Well, at least Zack Snyder is finally being honest about his business plan. Yes, yes, folks, the Snide one's quiver of movies such as that weak-ass Dawn of the Dead remake, 300, Watchmen and the upcoming Superman: Man of Steel all pack in the fat, sweaty, Mom's Basement and Tom's Comic Shop dwelling geeks into the theaters where they sit back and allow the noteworthy visuals to distract them from the fact that they've been completely RIPPED OFF!
This is, of course how he, courtesy of the Warner Bros. marketing department, got the title of "Visionary Director". This is in spite of the fact there isn't much "vision" in any of his airy movies besides what somebody else thought up first... and the execution of said visuals isn't terribly hard for any director when given the budgets that Zack Snyder has inexplicably been entrusted with.
Then again, Sucker Punch is the first film of Snack Cider's to not be an adaptation of another source... so when the fat sleazy guys on either side of the screen are distracted by the killer visuals surrounding a beautiful girl dancing seductively in a burlesque house, you can be sure that this is a visionary part of Sack-of-Spiders' own vision.
But wait a minute, I can smell you demand... the previews would have the audience (fat and sleazy or otherwise) believe that this is a film about a young girl escaping the brutal confines of a mental hospital with the power of fantasy as she collects five items that will lead to her literal liberty.
Yeah, well apparently the Snyder-Man and his co-writer Steve Shibuya couldn't figure out how to tell that story. Instead they immediately add on a layer of fantasy BEFORE she starts fantasizing her way around the dreamscape so that she's not seeing herself confined in a dirty, grimy funny farm, but a sleazy, sexy showgirl stage/ brothel where they turn on and service the nasty clientele in ways no woman in real life ever would.
But, beautiful these Sucker Punch women truly are! And, yes, the visuals that this former commercial and music video director has hired tons of CGI houses to show us most certainly do look very cool. The issue is that what we ultimately get is less of a real story and much more of a montage of inspirations that Zack and Company pilfered from other, older, better films and video games all glossed up with Millennium-plus-ten Special Effects every bit as real as anything in Tron, but without the accompanying story to back these up. At times watching Sucker Punch is like watching somebody else play a video game... as if that big, bolted on tube atop the Dragon's Lair cabinet was still beckoning the Chuck E. Cheese regulars to gather around and watch the local whiz kid punch all the right buttons. However, invariably, the film feels a whole lot more like watching Two Hours of Zack Snyder masturbating as he packs in every fetish he can (while carefully maintaining that "profitable" PG-13 rating) and overloads each fantasy sequence with relentless attempts at sensory overload. One can almost see him stroking his... um... his ego with that cheese-eating grin he sports in every picture and interview as he giggles "I'm a Visionary Director! They told me so! Hee-hee!"
The truth is we could actually make a drinking game out of Sucker Punch! Every time a stolen element from another movie or video game pops onto the screen, we take a belt from the bottle. Notice how that Donnie Darko chick looks like Link from The Legend of Zelda? Take a Swig! Ooh, the Infanticide scene from Dragonslayer? Bottoms Up! Wholesale lifting from Kill Bill? Wet that Whistle! Oh, but this is just the tip of the iceberg of the punch Zack, his producer wife Deborah and their increasingly more aptly named production company Cruel & Unusual Films reprises for us as the smug shine glints off of the Snyder-Grin!
The thin plot surrounds the scantily-clad young Baby Doll (the all-grown-up Emily Browning), whose Wicked Stepfather (Gerard Plunkett) confines her to a harsh 1950s mental institution that somehow manages to only treat females in their early twenties who look like models who wear small work dresses straight out of a J. Franco Women's Prison flick and more eyeliner than a goth chick at Comicon!
While sweet Dr. Vera Gorski (Carla Gugino) works on stage reenactments to try to heal the girls' traumas, sleazy orderly Blue Jones (played by sleazy Oscar Isaac) somehow manages to manipulate everybody and everything under the roof of the hospital in ways that would grow increasingly unbelievable if Snydy and Stevie hadn't laid on that almost-immediate layer of fantasy that transforms the patients into showgirls (surprisingly in less makeup), Doc Vera into a Choreographer and that Blue dick into a sleazy club owner with criminal ties. Thus Baby Doll (she's given no other name, because Snyder is such a prince) immediately enacts a scheme to escape.
She'd better hurry, too, because in five days the High Roller (played by Jon Hamm for some reason) shows up in five days to do something really horrible to her... like, maybe, forcing her to watch 300 again. Luckily her fellow inmates... I mean actresses... are easily convinced to join in the multiple layers of fantasy.
Who we talkin' bout?
So, how is that fantastic, phantasmagorical multi-reality mission? Admittedly, it looks great. Unfortunately there is just about enough plot here to fill up a half-hour episode of some late-night horror anthology! Luckily for the easily thrilled popcorn crowd, Zack Snyder is still a Music Video director... still a commercial director and he fills up as much time as he possibly can with long, drawn-out sequences of impossible things and improbably outcomes set to the soundtrack of some great (yet often remade - and not for the better) songs of various ages that will help propel the CGI-infused action. True, seeing sexy superheroines in short skirts kick, run and fly around in Snyderian Slow-Motion is more than entertaining and gives a continuing air of great fun action. However, this fun rarely quite meshes with the hodgepodge of suggested rape, promised lobotomy and casual murder.
And that's the main problem of this film. It wastes its potential with an unfocused and overly mixed up quasi-layering of divergent elements until the entire thing collapses under its own weight. Fizzled plot points, ridiculous twists and unlikely outcomes are all often glossed over by the constant conceit that this is fantasy, so anything can happen. At times, Snide Snyder and the gang almost challenge us to question his (often borrowed) vision. After all, how DARE we nitpick this film? It's a fantasy, so anything goes.
Sure, yeah, okay, but this doesn't make for a terribly strong film. Fun, yes... but definitely not great. Of course, there are those absolutely RABID Zack Snyder defenders who truly believe that he can do no wrong and that anybody who would dare criticize him doesn't "Get it". Those who don't revel in this film's Alice in Wonderland escapism, swoon to the expensive special effects and find themselves spiritually aroused by the modern-day Fairy Tale clearly just don't understand the surreality of Sucker Punch. Kids... there's just not enough there to "misunderstand". It's a fun, popcorn movie and sometimes that's just what the Theatrical Doctor ordered... but that sure as hell doesn't make it "Visionary". Those who still swear by it... you got PUNCHED, sucker! But at least you don't realize you're being ripped off!
On the other hand, if Sucker Punch, with all the potential that it had, lived up to its promise with a more connected series of much more original ideas and sequences instead of ripping off so many sources that even the staunchest movie buff loses count, it might have been all that the marketing (and the snarky Snyder fans) would have you believe that it is. Oh, it's not terrible, and there are plenty of sequences that are not to be missed... but on the whole, this largely pilfered plot with cool effects and not much sense to it gets Two and One Half Stars out of Five! Right about what one should expect from Zack Snyder. So enough about his ass. I'm done with his movies for a while. Time for something I know will be good. Let's see... how about... The Owls of Ga'Hoole! Yeah! That sounds like a winner. Wait! It was directed by WHO???
Close your Eyes and DANCE HERE
to FANTASIZE your way to More Reviews!!!
Collect five mysterious, hidden items and I'll
See you in the NEXT REEL!!!