Sunday, March 27, 2011

My story from the Sucker Punch junket...

Be prepared for a sucker punch
By Raymond Lo L.A. Correspondent (The Philippine Star) Updated March 28, 2011 12:00 AM Comments (0) View comments

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A scene from Sucker Punch, a slang which means ‘a sudden surprise punch’
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LOS ANGELES, Calif. — When you see a movie that employs this tagline: “Close your eyes. Open your mind. You will be unprepared,” you better be prepared for one of the most visually appealing and visionary epic fantasy tale to ever grace the movie screens this year.

The Philippines was among the first to catch a glimpse of Warner Bros.’ Sucker Punch, the stunning new film from Zack Snyder, the celebrated box-office director of such testosterone-heavy films as 300 and Watchmen.

To say that Sucker Punch is one of the most anticipated movies of the year is an understatement. The film has been generating a huge buzz even before a clip showing those explosive battle sequences and quick cuts of dragons and Samurais was screened at the Comic Con last year.

But what really fuelled fan interest in the movie is the mystery behind the five girls, namely: Sweet Pea, Rocket, Amber, Blondie and Baby Doll, who are shown in the teasers and movie posters wearing scanty outfits in the middle of what looked like war zones.

This writer has seen the movie but be assured, I will not spoil the fun for you.

“I have written this idea a long time ago about this girl being forced to dance and she won’t dance so in her mind she goes into another place, so she has this fantasy that she’s having an adventure and it just made sense that it was a girl doing it,” director Zack explained to this writer during the junket for the movie last Sunday — and that is all he can reveal although he casually hinted that “in the art film version of the movie they are 14 but in the actual version of the movie, they are 20.”

Sucker Punch tells the story of five girls locked inside a mental institution where they are forced to perform sexual favors to corrupt and evil men. To exact revenge and gain freedom, they engage in fantastical warfare against their enemies using all the weapons they can imagine.

These girls display a combined extraordinary strength and beauty and selecting the actors that will be perfect for the parts was one of the biggest challenges of the production. Luckily, Abbie Cornish, the highly-acclaimed Australian actress, immediately agreed to take the part of Sweet Pea, the oldest and de facto leader of the girls.

“We felt that if we could get Abbie, who’s a very serious actor, interested then it will set the tone for the rest of the cast,” said Debbie Snyder, one of the producers of the movie.

Hollywood A-Lister Amanda Seyfried was supposed to play Baby Doll but was replaced by another Australian, Emily Browning, after the actress was forced to back out to fulfill contractual obligations to HBO. Emily was supposed to play Rocket, Sweet Pea’s younger sister, which eventually went to former child actress Jena Malone.

“I read for both Rocket and Amber but it was interesting because I was always drawn to Baby Doll,” revealed Emily who also let us in on her thoughts on Baby Doll’s dancing prowess. “I can’t personally imagine a dance that is physically, humanly possible that could put people into a trance to allow these things to be happening behind their backs,” she said. “I suppose the dance is, kind of, the fight.”

Asian-Americans Jamie Chung and Vanessa Hudgens, who portray Amber and Blondie, respectively, complete the cast.

At the same junket, all of the actresses expressed their joy at having had the opportunity to work together for more than six months, forging friendships while enduring bruises and those unavoidable cuts and minor sprains brought about by the tremendous physical demands of their roles.

But, for Abbie, those strenuous fight scenes and aerial stunts are nothing she can’t readily handle. “Physical activity has always been a big part of my life. Growing up in the country with my brothers, riding horses, going to the river.” She also shared that her mom was the Australian national Karate full-contact champion and she used to watch her and train with her when she was nine. “My brother taught me how to shoot bow and arrow, use a gun, so all of these things were already there… so when this film came along, I could barely keep my excitement contained” she added.

Vanessa has no complaints either. “It amazed me. Each day, I would wake up and feel a new muscle that I didn’t even know existed,” she remarked. “To be able to mentally take on this movie, we found a new strength in ourselves that we didn’t know that we had.”

“There were no limits,” added Jamie who trained with Navy Seals and helicopter fighter pilots.

Jena mostly remembered training for Capoeira, a form of Brazilian martial arts, to the delight of the Brazilian journalist in our group.

The five actresses also insisted that the sexy outfits they wear in the movie are essential to the story and maintained that they are never meant to arouse any prurient interest in men.

Sucker Punch is a slang meaning a sudden surprise punch, especially from behind or some place the poor recipient of the punch doesn’t expect. In the movie, the unexpected punch or blow immediately comes within the first 20 minutes of the story.

But beyond the scanty outfits and kicking, boxing, gun fighting and dragon slaying, the movie is essentially a quest for freedom and justice for the five girls — and that message wasn’t lost to the actresses.

“It’s really empowering to see strong, tough women,” mused Emily. “It’s sort of asking people to not base their ideas about women on the looks and what sort of physical stereotypes they fit into. It’s showing also that females can be unbelievably tough and sexy at the same time, if that’s what they choose to be.”

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