Zach Snyder has made a name for himself directing narratives that revolve around spectacular visuals with 300 and The Watchmen. In Sucker Punch, those visuals fully take over the narrative in what is little more than a relentless barrage of light and sound.
The film begins interestingly enough; after witnessing the death of her sister, Baby Doll (Emily Browning) is thrown into an insane asylum by her father for a lobotomy to prevent her from revealing the truth about the circumstances surrounding her death. Once there, she descends into a surreal fantasy world where the asylum becomes a sleazy bordello and the patients become dancers for the entertainment of high society. After befriending four other dancers including High School Musical’s Vanessa Hudgens, she embarks with them upon a series of missions within her imagination itself to obtain key objects that will enable her to escape both her fantasy and the asylum. Despite this intriguing premise, this is no intellectual study into the human imagination but a rather superficial and somewhat exploitative fantasy that exists purely for its own sake.
The film is essentially divided into four separate and absurdly elaborate action sequences made up almost entirely of CGI and play out as a combination of music video and computer game. The soundtrack that dominates each sequence is undeniably impressive with a mixture of heavy metal and pop to illustrate the hectic events that unfold on screen. The problem is that they become the main focus of the film with the already wafer-thin plot only continuing in-between each sequence with short conversations to remind us of the peril of being discovered by the bordello’s resident kingpin played by Oscar Isaac. Further hampering the narrative is that what little plot information exists in the film is confusingly blurred between the fantasy elements to the point that it is never completely clear how the end goal might eventually be accomplished nor how characters are able to induce hypnotic fantasy sequences on the residents of the bordello, who only exist as Baby Doll’s fantasy anyway, in order to obtain each object. So, with the apparent fantasy within fantasy motif being employed but never specifically established, the film quickly becomes an incoherent mess.
The acting from an otherwise attractive cast is also relatively poor but considering Snyder’s clear desire to focus on visuals, this is beside the point. There are, however, welcome talents on display including Sin City’s Carla Gugino doing a suitably icy Russian accent and acting veteran Scott Glenn as Baby Doll’s guide through each sequence of her imaginings. But, the star of the show remains the imagery and the spectacle that may appeal to those who like their entertainment loud and undemanding while those with an interest in either music videos or games also will likely find something to enjoy here. But beyond that, the film is ultimately only a confirmation of the domination of spectacle over narrative that had threatened Zach Snyder’s career from the beginning and is therefore can be quickly dismissed.
Those who are inclined to purchase the Blu-ray version of the film can enjoy the extended cut with an extra 17 minutes of footage which is largely unnecessary but for a film that is dependent on spectacle, it benefits greatly from the increased picture quality provided by high definition. The special features also take full advantage of the technology by including director walk ons, picture in picture commentaries and a two-hour expedition into the worlds of the film hosted by Snyder himself. So, the Blu-ray version delivers on the promise of its increase in both entertainment quality and technological advantages that is missing from many other releases and provides Sucker Punch with a much needed incentive to purchase the film by recreating its one saving grace, the cinema spectacle experience, as fully as possible.
Final Rating: 4/10