“If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.”
-Wiseman from Sucker Punch
Sucker Punch is the latest of Zack Snyder’s annual creations that is again another visually stunning film. What makes Sucker Punch so special when compared to Zack Snyder’s other movies is that this is his first shot at a big budget film based on original material; in fact its his own material. The film has been hyped to be an amazing and visually stunning action movie that appears to be handcrafted for the teen to middle aged nerd that Snyder films attract. Is Sucker Punch a crazy over the top action movie or does it actually have some substance behind the gorgeous visuals?
The answer to the question is not as simple as it sounds. The film does have a bit of a story. In this story we see a girl nicknamed “Baby Doll”(Emily Browning) who finds out that her mother is dead. Her step father opens the will only to find out that Baby Doll’s mother has left everything to her sister and her. The step father gets angry and attempts to murder Baby Doll’s younger sister. In trying to protect her sister an accident occurs and Baby Doll is sent to a mental institution. After being in the institution for an unspecified amount of time she creates a fantasy world where she is actually in a brothel and is trying to escape. In this brothel she finds that she is very unhappy and wants to escape. Four of the other girls (nicknamed Sweet Pea, Rocket, Blondie, and Amber) decide they are sick of the brothel as well and they plan an escape. Part of their plan involves Baby Doll dancing for men as a distraction. During her “dances” we actually see her escape into another fantasy world where basically anything is possible. These fantasies are where most of the over the top, visually amazing, and overly ridiculous action scenes happen. One takes place in a pseudo-World War II where we are fighting steam-punked Nazi zombies. Another one of the fantasies involves the girls fighting an endless amount of robots defending a bomb. At the beginning of each of these fantasies a Yoda-like character comes in and tells the girls what their objective is. These fantasies are all loaded with references from many things ranging from Lord of the Rings to Terminator to Mortal Kombat.
While this plot sounds like great fun it just is not executed very well and at the end of the movie it is very likely you will feel like the film was very disjointed. The movie never really finds a good tone so it leaves the audience feeling a bit confused as to what really matters. Does the original reality in the hospital matter or are we supposed to care for the girls in the fantasy brothel? Are we supposed to be laughing at the action sequences or are we supposed to be developing an attachment to these characters? The movie seems like it had a lot of goals in mind when it was being made, but in the end they just do not all mesh well. The movie opens with what seems to be a music video and then shifts into a more serious tone for a small section and then goes into an all out hilarious over the top section and then for the final stretch of the film it gets very serious. By the time characters start dying and you figure out that the movie actually has stakes; its really hard to begin to care. The movie ends before you can really develop any type of attachment to any of the characters.
The acting in the movie does not exactly help the problem filled script. Emily Browning very rarely changes the look on her face for the entire movie. Almost every time you see a close up shot of her face she has the exact same look. This is the best example I could think of to express just how wooden and emotionless her performance came across. She almost never changed the tone of her voice and it always, even during some very intense scenes, stays in a passive-aggressive tone. Aside from Browning most of cast (which includes Abbie Cornish, Jena Malone, Vanessa Hudgens, Jamie Chung, and Carla Gugino) turn in pretty weak performances. Most of the characters just sound flat and uninspired when talking. One of the characters has a Russian accent that is laughable whenever something is said. I suppose that I could attribute most of the acting to some overall weak dialog. Its just not well written which makes it very difficult for the actors to sell. The only two performances I found worth noting were John Hamm (who is spectacular in nearly anything he is in) and Scott Glenn(I attribute most of that to his voice). Hamm is barely even in the movie, but for the two scenes he appears in he owns the screen. Glenn plays the wise old man who tells the characters what to do so its simple enough that I don’t think many people could mess it up.
