USA 2011 Directed by: Zack Snyder Written by: Zack Snyder, Steve Shibuya Produced by: Deborah Snyder, Zack Snyder Cinematography by: Larry Fong Editing by: William Hoy Music by: Tyler Bates, Marius De Vries Cast: Emily Browning, Abbie Cornish, Jena Malone, Vanessa Hudgens, Jamie Chung, Oscar Isaac, Carla Gugino, Jon Hamm, Scott Glenn
They say if you want something done right, you gotta do it yourself. And in this day and age, with advanced technological support, it has become truer than ever. I’m sure Zack Snyder would be the first to agree, and eagerly trying to prove he can keep up with his peers such as Christopher Nolan, by making “Sucker Punch.” I personally don’t necessarily see Snyder as a filmmaker, but rather a hyper-action visual artist. His detail in composition, lighting, and movement is borderline impeccable, and usually always aims at one thing – a mind/eye devouring feast. And each of his films is a work of art.
Adding to his usual roles, Snyder directed, produced, and co-wrote “Sucker Punch.” But whereas pieces like “300” or “Watchmen” had been visually and verbally outlined, and simply needed a loyal adaptation, SP manifested from the pit of Snyder’s creative blender. And this is where it hit a speed bump.
The trouble with making ultra-stunning effects is they can easily become your crutch rather than a style. And the audience expects you to raise the bar each time, but that simply can’t persist, because all of Snyder’s bells and whistles jingled and jangled in his earlier pictures, which gave him notice in the first place.
With a blank canvas, Snyder painted a world of Baby Doll, a young woman (although she looked 14 in her Japanimation-fashioned outfit and makeup) desperately trying to survive and escape the insane asylum that she was committed in by her malicious stepfather. It seems, in this dark and dingy institution, only pretty young females are the patients. And even the head psychiatrist is a busty eastern European seductress played by the always sumptuous Carla Gugino. Through her guidance, Baby Doll finds herself able to bend the cruel reality into a spirited fantasy, fighting her way, along with her inmate patients, through Japanese feudal times and WWI Germany, and eventually to freedom. Sometimes there were dragons, other times futuristic robots. But at all times, girls were kicking bad guys’ asses, while in killer heels, dangerously short skirts and deadly décolletages. And?
The entrance to the fantasy world was always accompanied by a song played out in the room and Baby Doll’s irresistible dance that would set all the men in a trance, allowing the other girlie inmates to do their business – collecting items that would piece together the steps for all of them to escape. Till the end, we never saw what her dance actually was; it was always through the expressions of the men that we knew her moves were mesmerizing. And even though the color schemes and costumes contrasted between the two worlds, one element seemed to remain constant amongst the characters – really long eyelashes. Why?
If a film/story can be depicted by a genre of music, “Sucker Punch” would be a techno-trance maxed out on decibel levels. The action almost never seizes, and never quite allowed any downtime to peel back any layers of the characters. And yet, the actions almost always stayed at the same level, too – never really advanced the game from previous scenes. Sometimes, the fight sequences were caught too closely by the camera that was obviously placed on a lawn mower, giving way to vertigo and light reminder of last night’s dinner. This repeated several times throughout the show. What for?
In the end, through the psychiatrist’s final analysis, “Sucker Punch” concludes that the key to setting us free in this cruel world is…us. Really? Is that it? Can this be the punch-line to this episode? Did Snyder really go through all that pain to reveal a message that could be found inside a fortune cookie? I guess the audience got suckered in this one. Snyder needs to get back to what he does best: visualization – dust off his ego and hang up his writer’s hat, for awhile. And let’s hope his new installment of “Superman” will fly a bit higher, under the producing wings of his multiple-hat-wearing peer, Christopher Nolan.