Sucker Punch

sucker-punch-2

D+

It is a brave choice to make a film that will inevitably remind its audience of hundreds of other films. When you enjoy all the referenced films more than the film at hand, it is an uphill climb.

Zack Snyder’s fifth feature film, Sucker Punch, looks, sounds and feels very much like his previous work. Snyder has never had a problem with a visual style, and Sucker Punch delivers as a strictly guns-and-swords action film. The major problem with the film is that the slow-motion action scenes, intense violence and dramatic consequences of incredible magnitude outline a narrative that is utterly confusing while never actually being challenging.

If Sucker Punch was packaged as a series of shorts or music videos, leaving out much of the narrative, I would have a different appreciation of the film. It turns out that a strong narrative is important in films; even action movies need to deliver the audience a feeling that the characters are important and deserve to survive. In the film, Baby Doll (Emily Browning) is committed to a mental institution by her evil step-father, where she must escape into a two-story fantasy world in order to become free. What could be an interesting original story of the power of imagination never feels like it wants to do more than dazzle its audience with special effects. It never takes the time to connect to its audience through a real-world reference. Sucker Punch is beautiful window dressing draped over an empty house.

Sucker Punch relies too heavily on other references from popular culture. While watching the film, the audience is going to be reminded of films so disparate as Inception, Moulin Rouge and Lord of the Rings. I have the impression that Snyder’s script-writing process was listing as many cool things as he could, put them in a blender hit frappe. Not only do our protagonists have to defeat WWII Nazi soldiers in one of the film’s action scenes, but the Nazis are also zombies powered by steampunk. Baby Doll creates these fantasies to escape from her real-world horrors, but the visions also distance the viewer from the real threats in her life.

Anyone who wants to see a mindless, kinetic film could do worse than Sucker Punch, but the facade of intense drama is transparent to anyone other than action-seekers and lovers of Snyder’s previous work. While I wouldn’t call the film a complete failure (like many critics have done), the film does fail to bring anything to the table other than mindless action and what it does bring in terms of narrative does nothing more than confuse.

tags: sucker punch, zack snyder

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