The overall direction of movie was solid, but nothing to boast about. This is Zack Snyder we are talking about, and by now I imagine that most of the people who are interested in this movie know what to expect from him. He has a very tasteful song selection, gorgeous visuals, and some overall impressive action. Snyder has continued to show us that he has a mind that is is filled with imagination and unlike many directors in Hollywood(looking toward Michael Bay) he can show the audience what he is visualizing. Aside from just being able to show us he actually knows how to direct all of the action scenes so that people feel like they are in the heat of the action, but also able to see everything that is happening(a problem that has plagued even the most skilled directors such as Christopher Nolan in the Batman films). Zack Snyder still knows how to create eye candy loaded with action, but he still has issues when it comes to the fundamentals of story telling. Zack Snyder has shown in his previous movies that he can show fully fleshed out characters and he has also proven he can direct a movie with a very healthy pace, but I think what many people forget is that for all of his adaptions or remakes he has amazing source material for his outline. So when it comes down to him doing a movie based on all of his own work(he wrote, directed, and produced the film) he just hasn’t quite found his foothold. Another thing to mention about his directing is his distinct style. While I usually love use of slow-mo this movie its just too much. There is so much slow-mo in the movie. Let me repeat. There is TOO MUCH slow-mo in this movie. He uses it just as much as if not more than actual motion. There is slow-mo in every scene of the movie; usually multiple times in the same scene. It gets to the point where its obnoxious. Slow-mo worked for 300, Watchmen, and The Legend of the Guardians because when it was used it almost always made sense or added to the scene, but in Sucker Punch there were so many time when it was completely pointless. I have come to the conclusion that either Zack Snyder has an OCD for slow-mo in his films or he literally sees life in slow motion.
Now that I’ve torn this movie to shreds I will say that I still enjoyed this film to some degree. Despite the fact that it had many problems; its not a horrible movie. I did really enjoy all of the references to all things nerd in the movie. My favorite reference was actually the fact that each of the fantasies were written out to be like the level of a video game. Each fantasy started with the wiseman giving the girls directions and the all ended with a boss fight. There were tons of references to games, books, and movies. Aside from that I did also enjoy all of the action scenes and how they were supposed to parallel something happening in the brothel/mental institution. The movie had masterfully done action choreographing that was fun to watch. Then of course were the gorgeous visuals that Snyder is keen on giving us every movie. This movie was not a total failure and if you are the type of person who enjoys watching partially naked women be as over the top as possible while blowing stuff up then you will still find something to love about it.
Overall Sucker Punch was not a total failure. It may not have told a great story, delivered great performances, or even given us the outstanding direction we were expecting, but it still delivered in showing off gorgeous visuals and over the top action. This movie may not have been a horrible movie, but it certainly was not a good one. The biggest problem is that to get to all the action you have to sit through a movie that just does not flow well and lacks cohesiveness. There is a plot behind the madness; it just does not flow well enough to allow the audience to care for anything that is happening. By the time you might start to care for the characters or story for that matter; you’ll be seeing the credits role. As the wiseman said in my opening quote “If you can’t stand for something you’ll fall for anything,”. Sucker Punch sure had a problem standing for something. Here’s to hoping Snyder can get back on track for Superman: The Man of Steel.
While the film has a story and many great ideas it lacks cohesiveness and a steady pace. By the time its all over you’ll be wondering if you were supposed to care in the first place.
Zack Snyder succeeds flies high in his strengths, but crashes hard on his weaknesses. The visuals, action, and choreography are amazing, but his inability to keep the plot interesting or make the characters intriguing really damage what could have been a great opportunity for Snyder to show he could create his own material. Lastly; there is too much slow motion for Zack Snyder’s own good.
Mediocre at best. Emily Browning turns in a pretty wooden performance as the lead and most of the supporting cast don’t fair much better. Bland dialog keep most of the characters from having any real development at all. The few attempts made to develop the supporting cast did not really amount to much
This film is loaded with eye candy(I’m not talking about the lead cast). The setting and environments are gorgeous and most of the explosions look equally impressive. Each of the distinct art directions for each of the fantasies look amazing. There is enough over the top action to make Michael Bay wish he had something to do with it. All of the fighting and choreography are very entertaining. The only real draw back to the action is the over abundance of slow-mo.
Overall Score: 5.5/10