(Zack Snyder, 2011, USA)
Director Zack Snyder is a man whose association with the word flamboyance has caused him to become synonymous with high budgeted big screen spectacles, with middling degrees of success, reminding one all too much of a younger, though equally mindless Michael Bay. Where 300 and Watchmen were a success financially and boasted glorious mise-en-scene, they were both misguided and ham-fisted, taking their original source materials and swapping characterisation and relatable themes for mere morsels of opportunities to exploit some sort of action sequence, turning them into emotionless vehicles of excess, hysteria masquerading as entertainment. The same can be said of his previous film, the painfully mediocre 3D venture Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole, a perfect companion piece to Sucker Punch in that it sheds even more light on Snyder’s utter inadequacies in the storytelling department. Sucker Punch may be original, but that is strictly all it has going for it.
An action-fantasy, Sucker Punch tells the story of Baby Doll (Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events star Emily Browning), a seemingly vulnerable teen who, upon being unwillingly sent by her step father to a mental asylum (cum brothel), bands together a group of luckless girls with one motivation in mind; escape. Utilising Baby Doll’s seemingly mesmerizing talent for rendering the male gaze completely unconscious through the use of dance, the female troupe delve deep into their vivid inner psyches, battling fictitious adversaries who stand in their way of freeing themselves of the impending, lobotomising clutches of the mysterious ‘High Roller’ (Jon Hamm). As reality and metaphorical imagination become increasingly distorted, the risks of freedom become increasingly challenging.
The cinematic equivalent of a giddy pre-pubescent wet dream, Sucker Punch is a tasteless and very trashy affair, trading much needed character development in favour of cheap thrills and exploitative subtext, priding itself on pretty girls in skimpy outfits brandishing heavy weaponry and brazen, hostile attitudes. When a film results to nothing more than showcasing a group of ragtag girls blowing the brains out of anything and everything that stands in their way, which desperately tries to represent a warped idea of feminism, then there is a serious problem, and these problems can solely be attributed to Snyder himself, a spoilt man-child with far too many toys, and far too much of a budget to play with.
Characterisation is customarily slim and the episodic nature of the narrative, which sees the girls setting out to collect four varied items in their dream worlds, leads the film to become tiresomely and excruciatingly repetitive very quickly. In fact, this lazy narrative structure ironically boils down to the closest similarity a film has come to a typical shoot-em-up style video game, following vacuous characters battling through landscapes with seemingly endless possibilities, zero rules and zero gravity. Additionally, nothing within these fantasy sequences are given justification, nor do they pose anything resembling dramatic clout or threat, existing simply to serve as meaningless hurdles for the characters to excessively shoot at. And of course, according to Snyder, seeing girls slice dragons, dice steam-powered Nazis and encounter giant robotic samurai’s is obviously cool, right?
Snyder is not a good director; he’s an over-privileged one with a vivid, undisciplined imagination, a man who revels in his over budgeted flights of fancy, and this is the fruit of his excitable, ill-judged ego. Sucker Punch not only trades substance for style all too willingly, it delivers its apparently moral standpoints with all the subtleties of being punched in the face, throwing the future of the Man of Steel (Snyder’s next project) into serious jeopardy.
- 300, 2006. [Film] Directed by Zack Snyder. USA: Warner Bros. Pictures.
- Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole, 2010. [Film] Directed by Zack Snyder. USA: Warner Bros. Pictures.
- Sucker Punch, 2011. [Film] Directed by Zack Snyder. USA: Warner Bros. Pictures.
- Watchmen, 2009. [Film] Directed by Zack Snyder. USA: Warner Bros. Pictures.