After presenting the world with his vision of scantily clad men leaping about in slow motion with 300, Zack Snyder has turned his attention to presenting the world with his vision of scantily clad women leaping about in slow motion with Sucker Punch.
The film features a stunning opening scene that contains all the cinematic beauty of the title sequence from Watchmen, but without the intellectual spin the alternate history vibe afforded that superhero opus. We get introduced to Baby Doll (Emily Browning) just as her mother dies. She and her sister are left in the custody of their cruel stepfather, and after a violent tragedy, Baby Doll’s whisked away to a mental institution. The sequence is wonderfully realised, with Snyder’s trademark eye for detail and a cover of The Eurythmics’ “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)” by Browning that’s as haunting as it is brutal. It’s an incredible scene and one that shows Snyder at the height of his powers.
Alas, the film doesn’t have much to back up such promise. Sure, there are several more dazzling scenes in Sucker Punch, but overall the story lacks the *ahem* punch of the visuals. The film is a collection of dreams and fantasy sequences, and whilst it’s technically very proficient, it doesn’t have the narrative to back it up.
All the performances are great, and it’s clear to me that whilst Snyder doesn’t make perfect films, he does elicit wondrous performances from his actors in any given scene. The same could be said of Watchmen, which was impressive in small doses, yet had some problems with regards to the narrative peaks and troughs. Browning is a fantastic action hero (considering that none of her moves would work in the real world), and the supporting cast also impress.
Abbie Cornish (looking a lot like a young Nicole Kidman) plays Sweet Pea, the strong older sister of Rocket (played with youthful enthusiasm by Jena Malone), whilst Vanessa Hudgens and Jamie Chung play Blondie and Amber respectively.
The action scenes are super-fun, and the episodic nature of the story means that the film certainly feels like a computer game at times. Such impossible acts of (mostly bloodless) violence are akin to Scott Pilgrim vs. the World in terms of downright blissful lunacy. The majority of the film has been done in front of a greenscreen, and Snyder has to be given credit for somehow making an $80 million film look like it had twice the budget.
The soundtrack is awesome. Featuring a bunch of covers and/or remixes, the tunes are perfectly married to the imagery. Browning contributes to three of the songs, including a version of The Pixies’ “Where Is My Mind?” and The Smiths’ “Asleep”, whilst there is a great remix of BjRating: