Zack Snyder’s dreams are made of this
|Image: Warner Bros.|
It’s easy to make light of Zack Snyder. Some overlook the fact that his Dawn of the Dead was one of the better horror remakes, while 300 was an unexpected success, as was his thoroughly decent adaptation of the impossible to adapt Watchmen. Sucker Punch is his first attempt at an original screenplay and it’s something he’s been passionate about for years. This is personal.
Baby Doll (Emily Browning) is sent to an asylum in Vermont by her wicked stepfather and is set to be lobotomised in five days. Retreating into her imagination, in which the asylum is now a bordello, she and her four friends have to find five items in order to escape. They rely on Baby Doll’s dancing to distract the authority figures, while she retreats yet further into a dreamscape of robots, zombie Nazis, and dragons in which the girls must fight to survive.
Well, this is certainly a Zack Snyder film. Gun and sword fights in slow motion, scantily clad ladies in slow motion, and a very dodgy script. But whereas his previous films at least had some sort of solid grounding, Sucker Punch is completely unmoored. Snyder zips around from fantasy to fantasy as the film goes from well-shot nonsense to completely inane gibberish. Things get off to a fairly decent start (apart from god-awful narration) with a dialogue-free look at Baby Doll’s path to the loony bin set to a version of Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This) performed by Browning. It’s OTT but the young actress sells it with a quality of acting that evaporates once the rest of the film starts.
Once Baby Doll hits Lennox House and we’re informed of the evil head guard Blue (Oscar Isaac)’s malicious intentions, the switch from madhouse to cathouse is clumsily handled and never satisfactorily justified. Our heroine meets and recruits friendly Amber (Jamie Chung), not-blonde Blondie (Vanessa Hudgens), and two sisters; reluctant Sweet Pea (Abbie Cornish) and ballsy Rocket (Jena Malone). Of these four, only Cornish (Limitless) and Malone (Donnie Darko) make an impression thanks to committed performances. They’re also the only two that have anything approaching actual characters. Meanwhile Isaac hams it up as Blue, as does Carla Gugino (Watchmen) with corset and a “Polish” accent, while Jon Hamm (Mad Men) only appears for about two minutes and still gives easily the best turn.
The fantastical battle sequences are certainly eye-catching, but only the early pieces work well as repetition quickly sets in. A snowy rumble between Baby Doll and giant samurai robots is fun, while the clash with steam-punk Nazi zombies in World War 1 trenches is admittedly very impressive. But after that we realise there’s no real sense of danger, and by the time we’re watching our heroines decimate a train of battle robots on a train, we’re past caring. It looks great but there’s nothing under the surface to back it up. There’s a lot of discussion to be had about the leering nature of the film, with many, many slow-motion shots of the girls in their scanty fetish gear. Is it female empowerment, a commentary on geek culture, or is it simply what Snyder’s interested in showing us? It should also be mentioned that, for a 12A, there’s a lot of attempted and implied rape. Not to mention the violence.
Ratings issue aside, it’s ambitious and the visuals are often very impressive, but Snyder makes it impossible to feel anything for the characters. After a while, Sucker Punch becomes an uninteresting mess.
A big disappointment. No story, no heart, just a lot of slow-motion fighting and skimpy clothing. Pretty but dull.