bloody Valentine has a similarly unfortunate conclusion that undermines its first half. The shift in that movie isn’t nearly as detrimental as it is here, and it is possible that he will one day make a good film. Even if he doesn’t tie his story up nicely, he could still direct a revisionist piece if he finds a dreary genre worth subverting.

9th of 2011
Not Recommended
It’s unfortunate that directors and audiences feel enslaved by their intersecting desires for “cinematic justice,” which translates into profitability and more money for future projects. An acceptable product like The Lincoln Lawyer, therefore, must have stitched-on conclusions or plot elements so more people will like it. This occasional misfire means I have to give a negative review when I would otherwise not give one.

Back to the film; there’s a lot to admire about The Lincoln Lawyer. As a widely-released legal thriller, it avoids many of the pitfalls of its ilk. The main character is remarkably flawed and lives in a lively (or rather deadly) Los Angeles. He is attorney Mickey Haller (a perfectly cast Matthew McConaughey) who makes a living keeping scum on the street. Haller works with a biker gang as their go-to guy, and as you might think, is confident in his abilities to defend his clients. He’s forceful with the lowlifes he has to defend, but loses his invincibility in face of a new case. His latest client, Louis Roulet (Ryan Philippe), is a serial killer with a powerful mother who helps hide his crimes. One of his earlier victims was visited by a convicted man Haller represented, so Roulet chooses him as a precaution. He messed up and didn’t get to finish the current target and cleverly traps an attorney who could discover his secret. Despite learning the circumstances of this assault and the previous murder, Haller must defend his client, which he proceeds to do. As soon as the case ends, Haller has Roulet arrested for the murder of the earlier victim.

The film should have concluded after the trial, where its intrigue ends. Instead it drags on needlessly to Haller’s home where he confronts Roulet’s mother. Other inserts like the biker gang serve little purpose other than unnecessary comic relief and cheap closure. Why did the filmmakers not remove these bothersome elements from the novel and make a more streamlined product? McConaughey is able to bring the superhuman lawyer down to Earth, but he can’t shave off storytelling shortcomings.

And on that note, why do so many media have the need to make cartoons of their male leads? In this movie and others like Love and Other Drugs, the hero begins as a caricature of a person. He can do his job or utilise his skill better than anyone else. From such a point of irreverence, a film has to humanize the man while still making us believe he would act that way given his situation. Surprisingly, it actually works this time, and McConaughey doesn’t have to emasculate Haller. Close ups of his face reveal his intensity and arguments with new lowlifes reaffirm his manhood. Either novel author Michael Connelly or the filmmakers were aware of this and even let their man have affairs with his ex-wife while he picks up his daughter. It’s a nice touch, but The Lincoln Lawyer will be of more interest to legal professionals than demanding audiences.

Not Recommended.
8th of 2011
In one episode of Family Guy, Peter Griffin is given a genetic modifier called “the Seth Rogen Gene.” The phenotype of someone with this gene is revealed by his or her uncanny ability to appear funny without actually doing anything funny. The gene is named after would-be loveable comedian Seth Rogen who specializes in involving himself in movies that audiences should intrinsically find amusing. His movies are not able to achieve broad, universal appeal because if one isn’t already giggling before sitting down in the theater, then he or she probably won’t ever be.

His newest project isn’t enjoyable on any level, even if one has enjoyed his other works. The Green Hornet is a massive ego trip for Rogen, having both written the script and casting himself in the title role. The entire two-hour experience is his opportunity to present himself as the bumbling idiot he usually is and hope you are entertained by it. It’s only appropriate that the only way to see the film in Greensboro is in 3D. Even excluding Rogen’s copious self-satisfying dialog and the many boring action sequences, nothing about the film is worth recommending. The story is another attempted “twist” in renovating the super hero genre. Instead of making themselves known as do-gooders, Brit Reid (Rogen) and his friend Kato (Jay Chou) pose as criminals with the ultimate plan of bringing down crime lord Chudnofsky (Christoph Waltz). The storytelling fails to do anything other than humor its central idea. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work nearly as well as it does in Kick-Ass, which is subpar for a similar reason.

