Sucker Punch (2011) Zach Snyder
Production Budget: $82 million
Worldwide Gross: $89 million
Sucker Punch is about Baby Doll (Emily Browning) who is put into a mental institution after accidentally killing her sister while protecting her from her evil stepfather. The stepfather arranges for Baby Doll to get a lobotomy so she does not cause any more problems for him. In order to cope with being in this environment she imagines she is a dancer at a club who is also going to be prostituted out to someone known only as “the highroller”. Baby Doll plans her escape by having other dancers steal items while she enters another dream state (while she is in dance) in which she battles fantasy creatures.
All during this picture I kept thinking how much this movie reminded me of Pan’s Labyrinth and how Zach Snyder screwed up everything that made that movie work. The thing that probably brings most people’s attention to this movie is also the same thing that does not work. Most people will see the scantily clad women doing Matrix like stuff in these fantastical settings and slaying dragons and cyborgs and whatnot. The problem is these scenes are not established so that they mean anything and they come off as random and uninteresting. To use Matrix again as an example, we are told about the virtual reality the characters inhabit and are explained all the rules. We know how they can bend the rules of reality but not break them and the consequences of what happens in that reality. In Sucker Punch we get none of that. Baby Doll and her companions can apparently do what they want, imagine whatever weapons or machinery they want, and there is no readily apparent consequences of what happens if they get harmed in this second layer of fantasy. It also makes no sense in terms of what Baby Doll is fantasizing about. In Pan’s Labyrinth we get the girl living in the fantasy land she is familiar with from her stories. For no reason other than seemingly because it looks cool, Baby Doll is fighting zombie Germans with mech suits in WWI, then fighting a dragon in a D&D setting, and fighting robots on another planet. Why is she imagining this? What is the purpose? So even though these scenes are probably what are going to get people interested in the trailer, I found these scenes to be dull and completely unnecessary to the plot. And when you consider that the movie builds up to these scenes almost to the detriment of everything else, you are in for a long ride.
The acting is over the top but I think that is the problem of the writing and the directing. Everyone is playing such an extreme character that you can’t inject any kind of personality in. Men are all evil pigs who want to rape the women, and the women are one dimensional eye candy. Everyone (including me) will give Snyder credit for having a good visual style, but unless he makes a completely silent film you will be subjected to some howlingly bad dialog. I also don’t comment on this thing often, but this soundtrack has some of the worst covers I’ve ever heard. What they do to The Pixies and Iggy Pop is almost a crime, but things are made that much worse when the song is put in the forefront by a montage (of which there are probably six if not more). On an unrelated note, I have heard that Snyder considers this film a female empowerment film to which I will only respond with howls of derisive laughter (because that is all that claim merits).
There was just nothing in this film for me to like. Yes the movie is pretty but that doesn’t mean a whole lot in this day. The second layer of fantasy doesn’t work and this is something that should have been caught in the pre-planning stage. When the main attraction of your film doesn’t work then everything else you have falls like a house of cards. The characters are not developed enough for me to really care, the story is shallow and pretty much the movie equivalent of a fetch quest, and the acting is wooden and bland. I wasn’t pissed off at this movie so much as bored to death. There is a small group that want to defend this movie and I guess that’s good on them for finding something they can like but I see no reason to recommend this movie to anyone.