Review: Sucker Punch

Director: Zack Snyder
Release: March 25 2011 (theatrical)
Starring: Emily Browning, Vanessa Hudgens, Abbie Cornish

Say what you will about Zack Snyder. The guy has a serious flair for incredible visual presentation and outright “fuck yeah” moments, and that can often be enough to keep a viewer watching.

Sucker Punch certainly IS more of that, but I feel it has legs of its own, and being the first wholly original work from Snyder, I for one, see it as a step up from his past efforts.

The film stars Emily Browning as Baby Doll, a girl who gets sent to an institution after an accident involving her scumbag step father and younger sister. These moments play out in the very opening of the film, all played out in slow motion and set to a slow and hypnotic cover of “Sweet Dreams” which I later discovered is performed by none other than the lead actress herself (so big props for that and the other songs she contributed). The effect is great at creating suspense and sort of drilling home the feeling of terror in these opening minutes.

It’s also a pretty good indication of what you’re about to watch for 110 minutes. Great camera work and A. LOT. of slow motion action while a metric assload of cool shit is happening, a Zack Snyder trademark if there ever was one.

As a side note. I know it’s easy to rag on the guy for loving this style, but this is about a million times better than the other Hollywood trend of directing action scenes which are so shakily filmed that you can’t even tell what’s going on most of the time (I’m looking at you, Christopher Nolan). That’s annoying to me. This isn’t. Slow motion is always fun to watch. It’s gorgeous, too.

After Baby Doll gets sent away by her step father, it’s revealed that something a little more sinister is set to take place, and without giving away anything, it is pretty much what the entire film is about. Escape. From reality, from imprisonment…all of it.

So the film shifts suddenly to this seemingly entirely different world, where the other patients still exist, but are all instead girls in set to work in an establishment where they dance and “entertain” clients while a seemingly evil club owner, Blue, keeps them hostage.

This shift is pretty early on in the film, and so one is lead to believe that Baby Doll is indeed dreaming, or fighting a different sort of battle in her head, but nothing is quite clear.

So while the story is indeed quite simple, Snyder tells it in a way that is more complex and action packed. Each little step of the escape is played out with the girls in different locations featuring different enemies as if it jumps back into the main characters head, and this seemingly simple task is instead a gargantuan undertaking requiring immense skill and teamwork. Guided by the “Wise man” Baby Doll and the rest of the girls are told they have all the weapons they need to fight.

We jump to these scenes anytime Baby Doll is told to dance for a client, so it’s like the real fight is her letting go and doing this, but the action is all in her head.

So, is it an excuse to just show beautiful girls doing kick ass things? I guess so, but I’m honestly not sure when that became such a bad thing. I don’t even mean that as a man who likes beautiful girls kicking ass. I say it as a film fan who enjoys watching over the top action scenes and imaginary settings and moments.

And this film has those things in spades. Nearly every “Dream” (for lack of a better word) is created with awesome CG and action scenes that are about as nuts as you can get.

Girl in schoolgirl uniform with sword kicks some ass. Girls get guns and shoot up robot/zombie hybrid Nazis, and then there’s a giant dragon thrown into the mix somewhere and an air battle ensues. Shit like that.

Snyder creates some of the most awesome scenes and this film doesn’t disappoint, visually. Everyone involved in the art/costumes/cgi did a bang up job. Visually, it’s an absolute stunner, is the real point.

It’s easy to call Sucker Punch a shallow, light film because of this. It would be hard to argue. So I won’t

It’s almost like paying your money and strapping in for a sweet ass flight in a fighter jet or something. It doesn’t really fuck around, and I’d say anyone who ever said “Wow, that looks wild. I want to see it” will be satisfied. Really, I think that’s the type of person Zack Snyder is looking for. He’s not trying to convince anyone this is high art or the next masterpiece.

It’s absurd to think this would have been anything else other than a movie Zack Snyder wanted to make. You can call it “blatant pandering” if you wish (and many have) but…what is so wrong with that if the end result is a good time?

One final thought on the overall story is that it’s actually quite depressing and bleak if read one way and empowering and hopeful in another. A few scenes really drive this home near the end, and for what it’s worth, that’s quite a bit more than I was expecting, and is indeed why this film is a step in the right direction for Mr. Snyder.

Arbitrary number rating that really doesn’t mean fuck all: 7.86/10

  1. I didn’t really enjoy this movie as much as I thought I would. It was alright, I just went in expecting more that what I got.

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