Reid is the over-indulgent son of a newspaper editor who spends all of his spare time drinking and wooing women. He doesn’t appear to have grown up at all and actively embraces the helplessness of childhood. He can’t even make a cup of coffee. Reid’s father dies, and he is left with his father’s company and his old mechanic Kato. Rogen takes this time to begin the film’s ongoing joke about how stupid his character is, as Reid declares that he has never read the local paper. He is still an adult man after all, so he begins to sexually harass a new female employee Lenore Case (Cameron Diaz), which is another motif.

Being an annoying and spoiled jerk isn’t satisfying for Reid, who asks Kato to make his coffee and eventually become his sidekick. Kato is an odd amalgamation of old-line Asian subservience to white people (true to the film’s comic roots) and modern Asian male stereotypes. He is clearly the sidekick to Rogen’s character, eventually known as Green Hornet, but also an engineering prodigy and martial artist. Well, the film’s slow-motion CGI makes his look like a martial artist. The pair takes chase after Chudnofsky’s slovenly effeminate villain who has a generic Eastern European name for the sake of sounding evil.

The two forces collide after Reid has humiliated himself to the point where even Kato is turned off by his antics. Seriously, he refuses to acknowledge Kato’s superior fighting skills or even take his advice into consideration. Scene after scene of his petulance goes on until he alienates himself from most of the other characters. The two of them make up and eventually settle the score with Chudnofsky in the newspaper’s printing factory. Their battle destroys it, and what remains of the film’s credibility, after they drive half an automobile up an elevator. The stupidity motif couldn’t have a more suitable conclusion. Kato and Reid make up, which is Rogen’s trick to make audiences think he has redeemed his character

The Green Hornet is impressive in its lack of appeal. Seth Rogen tries to cover up the tired plot with his unique effortless humor, but it simply doesn’t work in a superhero picture. This story is not funny as is, which makes the whole thing seem like more of a product than his other pictures are. Even Season of the Witch is more entertaining than this.

7th of 2011

Not Recommended
Sucker Punch confirms many of the numerous allegations levied against Zack Snyder for his adult films. Now people have evidence of misogyny and pointlessness that was only suggested earlier. His latest film reveals, beyond these simple criticisms, a surprising inability to construct a whole film out of his ideas. His insistence in bludgeoning us with repetitive (and frankly boring) action sequences only amplifies the lack of meaning behind his projects.

Sucker Punch borrows its narrative structure from platforming videogames (meaning players guide an avatar through distinct levels). This isn’t necessarily a problem, just look at Scott Pilgrim vs. The World but Snyder was too lazy to translate one medium into another. In his flick, the main character enters a prison facility (the overworld), meets her allies (other playable characters), learns she must find certain items to escape (mission objectives), fights fearsome enemies (these vary between boss fights and regular encounters), and tries to escape the prison (beating the game).

Going along with the video game structure is an appropriate level of fetishization of his five female characters. Each gets a sexy name like “Baby Doll” and wears skimpy clothing completely inappropriate for her environment (who fights Nazi zombies in a tank top?). Snyder is emulating the hyper-masculine sensibility of “hardcore” games usually played by young males. His problem is not including a story to go along with his setup. Even derivative games have some loose plot that serves only to introduce each level logically. All we see here are different game fantasies thrown at us senselessly. Even by game standards where the plot can be de-emphasized, this is unacceptable.

Instead, after his characters finish a random mission, they return to be humiliated, beaten, sexually assaulted, or killed. So much for proto-feminism. His disregard of women for any purpose other than the sexual satisfaction of men is clearer with each passing intermission between levels. It’s almost like a therapeutic effort on his part to show the positives of a group he obviously feels is inferior all while stroking his enlarged hubris.

Not Recommended
6th of 2011