Sucker Punch (2011) Movie Review

Not A Heavy Weight

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Alas we are finally just around one week away from the release of “Batman V Superman” and so we reached the last two films in director Zack Snyder’s filmography, “Sucker Punch” and “Man of Steel”.  Up to this point I think it’s clear I am a fan of Snyder’s work as a filmmaker.  I liked “Legends of the Guardians” and “Dawn of the Dead”; I really liked “300” and I love “Watchmen”.  “Sucker Punch” though is a whole different beast entirely.

“Sucker Punch” is the first film of Snyder’s not to be based off any preexisting material.  This was not a comic book, novel or a remake.  This isn’t even someone else’s “original” idea that Snyder decided to direct.  This is (co-)written and directed by him.  The story is a bit hard to explain but allow me to try.  A young woman named Baby Doll is sent to an insane asylum.  Unable to cope with her reality she imagines her world as a Burlesque brothel.  Discovering her will to escape, she and several other inmates engineer an escape plan.  Every time Baby Doll begins her dance they are trust into another fantasy world where a scenario is played out to help the women make their escape.

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Panned by critics upon its release and a failure at the box office this is really Snyder’s first misfire.  I think it’s fair to say this movie does have a following with its Blu-Ray release.  But even as a Zack Snyder fan I can’t quite get on board with this.  Trust me I wanted to love this movie.   There is actually quite a few things that do work in the movie but it is an absolute (albeit) beautiful mess.

When I first saw the movie I felt the script didn’t make much sense at all.  In some degree I still think that.  One could argue the movie’s dream sequences don’t have to make logical sense because it exists in an illogical world.  In many ways the world in which “Sucker Punch” inhabits is much like “Alice in Wonderland”.  The world of Wonderland doesn’t make sense from a logical standpoint (even Alice’s story and adventure doesn’t make much sense if you wanted to view it as a metaphorical journey as oppose to pure fantasy)  but it doesn’t have to.  That’s the part of the charm of Wonderland.  It’s a crazy world and you have to accept that if you want to follow on her fantasy adventure.  “Sucker Punch” tries to inhabit that same line of logic because the movie exists within a fantasy world.  But “Alice in Wonderland” establishes the rules of the world from the beginning, it’s a mad world.  “Sucker Punch” doesn’t do that.

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“Sucker Punch” doesn’t establish the rules of the world.  It’s a pretty stylized movie from the get go.  The problem is the movie doesn’t do a good job of separating reality from the dream world.  It all feels like a dream and if it’s all a dream then why get invested in it?  In a movie like “Inception” (which deals with the dream world) establishes that even in the dream world there are stakes.  The characters feel pain, they can be lost in limbo and we as an audience are then drawn into the drama.  “Sucker Punch” isn’t able to communicate that.

The fantasy within the fantasy are suppose to be parallels or metaphors to the actual situation that the women are encountering.  But let’s face it there is no parallel.  Retrieving a map from undead robotic Nazis isn’t a parallel. There are three scenarios played out in all.  The first one I mentioned before, the second one they attack dragons (which sort of makes sense) and then the third one the ladies attack a train full of robots.  They don’t exactly make strong metaphors.  They look cool for sure and they are full of imagination.  But, they don’t really fit together.  If you showed anyone these as separate segments you would want to see the rest of the movie.

What makes it problematic is the action itself.  Sure the action is very choreographed but none of our characters get hurt.  They get hurt in the second level of fantasy not the scenarios that play out.  If they are invincible then the action becomes very boring.  I found it hard to believe that I was bored watching a Zack Snyder action film.

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That isn’t to say there isn’t anything good in this film.  As with nearly every Zack Snyder film before it, this is a visual masterpiece.  Every frame, every shot from the opening is an absolute marvel.  Despite some of the odd ball sequences there is no doubt this movie is full of imagination.  Any one of these large scale action sequences could occupy its own movie.  I also love the soundtrack.  Granted the soundtrack can be a little overbearing but I love it.  I do also give this movie credit for trying some daring new things.  A lot of it may not have worked but I always like to acknowledge when a movie does try to do something “different”.  And this movie does have moments where it is intelligent.  The ending did make me sit back and reflect upon the entire movie and the story it was trying to tell.  There are some layers to the story and I like how ambiguous it can be as well.

It’s also nice to see Zack Snyder direct an action movie of female empowerment.  I know some claim this movie is sexist but this really isn’t given the content.  I suppose it isn’t anymore sexist towards females as “300” is to males (I mean if anything Snyder directed a movie where the men wear less).  Just my two cents though.

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It’s not a complete waste of time.  I am glad I saw the film but that really doesn’t take away from how messy it is.  When I see this movie I see a movie that maybe needed one or two more drafts and rewrites.  It doesn’t define its world well and the action is actually pretty boring.  There are moments where you can see the potential but this is definitely the biggest misfire from Zack Snyder.

Final Score

4.5/10

 

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