It’s hard to believe it has been almost five years since director Zach Snyder made his directorial debut with “300.” Since then, Snyder has firmly cemented himself as Hollywood’s go-to guy when a graphic novel like “Watchmen” is translated to the big screen.
This film further demonstrates how he has etched out a brand with his trademark visual style that is both loved and mocked by critics and fans alike.
“Sucker Punch” follows the tale of Baby Doll (Emily Browning) as she is thrown into a psychiatric hospital by her stepfather following the deaths of her mother and sister. The stepfather–who wants all the money that was left to Baby Doll and her sister– commits Baby Doll with the help of corrupt asylum worker Blue. She is then fraudulently set up as the next patient to be lobotomized when the doctor visits in five days time.
It is in the asylum that she is forced to delve into her imagination in order to escape the horrors of the hospital by turning it into a whorehouse/burlesque where she is a new dancer being saved for “The High Roller,” who is coming in –wait for it– five days time. It is through her mind and imagination that she will eventually save herself and her new friends.
To detail the rest of “Sucker Punch” is like trying to explain the entire plot of “Inception” with a full backstory on all the characters and a full breakdown on whether or not Cobb is still dreaming at the end in only 10 minutes.
Only in this case, “Sucker Punch” is the really stupid, uneducated, inbred cousin of Inception – but at least it looks pretty.
The Bad: Everything But…
Oh gosh, where to start with this section.
“Sucker Punch” is Snyder’s first original story to date. Visually and stylistically the film is an awesome genre mashup; everything else from writing to character development is a sucking black-hole of stupid that browbeats the audience with the film’s “message.”
Aside from one or two really good characters, the rest are about as one dimensional as they can get. The leading ladies in this film have redeeming qualities, but their characters are so poorly written you will walk out of the movie without connecting to them on a meaningful level.
Snyder’s characters are there and you can see them, but the viewers never get a chance to feel or connect narratively with them because the film is so dependent on over-the-top action that it never stops to take a break.
The plot of the film lumbers along like a sumo wrestler in a candy shop; occasionally, it stops at something it likes and then gorges itself on a particular type of delicious candy until its had enough and moves on to its next favorite item.
That analogy just about sums up everything that is wrong with this film.
Snyder tries to fit five full-length action movies into one and fails, because, unlike “Inception,” there is no set-in-stone visual style other than what Snyder thinks looks cool.
But what Snyder thinks looks cool is a visual typography resembling the combined wet-dream of fantasy, science fiction and comic nerds still living in their parents basement.
This is why I call “Sucker Punch” the inbred cousin of “Inception.” It is chaotic craziness for no reason other than to stroke the director’s own ego and sense of style. The worlds he creates for the movie are beautiful and unique in their own right, but when the last frenetic action scene comes and goes, I felt tired and didn’t know what I was watching anymore.
With Inception, you knew your journey was over as soon as Cobb walked through customs. You felt excited and elated to have gone on that journey with him as he reaches his catharsis and walked out of the theater completely satisfied whether or not he was still in the dream world.
The Good: The Soundtrack
There is not much that can be said about Snyder’s visuals in “Sucker Punch” that hasn’t been written about already by everyone else. Except to say that “Sucker Punch” further cements Snyder’s keen eye for visual story telling and attention to detail like never before.
The other really good part of this movie that has to be mentioned is the wonderful soundtrack that drives all the action in this film. Each piece of music starts the wheels on the big scenes and launches our heroines into each of the new worlds they strive towards their ultimate goal of freedom.
It’s a really inventive way of doing things, and it’s probably the thing that stands out the most in the movie.
Personally, I love the first song which is a cover of “Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of These).”
Sung by leading actress Emily Browning (Baby Doll), it sets the tone for this movie giving it a fantastically creepy and hard edged vibe while mixing in some epic and grand symphonic gestures.
Final Thoughts and Favorite Moments
While “Sucker Punch,” does have some major glaring flaws in its writing and acting, it still supplies everything good that you expect out of a Zach Snyder film. Primarily, It is a movie where you can go turn off your brain for a couple hours and have some fun. As long as you don’t think too hard you will be fine.
There is another side to this movie that I didn’t talk about.
“Sucker Punch” is probably one of the best women’s empowerment films to come out in the last couple of years. It is a complete 180 to the super-manliness of “300”. Film school rejects has written a really nice article about whether this film empowers or exploits women and it’s a pretty good read. you can check it out HERE
So to close, I don’t think “Sucker Punch” is a movie worth seeing in theaters. Instead, you could pay the same amount of money and go see a better film like “Limitless” or “The Lincoln Lawyer” where you will get more bang for your buck.
If you were to ask me about my favorite moments in this film, then I would say look out for the following:
Scott Glenn stealing every other scene as “Wiseman.”
Steam-Punk soldiers and our heroines shooting orc’s with high powered assault rifles.