What the hell just happened? That is the question that will be lingering in your mind when you exit the theatre after being sucker punched by Zack Snyder's aptly titled new film. The highly stylized director of 300 and Watchmen fame brings his now standard unique vision to the screen once again. But this time, Snyder has decided to use his own original story rather than film another adaption. Sucker Punch is a rich and stunning piece of visual cinema but unfortunately falls short when it comes to the film's base story.
The film follows a young girl named Baby Doll, played by Emily Browning, who is sent to a mental asylum by her step-father after her mother passes away. There she befriends four other female inmates (Sweet Pea, Rocket, Blondie, & Amber) and plans their escape. Sounds simple enough right? Wrong. Trailers for this film make it seem like what I just told you is a lie, but trust me, that is the plot. Baby Doll copes with her imprisonment by blurring the lines of the reality around her, envisioning herself in a prison like brothel rather than an asylum. Then the film distorts reality once more to the ultimate action based fantasy whenever Baby Doll and her 4 fellow inmates are trying to execute their escape plan.
The film works great as a series of trailers but nothing much more. The promo clips, trailers and featurettes online for Sucker Punch showcase the film's best quality (its effects) without wasting your time trying to figure out the plot. Snyder knows what he is doing when it comes to the look of a film, but desperately needs some help in the story department. This fantasy-drama has too much of an Inception-like daydream within another daydream feel to it that never seemed to flow properly. The main narrative in Sucker Punch became increasingly choppy as the film progressed; which made following it so distracting that it was hard to enjoy the parts of the film that were executed well. Not even the fantastic action sequences in the girl's imaginations could make up for the unnecessary, and constant, shifts in reality.
Since the film kept erratically changing its scenery, it was up to the girls of Sucker Punch to try to ground the film. Browning's Baby Doll character is practically mute when she isn't in an action sequence, which leaves it up the other four ladies to add some flavour to the film when they aren't in fantasy land. Alas, none of the other four ladies are given enough time to help carry the film. Jon Hamm of Mad Men fame even makes a brief appearance in the film, but it's lost on me as to why someone of his calibre would be given such a small role.
With all of the films faults, I think that if Snyder was a musical artist then Sucker Punch would probably be considered his experimental album. The die-hard fans will still buy into it, and maybe even enjoy it, but even they will still realize that it's his weakest work. Of the casual movie goers, some will excuse the films shortcomings, but most will condemn him for trying something so different.
After Snyder's debut film, a remake of Dawn of the Dead, he made his biggest splash with the modern day classic 300, followed up by another cult classic Watchmen. All three of these films gave audiences something new in their prospective genres where other artists may have taken a more conventional route. The success and following Snyder has received from his previous films may have been the reason he was given so much freedom here as a producer, a director, and most importantly as the writer for Sucker Punch. There is no doubt Snyder has a keen eye for visuals and a talent for showcasing his vivid imagination, but his storytelling isn't quite there yet.
Andrew Burns loves film and comics, and can be found writing about when those worlds converge. You can follow him on Twitter at @myAndrewBurns.