Beautiful women in a fantasy world kicking samurai robot ass in a film directed by Zack Snyder (Dawn of the Dead, 300, The Watchmen); it should have been every geeky fan boy’s wet dream. While Sucker Punch does provide all of these elements abundantly, it comes off as little more than an excuse for Snyder to show scantily dressed babes fighting in some awesome battles surrounded by the best scenery CGI could provide.
The film itself looks incredible and as is always the case with Snyder, the camera work is spectacular; capturing a gray tinted fantasy world with a painter’s skill. Unfortunately that’s where my praise ends for Sucker Punch. The story, which I believe is Zack Snyder’s debut as a screen writer, is a confused jumble of incoherence and superfluity.
The story begins as a twisted fairy tale in which our, I think she’s supposed to be the main character, Baby Doll is placed in a corrupt mental asylum by her evil and abusive step father after the accidental death of her sister. The asylum is where she is to await lobotomy. Not a bad premise, maybe done before, but there are few ideas that haven’t been.
Baby Doll is escorted to the lobotomy chair and from there we are transported to our first layer of fantasy a la Inception. All of sudden the mental asylum is a burlesque house where the girls are performers for the powerful and the sleazy. Baby Doll is quickly befriended by the other imprisoned women when she proves to be an exceptional dancer. All we in the audience see of the dance is Baby Doll putting on her best sad face as she begins to sway hypnotically.
Her dancing is apparently so captivating that all who watch are mesmerized and too distracted to pay attention to any shenanigans that the girls may be plotting. It is this that allows the girls, led by Baby Doll to plan their escape.
The scheme is basically Baby Doll will dance and distract the enemies while the other girls work to acquire the four items they need to escape, these being a map, fire, a knife, and a key. There is also a mysterious fifth acquisition which according to the cheesy cliché spouting wannabe David Carradine spiritual guide, “will require great sacrifice.” Are you salivating with curiosity yet? Yeah, me neither. Anyway the girls agree and the escape plan begins.
Each time Baby Doll dances we in the audience are then taken to a deeper level of fantasy each of which is a different war zone that pits Baby Doll and the rest of girls against either samurais, robots, dragons, World War One German zombie soldiers, or whatever else seemed to pop into Snyder’s brain as he was attempting to organize this chaos into something people would actually pay to watch. Each of these fantasies is meant to be a mission to acquire one of the aforementioned items.
The fantasies, while visually amazing, rarely seem to connect to what the girls are actually doing to get the items they need. Basically each fantasy becomes a futuristic music video set to shitty modern updates of cool classic rock songs. For you music geeks out there, of which I am one, be prepared to hear The Pixies’ “Where Is My Mind,” Jefferson Airplanes’ “White Rabbit,” The Stooges’ “Search and Destroy,” and The Beatles’ “Tomorrow Never Knows” raped by hacks whose remakes are as misguided as Lil’ Wayne’s rock album.
I’ve said enough. The movie may have something deeper happening under the surface but its story is so clumsy that you won’t care to search for it at movie’s end. A fortunate side effect of a film like this is that it helps you to appreciate the talents of someone like Christopher Nolan even more. Nolan as you probably know wrote and directed Inception. Inception was a multi level fantasy not unlike Sucker Punch, which potentially could have been a confused mess that would have frustrated audiences, much like Sucker Punch. Instead Nolan crafted a coherent sci-fi with deep characters that you rooted for and connected to. Rather than leaving audiences confused it left audiences mystified and begging to watch it again and again.
Zack Snyder, I love ya. You are a film geek like me and unlike me you have the skill to make film geek classics for film geeks like me. “Watchmen” and “Dawn of the Dead” are some of my favorite flicks. However your strength seems to be in the director’s chair. You have the vision of some of the great sci-fi and fantasy directors, but next time you may want to have someone else write the script, but then who the hell am I. I’m just some guy who is writing reviews for free that only my mom will read. Oops, I better edit out that wet dream stuff. Anyway I’m giving Sucker Punch a D.