Director Zack Snyder’s latest comic book-based movie adaptation is another work in progress that, like its predecessors, the abysmal Watchmen and the gory 300, doesn’t make much sense or pack much of a punch.
Sucker Punch is not entirely for suckers, though, and I found it more interesting than those other two films combined, because at least the characters are distinguishable and the actresses playing them create some feeling for them. They’re all fine in this highly stylized fantasy about young women held captive at an insane asylum, one of whom is a pig-tailed girl abused by her stepfather who aims to break out and lead them all toward personal liberation. The story makes sense on its own terms, with an arresting opening sequence that’s almost worth the price of admission, and each of the girls is a distinctive character. But Sucker Punch is superficial, thinly and incoherently plotted, and in desperate need of development to match the striking visuals and loud rock soundtrack (which adds nothing but a backbeat). The women band together to battle various demons in fantastic, comic book scenes, the most exciting of which involves an angry mother figure. The action and bombast, unlike 300 and Watchmen, are not overplayed, and with sloganeering Scott Glenn’s zen-like master on hand to show that not all men are evil, you want the women to win. They look like porn stars in their get-ups, sparkles, and false eyelashes, as they take on monsters and men, who are usually a nihilistic hybrid of both. In the press notes, Snyder, who co-wrote the material, calls the dark Sucker Punch a mash-up of Heavy Metal, a comic type magazine, the Twilight Zone and the writings of Richard Bach. Not even close, really, though a tenderness comes through here and there throughout the sensory assaults, and it’s more like a less manic mixture of Moulin Rouge, V for Vendetta, Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, and The Cider House Rules, with musical interludes, soulful orphans, stylish skylines, sleek trains, aerial dogfights, and mechanized militaries.
“If you don’t stand for something,” someone says, “you’ll fall for anything.” While Sucker Punch is not likely to be remembered as a movie that stands for something other than a blitzkrieg on the senses, its strange protagonist, Babydoll (Emily Browning) and her hyper-feminine cohorts at least try to plant one where it counts.