“Sucker Punch” is a wet dream turned nightmare (1/5)


Outside his remake of Dawn of the Dead, Zack Snyder’s career has been an exercise in style over substance. Dawn of the Dead was a visceral remake that kept much of the horrific underpinnings of George A. Romero’s horror classic intact, while Snyder’s flair brought the film to the modern age. It was evidence of a blooming filmmaker. Snyder’s next film, 300, where Sparta was a canvas and the mass bloodshed acted like paint, was a technical marvel. Its storytelling wasn’t anything great, but it found a way to work itself out despite heavy usage of slow motion.  The same can be said for Snyder’s adaptation of Watchmen, a film based on a complex source material about damaged superheroes. Snyder’s attempt at breathing life into Watchmen is a worthwhile gambit, but one that gets bogged down in his excessive style and lack of interest in developing worthwhile threads and characters. In his newest effort Sucker Punch, Snyder settles back into his old habits, but this time not only does an overabundance of style damage the film, but a lack of a coherent story straight up kills it.

We open up on Babydoll (Emily Browning), a brooding, blonde vixen who has just lost her mother to an unforeseeable event. With her mother now gone, Babydoll and her sister are now under the supervision of their step-father, whose menacing glares shout physical and sexual abuse. Needless to say, Babydoll dismisses her step-father’s drunken advances one night and nearly kills him, but in the process she kills her sister.  It’s an accident that forces Babydoll to be enlisted into the Lennox House for the mentally insane. All of this is painfully done in slow motion, a notion that would even make Wes Anderson sigh in disgust. At the institution, Babydoll is set up to be lobotomized and mentally discharged. That is until she strikes a friendship with four of her fellow female inmates who, with her imagination, seek to escape the padded walls that limit their freedom. It’s at this point that the film let’s go of the reality in which it exists, and explores fluid worlds that grow in Babydoll’s mind. And by worlds I mean a complete homogenization of every thirteen year old boy’s wet dreams.

For whatever reason, Babydoll and her crack team of nut jobs take on armies of zombie Nazis, gigantic shogun warriors, a horde of Orcs, and a collection of robots ripped from I, Robot. Did I mention they do all of this in skimpy clothes? Each battle sequence with the aforementioned ghouls are objectives that parallel Babydoll’s ‘real life’ tasks of capturing five items she feels will help her escape the asylum. What is so perplexing about Babydoll’s venture into her mind is that the enemies she faces don’t particularly relate to anything stemming from her subconscious or her trials in the real world. They merely exist because they look cool. Without having any reason to exist, the sequences feel like a bad videogame. The only difference is that in a videogame, we have some control over what happens and can extract a miniscule level of fun out of it. Here, no fun exists despite Snyder’s eagerness to please us with his action sequences. Outside of an impressively set WWI trench battle, the action sequences are vanilla. They don’t particularly have any semblance of order (they just make up weapons as they go) and lack any dramatic appeal. This is especially true considering what happens in “Imagination Land” doesn’t entirely translate to obstacles in the real world. What we have are two worlds that don’t serve one another.

Actually, I’m wrong. The real world antics of Babydoll are stop gaps to give us a chance to catch our breath from the exhilarating drama and action we see in Babydoll’s mind! I hope you can sense the sarcasm there. The real world scenes don’t hold any weight as they are sugar-coated rushes of inane dialogue, one-dimensional characterizations, and moderately impressive production design. These scenes don’t serve the story or the characters. They’re only entry points for the fantastical images that Snyder wants us to believe hold some validity. They don’t, and Sucker Punch doesn’t deserve to exist. I’m not going to lie, once the film reached its apex, a lobotomy was welcomed.

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