On Monday afternoon, I saw Limitless in a theater of about 10 audience members of mostly older people and today, Friday, I saw Sucker Punch with an audience of around 50 consisting of mostly males (I think I saw, at most, 4 women) between the ages of 15 and 50. I think that both movies were marketed toward the same age group with similar ideas of drama/action combinations with rooted in a removal from reality. Oh, and they both feature Abbie Cornish doing mostly different things, but some similar things that I will comment on momentarily.
Limitless was a movie where the marketing effectively swayed me into seeing this movie in theaters. I like Bradley Cooper as an actor and think that he is an engaging guy from interviews I have seen. He also seems to be someone who is actually quite different than the on-screen persona he typically employs. He is a good-looking man but rarely comes off as a smug, prickish type dude from anything I’ve seen or read involving him, though that is the role he is usually cast to fulfill. Limitless isn’t as squarely within that type as you find yourself rooting for Cooper for the majority of the movie and he is a compelling lead character. Robert De Niro’s involvement also piqued my interest, though his role is built up in the promos to be something much more than it is in the movie. On the whole, I enjoyed the movie. The way the movie is shot and the oversaturation of colors when Cooper is taking his designer drug that heightens his senses and invokes all the synapses of the brain are exquisitely done and play to the movie’s favor.
Early on, Cooper is describing how he feels on the drug and accurately describes the pacing of Limitless at the same time. He basically says that when he is on the drug, he has to always be moving forward and attempting something more than what he is doing – he can never be still. The movie is constantly moving forward, whether lurching early or falling into a consistent rhythm at the end, there is no real time for character development for anyone other than Cooper, which is fine because he receives an overwhelming majority of the screen time. It is also a very wordy, dialogue-driven movie. Not in the same sense as The Social Network, but in the sense that Cooper sometimes seems like he has a mouthful of words that he has to say as quickly as possible, lest they cause him to choke. It isn’t bad, but it is a little much at times. The main arc of the movie is resolved in a pretty generic action/gangster movie, over-the-top fiasco, but finds one moment of disgusting humanity and shows the depths of addiction that added value to the scene and saved it, slightly, for me. The actual ending was surprisingly vague and caused me to wonder if I had overlooked something in the course of all of the forward motion or if there was some nuance I was missing in the final interaction between De Niro and Cooper. In the end, I’m glad I saw the movie and enjoyed it more than I anticipated, as it was more than a typical drugs are bad for you type of movie I expected.
Sucker Punch, on the other hand, was a movie that didn’t really have to do anything to get me into the theater, as I was pretty excited from the first promo I saw in the fall. I like Zack Snyder as a director, though I may not love his films themselves as much. 300 was a solid movie with excellent set pieces and action and Watchmen was a beautifully shot movie with some strong moments and some dragging moments as well. Sucker Punch immediately looked to be a full-on assault of the senses and encapsulate a lot of sci-fi fantasy elements in a strange concoction that wasn’t really explained prior to the movie’s release. The most surprising aspect of going to the movie today was that it was an almost entirely male audience. As I have read some reviews of the movie, apparently this was a big aspect of people’s disdain, in that they saw this as an exploitation piece/soft porn type of movie where it was a bunch of attractive (mostly) girls running around doing badass shit in skimpy clothing. The reasons I just mentioned were not the appeal for me, as I don’t typically go to the theater solely for the purpose of looking at attractive women/girls, so it was entirely interesting to see the audience in the theater today. It also makes me interested to see the female reaction to the movie, because I think it intends to be a bit of female empowerment. Really intriguing, for me.
The movie itself was an enjoyable experience, as I expected, but it was largely devoid of feeling. There were a lot of girls running around doing badass shit and the layers of reality(ies) in place to tell the story were really interesting with excellent CGI work, but it was, like Limitless, a movie that was always moving forward and progressing at the fastest possible pace. The amount of time covered only makes sense because it is mentioned by the characters, but since we never see anything that happens at the asylum/brothel that doesn’t apply to a dance that is about to take place, it is impossible to keep track of how much time has elapsed. Emily Browning and Abbie Cornish are the most integral characters to the movie and they both do a pretty fantastic job, especially Cornish. Browning looked a little out of place when she had to do any type of running or throwing (actual athletic movement), but in fight sequences she was quite convincing as an action hero. I think Sucker Punch had a lot to say, but spent too much time on exposition and terrible dialog instead of letting us see how things played out. The human spirit is able to do a lot of things and the exploration of this idea is interestingly examined here, but the execution falters in the actual motion of the plot. There was essentially too much going on in the running time of the film. I have no doubt that there will be a director’s cut blu-ray when the time comes and I’d be interested to see how it differs and whether we develop an investment in any of these characters.
As far as Abbie Cornish is concerned, she has the build and demeanor to successfully carry an action movie. She looked very much at home as she was moving with her guns and her movement was very fluid. Her build isn’t such that she is “butch,” but she is imposing and considerably taller than most of the other girls in the movie. She was in Limitless as well, as Bradley Cooper’s girlfriend, and can move easily into the look of a professional business woman. In that movie, she also had a scene that could have easily come from an action movie or a thriller and she was convincing there as well. I don’t know if she has anything in the pipeline that will fit this type or if she even desires to go that route, but should I see her as the leading lady in an action movie (not as the love interest, but as the ass-kicking girl), I will happily promote the hell out of that movie.
In the end, Limitless was a much more fun moviegoing experience and did a lot of things well, while also not going beyond its reach and keeping viewers involved, without trying to be too smart. It is simply a well-executed drama/thriller. With Sucker Punch, Snyder overstuffed the movie with ideas and forgot to tell a story about these characters. The characters and the story are vague and generic, but it is a gorgeously shot and directed movie. They’re both worth a watch, but I’d recommend Limitless if I had to choose between the two.