Directed by Zack Snyder
Starring Emily Browning, Abbie Cornish, Jena Malone, Scott Glenn
Release date: March 25, 2011
Sucker Punch is the newest film from Zack Snyder, director of 300 and Watchmen, and it continues his string of visually arresting films. Snyder does not only direct adaptations of comic books (see Legend of the Guardians and Dawn of the Dead as the exceptions), but he is widely known for them, particularly with his involvement in the next Superman film. Sucker Punch is his first original screenplay though, so many were wondering what he would come up with himself. What he presents with Sucker Punch is a mix of unique genres that continues Snyder’s line of visually unique films, but has very little going on to make the viewer care about what’s happening.
Sucker Punch revolves around a young girl given the nickname of Baby Doll (Emily Browning). She is sent to an insane asylum by her stepfather in a plan to steal an inheritance that is rightfully hers. The stepfather plans to have Baby Doll lobotomized (by Jon Hamm who is becoming a master of big-screen cameos), but she plans to escape, with the help of some of the other inmates. Somehow, the plan involves the inmates taking a few necessary items, distracting the guards with some kind of dance that becomes a series of fantasy action sequences. And then Scott Glenn shows up as a wise old man relaying pointless platitudes. Trust me, explaining the plot makes my head hurt and exposes many of the movie’s flaws.
Going into this movie, I had been seeing a lot of people having a big problem with it, and I couldn’t tell if it was because they actually thought the movie was bad, or if it was just the general backlash that seems to follow Zack Snyder for some reason. It’s not like the advertising for the film was trying to sell it as anything other than a movie with attractive young women fighting in crazy situations with lots of explosions going on. They weren’t trying to market this as a thought-provoking character piece. So, like anyone would, I was kind of raising and lowering my expectations as I heard differing opinions of the film.
And now having watched it, ummmmm, I still don’t know exactly what to make of this one. It is not a good movie, but I would have no problem watching it again, but I would do it at home on DVD when I can skip certain parts and re-watch other parts repeatedly. The characters are boring, the plot is nonsensical, and the dialog is ridiculous. However, I still enjoy how Zack Snyder directs an action scene and there are some very cool sequences throughout. There is a good movie buried in here somewhere, but it is buried under a faÃ§ade of hackneyed dialog and questionable objectification of women. All I wanted to see is the crazy girls versus samurai/WWI steampunk zombie/dragon/bomb on a train on another planet movie. Instead, what we get is that crazy movie, but with a joke of a framing device that ruins what could otherwise be an enjoyable film.
The shame of Sucker Punch is that if you examine any part of the movie for more than a few minutes, the whole thing falls apart. After the basic plot is set up, and the main character is sent to the asylum, the fantasy sequence begins in earnest, changing a horrible insane asylum into some kind of 1950’s night club, where the inmates are dancers at the club, the head guard is the club owner, and the therapist is a dance instructor. It’s never explained why the main character views her experience like this. I could accept it if we were given some indication that Baby Doll was given some kind of drug, or if she was in fact totally crazy, but outside of one bit at the beginning when she is given a sedative, this is never indicated. We are told throughout that she does not deserve to be in the asylum; it is for this reason that we are supposed to root for her to escape, but that is never earned. In an action movie, you have to care about the characters so that you cheer with them when they make the death-defying leap out of the exploding building and that just doesn’t happen here. There just isn’t a single interesting character in the whole movie, and that means I couldn’t care less about what happens to them. Also, I’m pretty sure most of the main characters are in an insane asylum for a valid reason, which puts a vastly different spin on the end of the movie.
That said, I keep thinking about things that I kind of liked about Sucker Punch. Zack Snyder brings his A game during the action sequences in this film. If Sucker Punch was all action, I would probably have a different opinion of it. If you’ve ever played a video game before, you have probably seen these action scenes before, but there is something different about seeing them on the big screen. Having seen Sucker Punch, I think that Snyder will bring Superman to life in a way that hasn’t been seen before. I just hope that the script and Christopher Nolan’s influence will keep the rest of the film in check and give that film a spine that connects the action scenes together.
I also really enjoyed the soundtrack for the movie, which is made up largely of covers, and the songs perfectly accentuate what is happening on screen. The music is very upfront about itself. Most of the songs are about dreams or sleep or fantasies, and a lot of them are a bit “on the nose.” There is an argument to be made that you should never really notice the music in a film, and the Sucker Punch soundtrack does not really do that. I was at times more focused on the music than I was on the rest of the movie and that’s not what a soundtrack should do. But I just liked the songs for what they were, and wanted to download them as soon as I got out of the movie.
I wish it was a better movie, but Sucker Punch failed to land with me, and it seems to have failed to connect with the general viewing public. Outside of the action sequences, there’s no reason to recommend going out to the theater to see this. There is just nothing that is interesting going on and I found myself wishing Sucker Punch would just come to an end. I’m giving it a very unfortunate 2 out of 5. I hope that Snyder can bounce back and deliver the Superman movie that I am hoping for, but I honestly don’t know if that’s going to happen.
Now, can someone explain to me why this movie is called Sucker Punch?