An abysmal display is the only way to describe Zack Snyder’s first “original film”
Sucker Punch deals with the unfortunate life of Babydoll whose mother dies at the very beginning of the film. This single act, which is the only back-story (or reflection) of the main character (actually any character), thrusts the film into near-rape, murder and multiple realities, which, on the face of it, sounds like a very exciting concept (and I mean that sincerely); so it’s obvious how such a premise, coupled with an abundance of female near-nudity and violence (the only two reasons why this film would do well) was green lit.
The overall idea appears promising, but sadly the execution is not. A film which mixes Sanity, Insanity, Life, Death, Fantasy, but completely lacks any Vraisemblance falls quite neatly into the film-trying-to-be-a-computer-game category most recently filled by Scott Pilgrim vs. The World. But, while Scott Pilgrim stayed in line with mainstream films in its linear coherent plot, Sucker Punch follows its own trajectory with time, place, and reality mixing far too often and for no real purpose.
…a blubbery tom-boy who has a very limited array of facial expressions…
This cacophony culminates at the film’s end where the audience is supposed to throw off their conventional appreciation and adoration for the star, the god-like “Neo” character of Babydoll, and transpose it to her even more tenuously constructed counterpart, Sweet Pea (a blubbery tom-boy who has a very limited array of facial expressions: happy, pout, bemused and flood of mascara).
Snyder tries to send out a very clear message: we shouldn’t place the importance of one character’s story over another (meant as a reflection of real-life). An incredibly interesting point to raise had it not been for the dire stereotypes of women created that were supposed to inspire and portray this difficult-to-get-across philosophical message.
Sucker Punch, which advertises itself as feministic and bold in its approach to women (the lead characters are trapped in a brothel inside Babydoll’s mind – yes, it is unenjoyably and stupidly confusing, don’t even try and figure out the period of the piece), actually portrays them as weak-willed, emotional wrecks who cannot even remember four words without having to write them down (that really is part of the plot).
The sole purpose of women, both within the plot and as filmic devices, is the promulgation of softcore pornography in violence. Action sequences include a medieval fight with dragons, killing reanimated first World War Germans (it’s astonishing he didn’t use Nazis!), and “duelling” with 9 foot tall stone samurais… The nearest we get to a female heroine is unashamedly upstaged by a male character seen before only in “dream” sequences – linking it closely to the end of The Wizard of Oz.
…it feels like a collection of cutscenes from recent films and computer games…
It is the nudity and violence (the visual) which are the main spectacles of the film; it feels like a collection of cutscenes from recent films and computer games, Zelda, Kill Bill, Hellboy, Lord of the Rings, Call of Duty, etc., with the inclusion of modern day machine guns and sci-fi robots (if this girl had dreamt all of this then she would have surely rivalled Philip K. Dick or James Blish).
All this might sound fun and interesting, but its with the cast of Clueless leading, and annoyingly it takes it self far too seriously for you to really laugh (quite a few in the cinema were sniggering, however).
Even the music isn’t there for you to find some sort of solace in: it is always so heavy through the violent (“dream”/computer game) sequences that it bombards your ability to feel for the characters or to laugh at their inane dialogue and expressions.
I cannot, for the life of me, remember one song from the whole film; it was more akin to a constant droning that had the objective of knocking you off realising how inept the plot was, and stopping you from leaving.
Now it is the actors who look out of place in an all too perfect universe.
The Special Effects are, like all films nowadays, outstanding; the scenery, the explosions, gunfire, even the rain is all perfect. Too perfect. If everything is going to be created on a computer, instead of using “real” props then why not replace the characters? Competing with computer games, like this, reminds us of those old games from the 90s, or a film from the 1980s, where actors were superimposed over badly constructed computer backgrounds. Now it is the actors who look out of place in an all too perfect universe. You’d find more realism if this were released as a game: at least the characters would be forgiven for being dummies.
What went well…
I have to stop myself here as there is plenty more wrong with the film, but we have to look at the positives as well. That’s not to say the film didn’t try and impress. From the first still, you are immediately drawn into the film with impending, real-life violence and the sickening repression only felt as a child. The titles are cleverly weaved into the muted action, and, here, the soundtrack’s deep beat adds to the sobriety of the action.
It’s just a shame that this all falls apart when Snyder steps out of any semblance of realism: there’s a faint feel of Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events in the set design, but it really just is too over the top as it tries desperately to make you relate to the outlandish scenery and set pieces. It makes Lemony Snicket’s look like a BBC period drama.
The use of the credits, I have to say again, was quite impressive and it accentuated the action. At the same time, you know that what you’re seeing has taken months in a Post-Editing suite, cost millions of dollars, and has really come off as impossibly close to the Director’s fantasy. That, in a nut shell, is the film’s great weakness and its ultimate detraction: it is so fantastical, beyond vraisemblance and reality that you could only conceivably understand it, or think to understand it, had it been your own dream. See it for the first ten minutes, but I doubt you’ll be glued to your seat for the next 99.