Zack Snyder is one of the most visual directors working in Hollywood today. He is one of the few whose work is identifiable with a simple glance. Everything he has done has been an adaptation or remake, whether that is the comic legend in the Watchmen or murdering horror royalty in dawn of the dead. Unlike his earlier work, this is Snyder’s first attempt at writing and directing. His first attempt at flying solo is Sucker Punch.
As a rule of thumb it is straightforward to describe what a film is about but not sucker punch, sucker punch is special. That’s because the plot is near enough none existent and what little there is makes no sense. Nevertheless I will soldier on. Sucker Punch is about Baby Doll, a girl whose Mother dies, so she has no choice but to stay with her step-father. The step-father expected to inherit something other than the two girls and takes his anger out on Baby Doll and her sister. It all gets carried away and it results in Baby Doll being sent to a mental institution. Or at least it seems to be as after entering the asylum it turns into a brothel where everybody is well adjusted. Nevertheless Baby Doll has very little time to escape because she is set to be lobotomised to cover her step-fathers crimes. Sucker Punch is a prison escape movie.
Watching the trailer that is the last thing you would expect as the promotional campaign has focused on heavily stylised action set pieces that wouldn’t look out of place in an anime or comic book. That is because Dr. Gorski tells the in-mates to dance with feeling otherwise they have no value. I think someone forgot this is a mental asylum. Anyway when Baby Doll finally does dance we are transported to a fantastical realm of violence and comic book chaos, its here where all the action takes place. It’s not established as to how this is achieved, it is just dropped on you without as much as a hint of explanation. Scratch that, who cares about explanations and plot as the concept of sucker punch is based around the ideal of cool, everything else is waste of time.
Or that is what you would believe as all the problems are born from the poor script hence the action takes greater precedence. The poor writing was born from one of two stories that explain the unaccomplished script, one is that this was written when Snyder was 13 and hasn’t been changed since. The second is that he asked the people at Udon to draw stuff, any cool stuff and he has linked all the resulting unrelated designs into one narrative. They are both as bad as each other, however if either is true then at least it explains the rubbish which follows.
There is no characterisation, the most we know about any of the characters is that they have a name. We have Emily Browning as Baby Doll, Abbie Cornish as Sweet Pea, Jena Malone as Rocket, Vanessa Hudgens as Blondie, and Jamie Chung as Amber. That is as much as I could tell you about any of the characters, other than Sweet Pea and Rocket being sisters. That is it. On the other hand, look at the prison movies of Frank Darabont (The green mile and Shawshank redemption), we care about his characters as we spend time with them, getting to know them. Through this we develop an emotional attachment to the people on screen. But in sucker punch they are introduced and that’s it, from there we are transported into a realm of fantasy where they have to gather items to escape. To describe the idea it sounds like a video game, not a particularly good one at that
What I am trying to say is when you know nothing about a set of characters you don’t really care one way or the other whether they succeed in their goals. Furthermore the film fails in its one purpose, Sucker Punch fails to excite or entertain. It might have failed there, but it did succeed in boring me.
As you would expect from a story that is both badly written and makes no sense the potential that the actors can reach is severely limited. Even before Sucker Punch not one person has been in something that has piqued my attention. It would take something special here for that to change and that just isn’t the case. The reality is that no one was cast on a level beyond the superficial and aesthetic and I couldn’t describe any of the characters on a level beyond what they wear or how attractive they are.
It’s all been pretty negative so far, hasn’t it? Well there’s more. In a film where women use dance as a weapon against their supposed brutal overseer’s, music plays a big part of the film. The soundtrack includes a large number of brutalised versions of classic songs, just like the story brutalised the idea of plot and writing, the soundtrack did the same to music. The two real standouts were Yoav and Emily Browning who did a number on pixies classic where my mind, but the real sore point is skunk anansie murdering the classic punk record from Iggy Pop & The stooges – search and destroy. I very nearly walked out at that point. I wish I did too as I can’t erase the awfulness that is sucker punch from my mind no matter how much I try.
So there we have it, sucker punch is hands down the worst film that I have been unfortunate enough to see this year. Well at least it’s pretty, the lead characters are anyway. But beyond those beautiful vacuous faces I fail to see where the attraction comes from in this world of browns and greys. I know something else that is brown and it has alot in common with Sucker Punch.