Where do you start with Sucker Punch? Is this even a film? IS IT? Ask Zack Snyder, he seems to think so. The very same Zack Snyder that got a bit lucky in marketing ‘300’ to gym-obsessed creatine-downing sociopaths, and also managed to excite live-at-home, slightly nerdy types in its leanings towards graphic novel lore. Mr. Snyder took the generous plaudits garnered from the testosterone fuelled, gay-subtext-rife 300 and made ‘Watchmen’ which ALSO did well.
The Watchmen film was an absolutely ridiculous attempt to commit the brilliant graphic novel to screen. A graphic novel SO highly regarded, that it still ranks in the New York Times Bestseller list. A graphic novel SO important in the world of literature, that it fundamentally changed comic books from ultra-camp, childish affair, to the type of dark and brooding material that allowed projects like 300 to even exist. Despite all of this, Snyder managed to make a film about people wearing costumes (ref. M. Kermode). Watchmen wasn’t a car crash, but it was an oversimplified take on a very complex idea, it also committed cardinal sins – changing the original ending and miscasting key characters. The main problem with Watchmen was the overreliance on the slick camera work, CGI overload, and poor narration. The initially thrilling presence of Rorshach is soon obliterated with dumbed-down dialogue, lack of character development and the over-indulgence of green-screen.
So… Sucker Punch. Imagine you’re watching a Zack Snyder film, then a bunch of 13 year-old boys walk into your peripheral vision. At first they are brooding over their existential ennui at being 13, trying to look dark and thoughtful. Then they start punching each other for a laugh. Then they start running directly in front of you being loud, obnoxious and screeching like bats. They then begin beating the hell out of one another with weapons, then a girl enters and they fall silent. THIS is Sucker Punch. It is the movie equivalent of the mindset of a teenage boy. Zack Snyder can’t seem to get over the idea of 1.WOMEN 2.EXPLOSIONS 3.WEAPONS and 4.CGI. So Zack constructs this orgy of young women running about with large weapons, fighting against ludicrous enemies set the backdrop of, in one instance, “a speeding train full of robots, with an armed bomb, chased by a helicopter, into a city that is orbiting Saturn”. I mean, WHAT? WHAT THE HELL IS THAT?
Zack Snyder clearly owns an Xbox; as there were bits that were clearly lifted from games I’ve played. The structure of the bloody film is more like a computer game, with each sequence taking place like a ‘level’ with an objective, checkpoints, and attack strategies. There is a WWII level that made me think of World at War, there is a samurai level that is reminiscent of Soul Calibur, and there is a dragon level that is ripped out of Oblivion. This is bad film-making, poor structuring, and the narrative is shambolic and uninteresting. This is the film AT IT’S BEST.
At its worst, this is unwatchable pornography. Snyder seems to be also obsessed with women. Not in a sophisticated, red wine drinking, French New Wave sort of way, but in a leery, Russ Meyer, Piranha Women in the Avocado Jungle of Death, way. The protagonists of the film are NEVER fully clothed. They prance about in absolutely ridiculous outfits, ranging from burlesque basques and corsets, PVC WWII bondage outfits, schoolgirl costumes, and all for ABSOLUTELY NO REASON. There is no plot-device behind any of this, no macguffin to justify the outlandishness; it just is, now deal with it.
Finally, there is no plot development whatsoever. Dialogue is pathetically sparse, and when there is some it’s crammed with cookie-cutter platitudes and bouts of hysterical crying (mostly for no reason). The film presents a profoundly negative view of women as sex objects, emotional wrecks, mentally disturbed simpletons, and as ultimately powerless against men. The only power any of the female characters actually assert throughout the film, is the power to seduce the men using sexy dancing or groping. Not cool Zack, not cool.
Don’t bother seeing Sucker Punch, above all of my concerns with gender politics, poor writing, lack of plot advancement and badly choreographed action sequences, is the fact that this film is decidedly dull. It doesn’t grab the audience, the fact that me and many others in the cinema felt it necessary to punctuate the poor dialogue with witty rejoinders, is all the indication you need that this doesn’t involve the viewer. The characters might as well be sketched on the back of a cigarette packet; they are that hard to care about. The denouement of the picture is laughably inept, but I’d given up on the film a long time before then anyway. Zack needs to sort his act out, because on this evidence he’ll soon be joining me, scouring Mandy.com for meaningful film work.
Watch Submarine instead.