March 25, 2011 by Vinnie Leduc
The second video-game style movie released this month, Sucker Punch shares many parallels to Battle: Los Angeles, but it’s going to be tougher to defend director/co-writer Zack Snyder’s latest motion picture. Sucker Punch hits you with Snyder’s trademark one-two combo of spectacular action and stylized cinematography, but much like Battle: LA, its weak spots are the dialogue and the plot.
Whereas Battle: LA didn’t seem to try to go beyond anything more profound than its “aliens-here!-nuff-said” backbone, Sucker Punch winds up and takes a wild swing… and misses. It’s a valiant effort and might look good as it’s happening, but when you do that, you fall hard. It’s no wonder why the film wasn’t screened for critics.
There’s really no point in me trying to explain the plot. Sucker Punch, an involuntarily appropriate title in this aspect, will leave you with more questions than Inception did, and not in a good way. Instead of debating the last frames of Leo’s metal top, you’ll wonder about too long a list of things I won’t break my spoiler rule for here. I suggest you wait for Snyder’s Blu-Ray commentary or ask him at the next Comic-Con.
If you need answers immediately, you can try sifting through the online land of movie trolls, a.k.a. IMDb’s forums. If you haven’t seen Sucker Punch yet, don’t worry too much because it’s not consistently perplexing like The Fountain. There are some “huh?!?” moments sprinkled throughout Sucker Punch, but it’s mainly the final act and the appearances of Scott Glenn and Jon Hamm that are most confounding.
Flawed plot aside, Sucker Punch retains some of the best elements of Snyder’s previous works 300 and Watchmen. He proves again that he is a master behind the camera, and his engagingly close shots will make you feel inches away from nearly half the film, not just the impressive action fantasy sequences.
Although Snyder dips into PG-13 territory for the first time in his career, he does so without major compromise of the action violence. What does compromise some of the action though is the soundtrack, which ranges from perfectly appropriate to ear-bleedingly insufferable. Combined with the intimacy of Snyder’s camerawork, this contributes to Sucker Punch being an awesome deaf watch on an airplane if you’re too cheap to buy crappy airline earphones.
With zombies, mechs, dragons, samurai, robots, choppers, planes, trains, bullets, bombs, and kinky costumes, Sucker Punch is like a call-to-arms to unite nerds of every kind and induce one collective nerdgasm… in IMAX! I’m a sucker for most of those aforementioned things, and the trailers (among the best of the last year) had me extremely pumped and excited. As a fan of Snyder since his first film, the underrated Dawn of the Dead remake, I really wanted to love this film, a pet project that turned out to be his weakest offering (not counting that animated owl movie with a really long title because I didn’t see that and didn’t even know he directed it till 30 minutes ago). Unfortunately, I’ll have to settle for a milder “like” instead.
Update: All of my questions have been answered, and we’ve upgraded our score, which is the equivalent to a B-. Sucker Punch is still Snyder’s “worst” live action film yet, but it’s understandably very hard to follow his magnificent past work. I suspect that this was a significant factor in many of other critics’ bashing of the film and unfortunately overshadows proper appreciation of sensational presentation, particularly the vivid and imaginative action fantasy sequences. It’s a shame that the Diary of a Wimpy Kid sequel will win a close opening box office round, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Sucker Punch gains a cult following; I know it’ll get a spot in my DVD library.