Title: Sucker Punch (2011)
Director/Writer: Zack Snyder
Cast: Emily Browning, Jena Malone, Carla Gugino, Scott Glenn
Zack Snyder is one of those directors whose films I always look forward to because so far, he’s directed a pretty decent bunch of films: Dawn of the Dead (2004), 300 (2007), Watchmen (2009). I haven’t seen Legend of the Guardians yet, so the verdict is still out on that one. Recently, Snyder was chosen out of a short list of filmmakers to direct the upcoming Superman: Man of Steel. So of course I was pumped up for Sucker Punch. The previews, pictures and posters all gave us a glimpse of what looked like a visually striking motion picture filled with fantasy and beautiful women. From the promotional material we all saw, Sucker Punch was destined to be the type of film that was tailor made for the fanboy in all of us. So, with that said, why was I so let down? Read on and find out.
Sucker Punch tells the tail of Babydoll, a 16 year old girl who’s just been sent to the Lennox House for the Mentally Insane. You see, her scum bucket of a stepfather wants her lobotomized, to hide the truth behind the death of Babydoll’s mother and sister. Also, so she can’t get her hands on her recently deceased mother’s fortune. The mental institution isn’t a pretty place, young girls like Babydoll are liable to get raped or killed in a place like this. Good thing Babydoll has one hell of an imagination. Whenever things get too ugly in the Lennox House, Babydoll closes her eyes and escapes to a series of imaginary worlds that include fighting Giant Samurais, Fire Breathing Dragons, Orcs, Robots and even Nazi Zombies! Sounds like one hell of a kick ass movie don’t it?
Well, it was and it wasn’t. I’m not going to say that Sucker Punch was a complete waste of my time. Visually, the film kicks ass on more then one occasion, it’s as a whole that the movie just doesn’t gel. I get what Snyder was trying to do. He was going with the old “young girl escapes into an imaginary world” type of film. Sucker Punch wants to be mentioned along side films like The Wizard of Oz (1939), Return to Oz (1985), Pans Labyrinth (2006), Labyrinth (1986), Mirrormask (2005) or the many versions of Alice in Wonderland. Unfortunately, unlike these movies I’ve just mentioned, Sucker Punch didn’t have characters we can care about. All we get are cool looking special effects and action sequences, which I loved and enjoyed; but let’s face it, if you don’t accompany special effects with an engaging story and characters we can give a damn about, then what’s the point? Then all you have is a film that will play like a hollow showcase of visual effects, which is for all intents and purposes exactly what Sucker Punch is. A hollow spectacle. Then there’s the whole issue of this being a CGI fest, where nothing feels real or tangible, but that would make for a whole other article.
Watching Sucker Punch is like watching a movie on fast forward, with no time for character development or emotion. And that’s the films main flaw in my book. Sucker Punch is in such a rush to show you its 75 million dollar special effects and action sequences that it forgets we need to know who these gals are in order to give a hoot about them. How desperate is this film? Well, here’s an example: in the film, Babydoll is supposed to have these amazing dancing abilities. Whenever she starts dancing, people are hypnotized by her moves. Everyone has to stop what they are doing to be enthralled by Babydolls dancing. At the same time, whenever she starts dancing, that’s when we (the audience) are whisked away to special effects land, I mean, Babydoll’s dream worlds. Here’s the strange thing though: we never get to see what the big fuzz is about her dancing! In fact, we never get to see her dancing at all! And her dancing is supposed to be this big element of the plot! What the hell?! But like I said, the film is in a hurry. I personally hated that about it. Snyder might be a good director when his films are based on someone else’s script or on a graphic novel, but when it comes down to writing and directing a film based on his own ideas, apparently he has no grip on the importance of story telling or of development and emotion.
Here’s another thing, Sucker Punch attempts to be a deep film. It has a character played by Scott Glenn that is supposed to be a god like character that’s always giving the girls advice and hints on how to survive, just who the hell is that guy? And why does he pop up through out the whole movie? It’s never explored or explained, we just gots to take for granted that this is some nice guy that has taken a liking with these girls. Some critics have gone on to say that the film is misogynistic; others say it’s a female empowerment film. I say the film is none of those, its simply a fanboy’s wet dream. Any lover of Japanese animation, manga or comics in general should get what Snyder was trying to accomplish with this film. Comics and fantasy art have always been about scantly clad babes kicking ass, so it’s no big shock to me when I see these girls fighting giant samurai’s in mini skirts and school uniforms, its all part of what makes up the world of a fanboy. The reason for comics being all about bodacious babes is because the target audience for comics and films based on them are the hyper active libidos of teenage boys, this is the same target audience Sucker Punch is going for and this is probably the main reason why the film is rated PG-13. If I had to compare Sucker Punch to something, it would be to an issue of Heavy Metal Magazine. Don’t know if any of you guys and gals out there are familiar with said magazine, but on a monthly basis, this magazine pumps out issues filled with some of the best and some of the worst fantasy art and stories around. Sometimes the stories and art are groundbreaking stuff, sometimes its amateurish, on any given month, an issue of Heavy Metal Magazine is a mixed bag. But you can be sure beautiful women and erotica are in the mix. Same can be said for Sucker Punch. Some of it is great (the fx) some of it is not (the script and the storytelling).
Finally, Sucker Punch is a filmed that’s influenced by many others of its ilk. For example, this is a story about a girl who escapes to a dreamland, and on one of these dreamworld’s she ends up fighting giant samurais. Sounds a heck of a lot like a scene from Terry Gilliam’s Brazil (1985) to me. It’s got the dream, within a dream, within a dream thing from Inception (2010). There’s a scene where Babydoll ends up in a dreamworld fighting what can only be described as Orc’s from Lord of the Rings. Hell, the whole film looks like something Tim Burton might have cooked up on a Saturday morning after watching too many Japanese cartoons. So anyways boys and girls, this film wasn’t a total waste, but its nothing to write home about either. I left the theater feeling very underwhelmed, like I had just watched a film that bounced off my brain never to be seen again. I say that with a heavy heart, because I was actually looking forward to this one. Still, every director is entitled a dud, I guess this was Zack Snyder’s turn.
Rating: 2 1/2 out of 5