STARRING: Emily Browning, Vanessa Hudgens,
Abbie Cornish, Jamie Chung, Jena Malone, Carla Gugino, Jon Hamm, Oscar Isaac,
2011, 120 Minutes, Directed by:
of all the sci-fi / fantasy movies I’ve enjoyed over the course of the past few weeks, I think my
introduction to the masturbatory preferences of director Zack Snyder was my
least favorite encounter . . .
Sent to a mental institution
after the death of her mother, young Baby Doll (Emily Browning) struggles with
her shock, while the evil of her new surroundings disturb her shattered psyche
Taught by Madam Gorski (Carla
Gugino) to retreat inside her fantasies, Baby Doll is encouraged to pursue a
gift for hypnotic dance, whisking her away to a series of fantastical war zones,
searching for five items that will help her escape from the institution and the
villainous clutches of caretaker Blue (Oscar Issac). Envisioning herself a whore
in a brothel of broken women, alongside Sweet Pea (Abbie Cornish), Rocket (Jena
Malone), Blondie (Vanessa Hudgens), and Amber (Jamie Chung), Baby Doll works out
a group plan to achieve her goals, looking to break out before her time with the
mysterious High Roller (Jon Hamm) arrives.
Away from remakes (Dawn
of the Dead), graphic novel adaptations (300,
Watchmen), and those amazing owls (Legend
of the Guardians), Zack Snyder is finally ready to dream up something
original for himself, testing his abilities as a filmmaker. The result is
Sucker Punch, a deafening, abrasive fantasy that blends burlesque, anime,
Moulin Rouge, and Girl, Interrupted in a sickly soup, served in an
unwashed bowl of noise.
It’s an ugly motion picture
that represents the worst of Snyder’s instincts, barreling forward as some
proudly lunatic empowerment anthem when all it truly seeks to do is mindlessly
titillate and destroy, often at the same time.
Snyder is making a video game
here, and while that’s an easy description to hand Sucker Punch, it’s
unfortunately quite apt.
"Heavy amounts of CGI to bend space and time for our heroine as she
discovers her inner stripper . . ."
Gyrating away from her
depressive institutional surroundings, Baby Doll imagines herself a warrior in
jailbait clothes, armed with guns and swords, staring down enemies that range
from giant robot samurai to steampunk Nazis. With her team of teasers in tow,
the apple-cheeked, power-pouty dreamer leads the gang into battle, on the hunt
for secretive items of freedom, with tutorials supplied by The Wise Man (a stiff
Scott Glenn), an elderly general who holds a connection to the women.
Obviously, mayhem is what
Snyder is known for, and he lets his clichéd visual aesthetic run free in this
wonky wonderland without rules, cramming the film with all sorts of slo-mo glory
shots and upskirt activity, using heavy amounts of CGI to bend space and time
for Baby Doll as she discovers her inner stripper. Most of it is PS3-inspired
rubbish that disorientates rather than energizes, with one encounter on a
speeding train rendered a useless display of sensory overload in a picture that
could use more substance instead of graceless decimation.
With dragons and orcs chasing
the overly made-up and bedazzled ladies, Sucker Punch should be some type of
orgasmic romp with a faint sense of wonder. Nope. Snyder takes the premise
seriously, ordering up lobotomies, murders, near-rapes, and general torment to
sustain the picture’s sobriety, only there’s no thematic urge for the film to
cling to. Delicate concepts of trauma, fantasy, and psychological escape are
left to dangle while Snyder dreams up the next big bang, leaving his actors
stranded with incomplete roles (Baby Doll is a complete void in blonde pigtails)
inside of a bafflingly scripted motion picture.
Also disappointing is the lack
of a legitimate threat, with Blue more bothersome than evil, performed
aggressively by a miscast Issac, who chooses to play the ghoul with broad, hammy
indication instead of finding an effective sting of ruthless intimidation.
There’s an idiosyncratic
musical element within Sucker Punch that’s supposed to enrapture and
transport, yet it can’t quite peel itself away from being ridiculous. Using
covers and mash-ups of famous pop songs, Snyder feels around for an aural pulse
to help set the bleak mood, finding a rhythm to backdrop the chaos.
The songs merely reinforce the
absurdity of everything on display here, with Snyder stopping the film on
occasion to manufacture music videos. Reportedly, song and dance played a
greater role in the film at one point. All that’s left here are the frayed ends.
Another abrupt end in a film of limited follow-through.
It’s tempting to label
Sucker Punch a mess, but that’s going easy on Snyder. He’s made something
authentically confused and moderately offensive, apparently eager to place this
dodgy film at the feet of young girls in search of heroes - his own glossy brand
of marketable rebellion. It’s a distasteful presumption that clouds what’s left
of his good judgment.
- Brian Orndorf