Movie Review - Sucker Punch
Zack Snyder wrote and directed Sucker Punch, and with this effort I would describe him as a George Lucas, Jr. or James Cameron, Jr. He's one of those filmmakers who always shoots for blockbusters and who because of CGI believes he can go anywhere and do anything to impress or dazzle with grandiose or fantastic visuals buttressed by the simplest or stupidest of stories and characters.
Of the recent films he's directed, I think I like Sucker Punch the best though that isn't a ringing endorsement. I loathed or outright despised every other movie he's done up to this point. Snyder's big hit, 300, was a series of scantily-clad men engaging in battle after battle, one seemingly more ridiculous after another. He takes the same idea here but instead substitutes with scantily-clad women engaging in battle after battle, one expressly more ridiculous after another.
Emily Browning stars as Baby Doll, a younger Kristin Chenoweth, except she doesn't sing and you never see her dance. She barely talks. She barely even has a half-dozen lines throughout the entire movie. She literally is like a blonde, Barbie doll who only lives to have fantasies projected on her.
Baby Doll finds herself trapped in a strip club or brothel with four other girls who have to perform stripteases or other acts for men. We don't really get a sense of what they do because Snyder never shows it. All we know is that the girls are basically the property of a twisted owner named Blue, played cartoonishly by Oscar Isaac. I mean, he might as well be Boris from Rocky and Bullwinkle. He's admittedly the little boy in the corner of the sandbox and the girls are his toys. How they came to be his toys and why they can't leave the sandbox is never really explained. The audience merely has to accept that the girls are trapped and the point is they have to escape somehow.
There was an episode of The Twilight Zone entitled "Five Characters in Search of an Exit." It was one of the most popular episodes and in that 1961 airing the audience accepted that there were these five characters trapped in a place that had no way out. They didn't know where they were or how they got there but they became consumed with finding an escape. Similarly, you're not sure what's going on in Sucker Punch, but Snyder takes this Twilight Zone idea and merges it with a Christopher Nolan, dream-within-a-dream scenario. Essentially, this is Zack Snyder's version of Inception.
How ironic then that the movie should start off with someone doing a cover of the Eurythmics' "Sweet Dreams (are made of this)." I doubt though that this song is used to allude to the film's theme. I think Snyder chose this song for the same reason he and/or his music supervisor chose any number of songs on the soundtrack.
Since his main character hardly talks or expresses any range of emotions, her thoughts or even exposition is conveyed through the lyrics of these songs. This is used somewhat effectively with the Eurythmics as you hear the lyrics, "Some of them want to abuse you, some of them want to be abused by you." You hear those lyrics and they resonate with what you see on screen, which is almost an exact match. After a while, it gets to be heavy-handed as if Snyder were directing a series of music videos for MTV.
He uses a similar aesthetic as Watchmen, practically the same. This appears to be his preferred style. Snyder crafts about four, major action scenes that also boast this. He starts out rather boringly in a Japanese, snowy setting, but later he takes us into a multi-person, hand-to-hand combat, WWI trench warfare setting. His style as you watch this setting particularly is what I would describe as cinematic whiplash.
Snyder's action will frequently go into slow-motion. He then will snap the audience, not only back into normal speed, but in fact super speed to make up for the real time lost in slow-mo. Throughout a five or ten-minute battle, he'll do this over and over. He'll keep snapping and snapping the audience that by the end it feels like cinematic whiplash.
Unlike Nolan who kept his mind trips grounded in reality, Snyder instead has samurai monsters who carry machine guns, large fire-breathing dragons and even martial art robots. It becomes clear though that Snyder's script is nowhere near as confusing as Nolan's. Snyder is more or less clear of what he wants this movie to be.
It's a fantasy with some layers, but with not as much depth as Nolan. He's as obvious as Lucas or Cameron. No real mysteries here! No spinning tops just icepick labotomies! Baby Doll is sent to Lennox House in Vermont, Snyder's concept of Arkham Asylum, but what could have been a kick-ass, Dark Knight meets Girl, Interrupted tale devolves into not the 12 Labors of Hercules, but the 5 trials of Baby Doll, and a bunch of girls with guns.
Two Stars out of Five.
Rated PG-13 for themes, sexuality, violence, combat sequences and language.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 49 mins.