Director Zack Snyder has made some good movies based on graphic novels (Watchmen, 300), children’s books (Legends of the Freaking Creepy Owls), as well as remakes (Dawn of the Dead is a blast).
With Sucker Punch, Snyder goes with his own original screenplay. The movie is sad proof that he’s much better off working with other people’s material.
While the film is visually exciting and sometimes even dazzling to the eye, the story framework is an absolute mess. The film features bland cartoon characters that give the viewer little to root for. I’d say it looks and plays like a videogame, except for the fact that videogames are often quite fun and peppy. Sucker Punch is a brutal slog.
The story follows Baby Doll (Emily Browning), committed to an insane asylum by her stepfather after accidentally killing her sister in slow motion during a very stylistic rainstorm. In the insane asylum, some characters are introduced who will play parts in the alternate universes Baby Doll creates in her mind. She creates various fantasy worlds in order to escape the horrors of an impending lobotomy—or something like that.
In her main fantasy world, Baby Doll is working at a place that might be a brothel. I say “might” because, due to the PG-13 rating, Snyder is ambiguous about just what Baby Doll and her friends are doing in between scrubbing floors and chopping onions.
At the maybe-brothel, Baby Doll is often asked to dance, because she’s really, really good. However, Snyder employs a strange trick in that whenever Baby Doll starts to dance, her mind takes off to another alternate universe where she and her girlfriends (Jena Malone, Abbie Cornish, Vanessa Hudgens and Jamie Chung) are superheroes fighting everything from dragons to zombie German soldiers.
Whether Browning can actually dance remains to be seen. However, we do know that she is mighty capable of running around in the snow with a samurai sword whilst her quite glorious bellybutton is fully exposed.
The crux of the film has to do with the women trying to escape from male tyranny—or something like that. They have to gather five separate items, including a map, something to make fire, and a knife. It’s like Snyder went to a kindergartener and asked him or her to map out a treasure hunt movie in purple crayon.
While Browning and Cornish do decent work and emerge from the film unscathed, just about everybody else in the cast is a true task to watch. Hudgens, trying to dirty up her image a little bit after High School Musical, is a no-talent. Malone overdoes just about every word she is given to say. And Carla Gugino, playing some sort of psychiatrist/madame, clearly went to the Cloris Leachman School of Frau Blücher Acting. Her accent is intolerable.
Scott Glenn shows up as some sort of guide for Baby Doll and the girls when they are in the super videogame fantasy world—or something like that. It’s the sort of role that would’ve been given to David Carradine had the man not gotten a little carried away with himself a couple of years ago.
Apparently, Snyder intended for the film to have some full-scale musical and dance numbers, which had to be removed for various reasons before the theatrical release. He’s saying these scenes will be restored for a “director’s cut.” I’m thinking these scenes will just lend to making an already messy film even messier.
Snyder is currently at work on the next Superman movie, with Henry Cavill as the Man of Steel and the recently announced Amy Adams as Lois Lane. Warner Brothers, who released Sucker Punch and will be releasing the next Superman film, must be concerned about the lack of substance in Snyder’s latest, and the fact it was beaten by Diary of a Wimpy Kid 2 at the box office.
Let’s hope his take on Superman is a little more coherent than Sucker Punch, and that Vanessa Hudgens is refused any role in the film.