Zack Snyder seemed like a real creative force when he first made his name in Hollywood after crafting a faithful remake (Dawn of the Dead) and back to back graphic novel adaptations (300, Watchmen). His style was excessive slow-mo fused with visual wonder, and it was forceful enough to be somewhat unique in the action genre, where everything is filmed in quick incoherent cuts.
He began climbing up to the top of the ladder where only a few profitable directors can go, achieving the ability to make any project you want. He’s been chosen to direct the next Superman movie and this was initially met with fanboy acclaim. But there’s a strong feeling that extreme backlash will commence once Snyder’s newest film, Sucker Punch, is released. It demonstrates the failure on a director’s part when coming up with an original idea and how to portray it onscreen. However this is not just a misstep of a movie, this is a complete disaster that only a few bombs in the last couple years can measure up to. Sucker Punch is Snyder’s potential Hollywood bullet to the head. And this expensive budgeted debacle has no one to blame but the director himself.
The film opens too similarly to all of Snyder’s past movies, where the credits are shown in slow sequences, as if you’re turning pages in a comic book. It worked incredibly well for Watchmen, where the timeline of the masked heroes’ fame was captured from their rise to their fall; all while being accompanied by Bob Dylan’s “The Times They Are A-Changin”. Here it doesn’t seem to work as well. Sucker Punch has Baby Doll (Emily Browning) in a violent domestic dispute with her step-father after the death of her mother and sister. She is then relocated to a mental facility that looks exactly like Arkham Asylum from Batman.
With the gray tones and non-existent lighting, Snyder films the early scenes in the facility with a cold depressing atmosphere. But suddenly the film’s biggest setback and main hitch kicks in, transforming the film into a mess only Snyder can understand. Baby Doll imagines a world where the facility is a brothel, with her fellow inmates dancing for clients in a club run by the sick demented Blue (Oscar Issac). However, this is not proven, Snyder gives you no clues on what’s real or what’s playing in his head.
All that’s apparent is Baby Doll’s scheduled lobotomy is in five days, and she plans on breaking out before then. In her brothel world she teams up with Amber (Jamie Chung), Blondie (Vanessa Hudgens), Sweet Pea (Abbie Cornish) and Rocket (Jena Malone) to escape using five items. Now to get these five materials requires her to dance in an off screen tantalizing fashion, where in her mind (once again) she enters fantasy action stages to retrieve the items. If that didn’t make sense to you than good luck watching the movie.
These action scenes involve heavy use of CGI and lots of gratuitous violence. This is usually where Snyder prevails so the disappointment that follows is truly devastating, watching impossibly staged fights commence between the five girls and massive samurais, steam-punk Natzis, orcs direct from Lord of the Rings, and unoriginal robots that look like the definition of steel skeletons. A lot is going on and even if you try to sit back and enjoy the fantasy battles for what they are, two major problems get in the way of doing so.
First, nothing these girls do is plausible enough to grasp, it’s all (once again) slow motion jumps and flips that do nothing but try to turn you on by viewing the females in skirts and tight leather doing acrobatics. 300 had stylized action like this, but the characters were Spartans born to fight to the death and therefore made their clash against an army of millions believable and compelling enough to watch. This leads to the second problem, which is that nothing in this fantasy world really matters at all. Baby Doll is really just dancing in the brothel dream while everyone watches, and god knows what’s really happening in the facility, where reality apparently exists. The concept of bewilderment doesn’t even begin to describe how nothing onscreen matters.
Finally, what will ultimately turn everyone off of Sucker Punch, especially the females accompanying their boyfriends to the movie, is the degradation towards women. Throughout two hours, there are numerous attempted rapes, beatings, killings, verbal abuse and threats that occur making you cringe in disgust by the end. What is Snyder trying to say by having women in distress, imagining a world where they can fight back with machine guns and swords, only to get tossed around in reality with no remorse? Thematically, Snyder completely is unaware of a clear message prompting the mental escape for women in neglect. The tone, style, ideas and understanding of the material is all off the map and beyond a disjointed mess, it’s just wrong.
There are no performances in this movie, just Snyder controlling characters as if it was a video game. When emotion is required it just comes in the form of tears by all the actresses to expose how rotten things are. That being said, Cornish and Malone do make an impression. Malone has been a talented actress for years and no matter how bad a movie like this is, she gives it her all. The subplot about Rocket and Sweetpea being sisters looking out for one another, works to a degree because of Cornish’s ability to be a strong presence, even if their relationship is paper thin. Every other actor in this film is a victim at the mercy of Snyder’s obsession with making things look how and perform his way.
Sucker Punch is the first real bomb of the year, a disaster that won’t connect with audiences since there is no possible way to understand what’s happening. The visuals and CGI aren’t even worth recommending alone, because no one is imagining it but Snyder, not even Babydoll herself. It’s a cruel, miscalculated attempt at originality that is offensive to not just females, but anyone with a brain. Zack Snyder has proved himself before, and every great director has a massive flop on their resume at one point. He has to realize that movies are made for audiences to enjoy and not just for himself. Sucker Punch is an example of what happens when creativity derails. It’s a sensory overload of utter garbage on every level possible. Superman better not suffer the same fate.