Review: Sucker Punch

2011/03/26 00:07:25 +00:00 | Jonathan James

The first thing that hit me after seeing Sucker Punch was that I felt like I had jumped into the middle of one of Zack Snyder’s dreams for two hours. I watched, what seemed to be pulled straight from Zack Snyder’s consciousness, a team of gun-toting girls kicking ass against dragons, Nazi zombies, samurai, and robots. Just like a dream, however, none of it felt connected, none of it felt real, and by the time it was all over, I was ready to forget what I had just seen.

If you are familiar with Zack Snyder and his movies, your fondness of them will easily let you know whether Sucker Punch is a movie for you. The director of Dawn of the Dead, 300, and Watchmen returns with an original screenplay, which plays out as a twisted version of Alice in Wonderland, heavily influenced by video games and genre movies. Emily Browning plays Baby Doll, a young woman who is sent to a medical institution and must escape before she becomes lobotomized. She teams up with a group of girls from the institution and we see her imagination run wild, showing visions of them fighting enemies from different settings that look like they were ripped right out of a video game. The story jumps back and forth between an altered take on reality and her imagination, with stylishly choreographed fight scenes of the girls shooting anything in their sights, holding your interest throughout the two hour running time.

Zack Snyder is known for visually stunning movies, and Sucker Punch is no exception. The characters, sets, costume design, and CG look great, but the one complaint that most people have in his previous movies is the lack of character development, and there is even less here. The movie starts out strongly, establishing the characters and events that lead to Baby Doll’s stay in the institution, but beyond that, there is very little character development. I am a person that really wants to get to know the characters and Zack Snyder doesn’t give us a chance. Instead, we are treated to some really great cut scenes of the girls fighting Nazi zombies, robots, and other creatures, but there is nothing that separates these scenes from something you’d see in a video game cut scene. While the movie starts to build during the middle, it fails to connect the dots and you don’t ever fully connect with the characters.

Zack Snyder reminds me in many ways of George Lucas on The Phantom Menace, and seems to have acted like a kid in a candy store. This was his story, his screenplay, he directed it, and Warner Bros gave him the budget to do whatever he wanted. Can you really blame him when his imagination runs wild?

When he directed 300, Watchmen, and Dawn of the Dead, he was adapting older material and there was a certain amount of pressure to please the fan base and the studios. I think that definitely helps him produce better films. A director being restrained by budget and working on someone else’s screenplay can do wonders for creativity.

If you’ve been a fan of Zack Snyder movies, you have a decent idea of what to expect going in, so you’ll probably like or at least be partially entertained by Sucker Punch. However, as a fan of most of his films, I personally found this to be my least favorite, so don’t expect greatness.

This is a PG-13 film, but it deals with heavy themes and has some very adult content. A number of people that attended the film with me felt uncomfortable while watching the movie. This may not have been the intention of the director, but I found many of the abuse scenes in the movie were shown in a way that was fetishistic. There is really never a case that can be made for showing or implying the physical and sexual abuse of women in a way that attempts to sexually stimulate the audience. I feel that this needs to be noted due to the film’s rating and way that it is being marketed.

From the trailers and posters, and given the rating, I know many women who went into this movie expecting an action-packed Alice in Wonderland tale with girls kicking ass and living happily ever after. That is not the kind of movie that Sucker Punch is, and is likely to put off the majority of casual moviegoers interested in seeing this movie.

After seeing Watchmen, I really thought that Zack Snyder was continuing to improve as a director. He is clearly able to produce stunning visuals, and I still look forward to seeing any movie he directs, including the upcoming Superman reboot. However, Sucker Punch is definitely a misstep. Great visuals may be able to produce an enticing trailer, but at the end of the day, I need to care for and understand the characters to be completely impressed.


Score: 2/5