I went to see the latest Zach Snyder film, Sucker Punch, and I have to say, as someone who likes Snyder, I felt immensely cheated here. I’m a fan of his previous films, Watchmen and 300. I knew this one would be fun, after all, there was all this hype and the visuals from teasers look like the standard fare. Also it doesn’t take one long to realize that I am a fan of the doppelgänger and the psyche in films. He had me interested from the start but like I said before, I felt cheated.
As with all Snyder films, the visuals are sharp, and the fighting scenes are well choreographed. The scenery has that nice CGI shinerey I come to expect. Parts of the film were grimy, as the mental asylum was intended. The looks of the imagined worlds has some fine details to it. Clearly we’re suppose to see the ladies in the group as some bad ass sirens who get the job done. Even the fetishized touches to their costumes work well in the dream world.
I felt, however, that the narrative and the genres of the films were vastly underdeveloped. In this respect it gives us a mishmash instead of a clever mash-up of genres. As we progress into giant samurai’s, WW II steampunk/clockwork German soldiers, high fantasy style dragons and monsters, I wish at some point there was a stronger plot to belong to this film. At the very least it should have poked fun at itself because it comes off as far too serious.
The story starts off like a psychological thriller where the heroine’s stepfather realizes the daughters inherit the recently deceased Mother’s fortune/estate. The stepfather attempts to kill the daughters, and the youngest of the two dies, and the oldest (Baby Doll) is sent to a mental institution to be lobotomized. From here we go into a surreal world partly inside our heroine’s head. She’s a trapped stripper and the ladies around her go into her dream within dreams on a set of quests for freedom. I feel I’ve been Inceptioned with these dreams within dreams, for all the wrong reasons.
Ignoring some serious plot logic, Sucker Punch delivers all the action and violence with no story to back it up. This might as well be a commercial for deodorant. “How much pressure can these ladies take before they start to sweat?” The film simply doesn’t do anything with character, narrative, or cohesiveness. One thing that really irked me is that you discover that the dream concepts have some ties to the real world, in a roundabout way. Baby Doll helps a fellow inmate escape, but why? Which parts are real? What is fakery? Why doesn’t Baby Doll ever discuss the loss of her sister? Does the lobotomy help her escape her guilt?
One thing I hate is how the film concludes. The heroine doesn’t really do what we think she’s set out to do, which is free herself. It felt very unresolved and empty. Her fellow escapees meet resolutions in such a brutal way that makes the offender’s own arrest seem a neat way to wrap the story. The ending was so dry and ugly, one wishes the stepfather came back at the last minute in the film and was arrested, killed, or beaten until he confesses. Instead we have a heroine who wishes to be lobotomized, and she gets her wish.
I think for a template the creative team could have used The Wizard of Oz, or even Alice in Wonderland if they were going to play around with the psyche in this film. I hate to say this about this film, I do think it may be interesting to see on DVD/rental/cable, but is was more than disappointing to see at the theater. It may be fun to visit the site and get a taste of the visuals, which are worth a look. Travel at your own leisure.