Notable Cast: Emily Browning, Abbie Cornish, Vanessa Hudgens, Jena Malone, Carla Gugino, Jon Hamm
Review: “You will be unprepared:” the best possible tag line Sucker Punch could use. Zack Snyder brings the mantra “go big or go home” to every film he directs. He pushes so hard to make some sprawling epic, and is never satisfied settling for less. In a director, you couldn’t ask for much more. Passion, drive, most importantly individualism. Snyder has found a vision that’s become his own, and he trusts his instincts the entire way. But since 300, he’s struggled to impress audiences and critics alike. Sucker Punch is his latest big budget blockbuster, and this might be the most hated of them all so far. Snyder tried to push the theme of women empowerment by supplying hot chicks with heavy weaponry, but many argue quite the opposite, saying it was more exploitation than empowerment. When it comes down to it, Sucker Punch would have been much better as a video game. The film played out like boss battle after boss battle, almost expecting a “Hit X to Dodge” signal to pop up mid fight. There is no doubt Snyder’s overall story and lessons are lost in a confusing translation, but the fact still remains that he can create an entirely unique and stunning visual experience, no matter how bad the story turns out. 79% of critics believe Sucker Punch could be chalked up to nonsensical drivel with no redeeming qualities aka a totally rewardless movie experience. While there is no justification in claiming Sucker Punch is flawless film, there’s certainly no reason for it to deserve the hate it’s attracting now.
Young Baby Doll (Browning) is a new patient at a female institution for the mentally unstable. She was taken there wrongfully by her step-father when she fired a gun upon him after being abused. The act was the perfect reason to commit her though, as her step-father took advantage of the situation so he could claim the inheritance left by his wife/Baby Doll’s mother. At the institution, Baby Doll is given five days before the doctor comes in and she is to receive a lobotomy to ensure victory for her step-father. But to Baby Doll, this means she have five days to escape. Dr. Vera Gorski (Gugino) is the psychiatrist to the girls, but she also teaches Baby Doll to unlock an inner world inside of her. It is here where Baby Doll’s quest begins, as she convinces some of the other girls to break out with her. Baby Doll’s fantasy turns their plan into an epic adventure, but will their efforts prove futile? Or can Baby Doll and her new friends break away from the suppressive regime they now live under.
For my moneys worth, the action in Sucker Punch was an assault on the senses, and also where Zack Snyder’s visual prowess shines. The battle scenes are so vividly detailed and styled so masterfully, Snyder turns fantasy into reality, and his creativity proves nothing short of superior. The girls fought every kind of villain plausible. Each battle scene was just as visually mesmerizing as the last, whether the group was fighting steampunk Nazis, Orcs, Dragons, or futuristic murderous robots; to a KILLER soundtrack. Snyder always knows the right song to set the tone for his films (well, except the creepy “Hallelujah” cover during the Watchman sex scene), including what could be the greatest cover of “White Rabbit” played by Emiliana Torrini. It was like Snyder took multiple wet dreams from some gaming action junkie, and decided to craft a story based around them. But each battle was beautiful, cementing love for at least one aspect of the film. Snyder knows his strong point is fight scene execution, just look back to the opening fight sequence of Watchmen, and in Sucker Punch he brings the crazy feel of a high intensity video game experience. Simple set up: There are objectives to complete and objects standing in our characters way. Each action lead up starts with a commanding officer telling the girls exactly what to do, much like a briefing before jumping into the next level in Call of Duty. We feel even more of the experience given the eclectic way Snyder throws so many different villains into the mix. I’m a huge supporter for the visual eyegasm that Snyder was able to create, because he at least strives to bring something different to the viewer.
With all that said, plot development and sequencing could not have hindered Sucker Punch any worse. It’s unfathomable to contemplate the movie Sucker Punch could have been given tighter filmmaking. But could have been is what has to be stressed. Snyder did his best Nolan impression and tried to create a film with multiple realities, but unlike Nolan’s, becomes too jumbled in its own complexity. Sadly, nothing but boredom and confusion are achieved by Snyder’s down scenes. Too much of the script is spent trying to spout inspirational lines or trying to convince us and feminists across the world this is a movie women should be proud to see. What Snyder forgets though is that violence doesn’t exactly mean empowerment. More importantly, sexy girls doing “man things” does not mean empowerment. A ton of the movie is spent with the girls in their tight-fitting and revealing dancing spandex, while the fantasy world has them dressed as tantalizingly tasty warriors. There’s no value to Snyder’s supposed “pro-female” message, and he should have spent more time focusing on the individual will-power of a person without bringing gender into it. In the perfect version of Sucker Punch, Snyder would have created some complete fantasy story and stayed in the gorgeous dream world he created. But he didn’t, and Sucker Punch suffers greatly for that.
Sucker Punch was the movie that could have been, but just wasn’t. Snyder went about this hopeful epic all wrong, and it ended in utter mediocrity. But Snyder shows so much potential still. Movies like the recent Battle: LA and Unknown are nothing but weak carbon copy films that bring nothing creativity wise, yet have better ratings on RottenTomatoes. Snyder is practically oozing ideas and technical expertise, and refuses to fall prey to the common film. Dawn of the Dead, 300, and Watchmen all blew my pants off for their ambitious attempts. While skipping on Snyder’s animated owl movie Legends of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole, I can honestly say every single movie he created has something memorable to it. The souped up slaughter vehicles in Dawn, the epic Spartan battles of 300, and Watchmen’s Comedian will forever be a character I remember. Sucker Punch is no exception to Snyder’s visionary success, creating battle scenes that stick, especially the entire Nazi battle. I could create a list of the endless details and visual kickassery that made this particular scene so memorable, but that’s what makes Zack Snyder so special. Each one of his films is going to keep trying to be as unique as possible, and I fully believe his efforts will completely pay off eventually. Till then, Snyder has a lot more focusing and solidifying to do in order to pull all those ideas flying around his head into a coherently flowing spectacle. I can’t wait until his masterpiece creation comes to fruition, but only wish it could have been Sucker Punch.
Final Rating: A depressingly reluctant 6.5 out of 10….I really wanted to see an 8.5/9 right here…
And as an added bonus, the White Rabbit cover I referenced: