What to expect from "Sucker Punch"? Not really sure, another visual feast from Director Zack Snyder no doubt, but much like "Watchmen" I really had no idea going in as to what the story was about. I didn't even know if this one was based on a graphic novel or had some kind of hip, underground source material that I was oblivious to until hearing there was going to be a movie based on it (turns out this is Snyder's first film not based on pre-existing material). In what should have been an epic trip through a young girls mind who may or may not be mentally insane instead we are treated to montage after montage of massive set-ups and beautiful camera work with retro songs re-fitted to the current scene as their backdrops. It is an interesting film and it has its moments, but it is nowhere near how stunning and epic it should have been. It is the epitome of all style and no substance.

Getting to the bottom of it, "Sucker Punch" is really a combination of male fantasy materialized with young, attractive women in school girl outfits fighting dragons and samurai soldiers. It is concerning damaged women, locked up for reasons unbeknown to us. Except for Baby Doll (Emily Browning) we know very little of her gang of scantily clad co-horts. As played by Abbie Cornish, Jena Malone, Jamie Chung, and a surprising turn from Vanessa Hudgens they are all somewhat cardboard figures told to stand in the background and strike specific poses so as to create a classic looking portrait with Snyder's signature grunge tinge to it. Beginning with a quick back story of how Baby Doll ends up in the crazy house and set to a very creepy cool version of "Sweet Dreams" sung by Browning herself, it is super-stylized and an indication of what I hoped the entire movie might consist of. Emotions elicited through intense images and heightened by the choice of soundtrack, but instead the film slumps quickly into simple melodrama and is ultimately used as an excuse for Snyder to show how visually insane and creative he can really get.

And make no mistake, if the film has anything going for it it is in fact its stunning visual landscape. It is simply disappointing when realizing there is no real vision for the story as a whole. There are these set pieces, these different worlds we are transported to when our protagonist goes into her dancing trances, they by themselves are greatly choreographed and some of them are even fun. The zombie Nazi soldiers look like something straight out of a video game, but the action is relentless and we cannot help but to marvel at the pure scope of the cinematic dreamland being exploited in front of us. As short little films on their own, they might be the most breathtaking things we have seen in a long time, but as one coherent feature, the lack of unity has everything falling apart. There are interesting ideas at play here, there is a concept waiting to be better explored and there is a better film to be made from this story. I cannot help but think if Snyder would pay half as much attention to making sure his story is conveyed and executed the best way it can be as he does making sure the visuals look cool he would be a landmark filmmaker. Instead, his films are weighed heavily down because they have so much to offer in one area and very little in the most important one.

As he now works on re-booting "Superman" I can only hope the critical reactions to this film make him realize his flaws and that he does his best to correct them. "Sucker Punch" should have been his first bold statement, saying he could construct a film as striking in story as the definitive visuals he has provided us with. Instead, it flounders under it's own oblivious fantasy that these effects and action sequences are a viable excuse for a quality story. If only the film were as much a sucker punch to the brain as it is for the eyes.

No comments:

Post a Comment