Sucker Punch Review
Much has been already made of Sucker Punch’s origins, with it marking the first time that Zack Snyder has worked from his own original story. Arguably adapting graphic novels is a more strenuous task than crafting an original work, given the fanboy expectations attached to them, but for all the good work he’s done – his Dawn Of The Dead should be held up as the way to approach a horror remake – it’s almost like he wouldn’t have been accepted as a director until he put himself into every aspect of a film from concept to screen. So it is we arrive at Sucker Punch and understandably it’s resulted in his most Snyder-y movie yet but the real question is do we like what we see?
If we take that literally, then the answer would undoubtedly be yes. Sucker Punch is a visual treat from start to finish; be it the epic landscapes created by Snyder in the fantasy worlds or just watching the lovely looking ladies that make up the main cast go about their business, there’s always something to savour. The fact that it’s captured in a slew of slow-motion shots lends the film a 3D pop, especially when all manner of objects come towards the camera. There’s probably not as much diversity between the overall landscapes crafted in Baby Doll’s (Emily Browning) mind but each sequence comes with enough variation to ensure they don’t meld into one, covering basically every geek’s dream in the process: undead Nazis? Check; Robots? Check; giant stone samurai? Why the hell not.
What’s more is that despite the lack of danger for the characters (what with the sequences being complete fantasies), every action set piece manages to be pulsating. Well-shot by Larry Fong and with a lack of quick cuts, you’re left to soak up the scene, such as when the girls invade a Nazi-saturated trench and quickly get overwhelmed, and the energy comes from what you see in the ballet of guns and swords that ensues. One of the stand-out sequences though is when they go after the third object (of five that they need to escape the asylum) and are greeted by a train of robots (suspiciously similar to I, Robot, one of numerous pop culture references) which Snyder’s smartly builds into one of the film’s major sucker punches.
But for all the visual splendour and thrilling action, Sucker Punch could have ended up a somewhat empty film; all style over substance. However it’s the story aspect that is perhaps the film’s biggest sucker punch. While it’s hardly Oscar-winning standard and certainly takes a back seat to the visuals, Snyder crafts a story that rewards your attention and pretty much demands it if the final twists are to have full impact. In particular, the quick-fire sequences when Baby Doll first arrives at the Asylum set up the main strand for the film that only really becomes fully apparent towards the end. The ending (which at first appears pretty low-key and downbeat compared to what’s previously passed) does perhaps leave more questions than answers, but it doesn’t seem a case of laziness on Snyder’s part; rather, it’s deliberate ambiguity that will have you mulling the film over and would definitely entice you to a repeat viewing to see how it all fits together.
That being said, the film does meander towards its climax, almost because it seems to take a deliberate attempt to scale down on the fantasy elements to focus on the story. It’s here that, even though all the main stars put in solid shifts, you start to see a lack of depth in the characterisation. Every character doesn’t really go past one-note, with perhaps the exception of Sweet Pea (Abbie Cornish) who is practically the only one to have an arc throughout the movie. Blondie (Vanessa Hudgens) and Amber (Jamie Chung) suffer in particular from being under-written (Amber is even sidelined in each of the fantasy sequences as she’s always the pilot), meaning that you don’t really get an emotional connection with them or particularly care what happens to them either.
Overall though, for the sheer escapism it provides, Sucker Punch marks a successful venture into original storytelling for Snyder. That it’s incredible to look at should come as no surprise to anyone who’s seen his previous work, neither should the fact that it comes equipped with an excellent soundtrack either - Eurythmics have never sounded so melancholic – but what holds it all together is a decent, if not flawless, story that prevents the film from becoming episodic (go into world, get object, rinse, repeat) as it could have ended up. It all results in a film that is as aesthetically gorgeous as it is thrilling and one that makes us even more excited (if that’s possible) for Snyder’s upcoming Superman reboot.