Movie Review: Sucker Punch (2011)
Zack Snyder just hasn’t made the same impact on me that he apparently has on the rest of the movie going population. I enjoy his work, but it always seems like there’s something to be desired when his films finally fade to black. With Sucker Punch, Snyder isn’t really looking to change the formula his films have become notorious for, but the storyline just didn’t sit right with me. We know ahead of time that this is all taking place in Baby Doll’s head? That’s like knowing ahead of time that Teddy Daniels is patient 67 in Shutter Island. (Oh wait, the trailer did reveal that and the movie still turned out pretty great). Nonetheless, Sucker Punch is fairly disappointing on one hand, but mostly incredibly entertaining on the other.
The Zack Snyder formula mentioned usually involves heavy use of slow motion, and most of his films have a particular look to them — like they’re all sent through the same filter before reaching the screen. He and his style became widely known from his R-rated films, but he broke that mold with his animated PG flick Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole. Sucker Punch is now Snyder’s first PG-13 film he’s directed, so don’t expect a lot of gratuitous gore, endless strings of profanity or graphic sex scenes on spaceships that last an incredibly long time. If you’re a fan of any of Snyder’s work, his latest still hits all the same buttons that films like 300 and Watchmen did; the action sequences are still insane and the slow motion technique is used in a way that adds a bit of gusto to each scene it’s used in. In one, when the girls first arrive on the train and they’re in the midst of trying to retrieve a kitchen knife, a gun is fired and we see the bullet bounce off and shatter a robot’s head. The shell then flies by the screen as we hear the air in the room howl through the shell before it falls to the ground. So if you’re a doubter of the PG-13 rating, it doesn’t really affect much here.
Sucker Punch is a man’s action movie fantasy — rolling everything a guy would enjoy in a film like hot women, heavy gunfire, a mother dragon who basically makes explosions come to her, and enough insanity injected into its most adrenaline racing scenes to keep you talking around the water cooler for hours. It’s like trying to combine Showgirls, the Dawn of the Dead remake, Dead Snow, The Lord of the Rings, and I, Robot into one movie. During that same train sequence, I could’ve sworn the score suddenly paid homage to Terminator 2: Judgment Day. Sucker Punch makes sure to tickle all of the brain cells in your head that are still attached to action films from your past.
While the film’s charm mostly comes from its action scenes and the films they pay tribute to, the flaws in Sucker Punch aren’t exactly minimal. The main one being that the film’s constant use of music with vocals makes Sucker Punch feel like the director’s cut of an extended music video. There are three songs used practically in full in the first thirty to forty five minutes of the movie (countless others are used as the film progresses). The film also takes place within two layers of the mind in addition to what’s actually happening in reality, which makes the film feel like a less complicated version of Inception. The plan that Baby Doll comes up with seems a little too grandiose for its own good with such little payoff at times. Do you really have to dance to go to another reality where you’re fighting robots on a train while trying to disarm a bomb before it explodes all for nothing more than a kitchen knife? It honestly just felt like a group of guys got together and threw all their favorite action movies into a pot and created an amazing looking incoherent film before coming back around and adding a story to it to try and make everything have some sort of meaning.
At the end of the day, Sucker Punch can be considered the 2011 fanboy’s wet dream — giant samurai warriors wielding Gatling guns, steam powered zombie soldiers, hideous orcs and fire breathing dragons, an overbearing clan of bloodthirsty robots, and scantily clad, young women annihilating their enemies with nothing more than a blade and an endless supply of bullets guarantees that. Sucker Punch may not be the best written film of the year, but it’s an action film that can still be considered a hell of a lot of brainless fun.