Once upon a time we at Metajunkies had a dream, a special dream. We wanted to create a website which celebrated art, culture and just a little bit of love. A website which saw not the cruel and stupid and ugly in society but instead recognised all that is beautiful and good and worthy about human kind. Alas, as with all things, that dream quickly, quietly died. Aborted, as like a bird never even allowed the chance to take flight. Nowadays we spend our time reviewing Sucker Punch.
Ah, Zack Snyder, what have ye done? Didn’t you realise you had a good thing going simply taking the works of greater men and adding a slow-motion tracking shot and an anachronistic cover of a popular song? Why else do you think those delivery men kept on dropping off bushels of money at your door? How the fuck else can you now afford that yacht shaped like The Hulk’s angry fist? It certainly wasn’t your keen understanding of character, or pacing, or even basic coherence.
That’s right, the man who didn’t think there was anything slightly peculiar, if not downright ironic about the latent xenophobia present in Frank Miller’s 300 has been given the opportunity to make a movie about anything he damn well pleases. The results are less a film and more a comprehensive list of Zack Snyder’s personal psychiatric problems, as filtered through the eyes of a monkey masturbating in the throes of a Ritalin dervish.
So, whilst slugging back Bud Lites and catching the game in an idiot’s sports bar Snyder was beset by a drunk academic who smelt of the sea and potential gone to rot. It was in the rough course of the scholar’s gin talk that the director’s brain heard about this computer game or something called The Bell Jar. Snyder soon found himself helplessly intrigued, not by the story of a young woman’s descent into depression and madness, but how this Plath dude could miss out on what all truly great works of art need; the holy trinity of guns, swords and tits, and robots, and Nazis! In the trenches!
Dizzy with possibilities, Snyder fist-bumped the now incoherent wino and raced out of the bar, almost tripping over his unlaced sneakers with excitement. This was fantastic. All his life Snyder felt different, felt special. Now, finally, he was going to prove it to the world. All he needed was to get his awesome owl film out of the way.
Okay, so almost none of that scene took place, but I think it does replicate the basic impulses that drive Snyder onward. If he had decided to simply release a quadrate of music-videos detailing his every stupid fantasy then that would have been… well, not fine exactly, but understandable. Instead he had to place them in a framing narrative that becomes sillier the further down the rabbit-hole we go. That a recently-institutionalised woman should retreat into a fantasy world so as to escape the horrors of her situation makes sense. The fact that this is the fantasy world not of a damaged young lady in the sixties but of a mentally-stunted World of Warcraft enthusiast is less so.
In fact said institution is itself too much of a downer for Snyder, so let’s turn it into a high-class brothel. Sweet! Unfortunately Snyder has a child-like approach to human sexuality and thinks that women spend exactly one half of their time gyrating lustily on a man’s lap and the other half getting raped. In fact ‘getting raped’ seems to be the only threat Snyder can possibly envisage for a woman. It happened in 300 for no good reason and there was a very intense scene again in his Watchmen adaptation which was only alluded to in the graphic-novel. Sucker Punch has been described, by me at least, as the horrible sex-fantasy of a demented misogynist. I don’t actually think that’s the case. The tone of the film is simply too childish to be truly offensive. Then again, Synder mysteriously made some concessions to the ratings board, having to cut several scenes so that it could be a PG-13. You could confidently take your children to watch this film knowing that they will only leave the cinema with a vague sense of depression. In fact I thought that the women of Sucker Punch were almost too beautiful. They made me want to court them Edwardian style, placing my coat on the floor so they didn’t have to tread in peasant shit.
As for the violence, well there isn’t any, not unless you seriously feel for the plight of imaginary orcs and steam-powered Nazi-men. The action itself looks pretty, as it tends to in Snyder’s films, however due to the central conceit of the film, that it all takes place in a fantasy, there is never any sense of risk or danger. In fact with no tangible connection between the fantastic scenarios except for that created in Snyder’s stupid mind, it is almost impossible to care about what happens during these sequences. Which is peculiar considering what happens involves giant samurai with chain-guns which is basically what I think about when I’m taking a dump without a book.
The cast itself isn’t up to much either. Jon Hamm makes the most confused-looking cameo I’ve seen in quite a while, which is understandable seen as by that point the film stopped making sense about seventy minutes ago. The women look beautiful as I said but given the amount of dialogue in the film that is basically all they have the opportunity to do. In fact I don’t think that the main-character, Babydoll (Emily Browning) actually says a word for the first forty-five minutes as Snyder is too obsessed with turning everything into a music video to remember that he’s dealing with actors and not backing-dancers. Also I fear that if you decided to speed the film up to real time it wouldn’t last more than five minutes.
Overall Sucker Punch is the greatest example of style over substance I can think of, and when I say ‘style’ I mean a protracted music video involving the cast of Final Fantasy VIII fighting the Helghast in the middle of Arkham Asylum. In fact if you understood everything about that last sentence then this film is probably for you.