If there’s ever a recipe for disaster, it’s Zack Snyder and film critics; the pair just doesn’t go together. Snyder, the fan-boy turned filmmaker is famous for making films that frustrate and annoy critics such as ‘300’ (2007) and ‘Watchmen’ (2009), and now in 2011 the ‘visionary’ director brings us ‘Sucker Punch’; a full-throttle, visually insane and downright ludicrous Sci-Fi Action picture that features 5 skimpy-dressed heroines destroying robots, dragons and Nazi zombies. As you can probably guess, critics have absolutely destroyed it and it has a staggeringly low rating on Rotten Tomatoes (20%). So it doesn’t look like Snyder’s relationship is getting any better with us critics, or is it?
After being placed in a mental facility by her abusive stepfather, Baby Doll (Emily Browning) is faced with even further depressing realities. Due to be lobotomised in five days, she and four other girls in the asylum escape the boundaries of reality and take refuge in an alternative imagination where they must hatch a plan to escape their ordinary lives by locating a series of items. The lines of reality and fantasy begin to blur and soon Baby Doll, Sweet Pea (Abbie Cornish), Blondie (Vanessa Hudgens), Rocket (Jena Malone) and Amber (Jamie Chung) have to fight for their survival in a collection of epic battles.
As I mentioned earlier, Snyder is often referred to as ‘visionary’; a term that actually means incredibly over-the-top and all style, no substance. Thankfully that dreaded word was left off the promotional pieces for this movie and indeed the thought of no substance was eradicated too. ‘Sucker Punch’ is certainly set in over-drive and its absurdity is turned up to 11 but as a whole, this is one truly unforgettable movie experience.
‘Sucker Punch’ is a dynamic, explosive and mesmerising visual feast that smashes and dashes across the screen in a carnival of colour and expression; it’s a gloriously manic spectacle that takes the breath and squares the eyes. Its action is incredible, its fantasy is intoxicating and it’s imagination is endless. It’s clear Snyder has been building this project for some time and his passion for it shows dramatically. But ‘Sucker Punch’ isn’t just a warped video-game influenced feature that lasts for 110 minutes; it also has a decent and constructed story which I think the majority of film critics have misinterpreted. Its narrative is dark, leery and unsettling which mixes perfectly with the dramatic escapism and mayhem. This is Snyder’s first screenplay and although it might not be the finest of film scripts, it’s a very strong first effort that matches his high-octane sensibilities.
|Still from 'Sucker Punch' (dir: Zack Snyder, 2011)|
In fact, I don’t have a bad word to speak about ‘Sucker Punch’ because it does exactly what it was supposed to do; entertain. The film explodes off the screen in a frenzy of gunfire and girl-power. After first seeing the trailer last year, I had very high hopes for it but they were damaged by the amount of hatred from writers so I entered the movie with fairly low expectations. When I left the cinema, my original hopes were met and restored because I had an absolute blast watching this spectacular marvel of a film.
The performances are all engaging, particularly from Browning who is wonderful as Baby Doll; she captures all that raw emotion that’s been built from her difficult life, and that mixed with her innocent-faced, yet fearless persona makes her a great heroine. Malone is great as the tough but over-protected Rocket, and Oscar Isaac is brilliant as the sinister asylum ringleader ‘Blue’ whose treatment of women is both foul and depressing, but he plays the part with conviction and skill.
In a way, I actually think critics are scared to admit they like movies like this, so they write a bad review so it doesn’t hurt their ‘reputation’. I can agree that ‘Sucker Punch’ not be everyone’s cup of tea, but I just find it some troubling that such universal damning of a film is seemed normal and that anybody who actually likes it is in the minority. Zack Snyder’s relationship with critics might still be awfully uneasy, but he’s landed himself in my good books with this one because it’s easily his best film to date and it’s one of my favourite movies this year.
Ferocious, imaginative and experimental; there isn’t anything quite like ‘Sucker Punch’. It’s a fabulous movie that hits the right spot and I can’t wait to see it again.
By Chris Haydon