Director Zack Snyder is known for his visual talent. He is the man responsible for adapting several visually impressive graphic novels to film, such as 300 and Watchmen. The latter being my all-time favorite comic book movie. That being said, I was naturally excited for his latest film, Sucker Punch. He somehow managed to take every fanboys dream and mash it into one film. Dragons, Nazi slaying, robots and ninjas were all on tap to be defeated by attractive women in skimpy school girl outfits. What’s not to love? Since Snyder proved himself with 300 and Watchmen as far as style goes you figured that Sucker Punch would be a perfect way for display his talent both as a visual director but also as a writer. He had a lot riding on this movie, especially since he was recently picked for the new Superman film, Man of Steel.
The story of Sucker Punch is simple. Baby Doll (Emily Browning) has been sent to an insane asylum by her stepfather, because he killed her sister and framed her for the murder. She is scheduled for a lobotomy within five days and she wants to escape. With the help of some other scantily clad women she manages to seduce several workers of this fine establishment via a dance. While dancing she transforms to another dream reality, which allows us to see her reach these goals by slitting dragon’s throats and shooting undead zombie Nazis. It’s this dream world that saves the film from being complete bullshit and sadly the dream world can only be viewed after sitting through 20 or 30 minutes of boring dialogue that is performed by so called “actresses”. Emily Browning was okay and Abbie Cornish wasn’t horrible, but the rest of the ladies are really only good for the eye candy. Their performances are forgettable and won’t be earning them any A list films in the coming years. The film never manages to gain any steam which results in a very messy and lazy story. You can tell Zack wanted to display some more of his talent, but he failed where it counts and I’m not sure if I have much faith in him as a writer anymore.
Sadly, Sucker Punch fails and that is mainly due to the poor writing on Snyder’s part. It was his first film that he didn’t adapt from other peoples work and it shows that there was a reason why 300 and Watchmen worked and Sucker Punch didn’t. There is no denying Snyder’s ability as a visual director. I’ve never seen such stylistic work before until he hit the scene. The way he filmed 300 was impressive and the way he managed to tell such a detailed graphic novel like Watchmen with such a unique set of visuals was flawless, but Sucker Punch is nothing more than a mere spectacle. It’s quite the visual event, but that’s all it is. It’s great that Snyder can give us a ton of awesome action sequences filled with things you thought you could only imagine, but what really counts is the way you choose to connect your story. Having great visuals and an even better story makes for a groundbreaking movie, but if you only have half of the recipe then it simply doesn’t work.
It doesn’t matter how much you spend on the CGI work or how much you spend on crazy set pieces, if you don’t have an engaging story to keep the viewers interested then you will lose them rather quickly. I enjoyed the first battle in Sucker Punch, I thought Emily Browning versus massive ninjas was great, but the second it bounced back to the story, or lack thereof I immediately became bored with everything. And remember, all of this is coming from a guy that absolutely loved the lengthy Watchmen. I thought the four and a half hour directors cut was a work of art, so I can safely say it wasn’t that I have an attention span disorder or something, I’m all for a good story that helps enhance the visuals, but that just wasn’t the case.
Sucker Punch is just a montage of impressive action scenes without any story connecting them. The characters don’t really matter and the story is laughable. Tons of people have picked apart the film and gathered their own interpretation of it all and it’s good that you can view it that way, but I honestly was so unimpressed by it that I didn’t care to search for a deeper meaning. Does it all take place in her head? Has Baby Doll been sexually abused? Or maybe Sweet Pea has made up characters in her mind to play out her life? I honestly haven’t decided which I think to be true because I don’t care.
Luckily for us, Warner Bros has provided us with a very strong video transfer for Sucker Punch. The film features a wide display of colors, from bright and warm colors during dragon’s battle, to high tech blues and silvers when their fighting the robots, which all come across very clear with lots of detail and definition to the characters and backgrounds. The skin tones are warm and the transfer is pretty much grain free, which I’m assuming was Snyder’s intentions since 300 featured lots of grain and Watchmen had its fair share. Sucker Punch‘s video transfer reminds me very much of a video game. It’s clear and impressive with enough detail and bright colors to show off to your friends.
The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track is loaded and very active. The dialogue comes across crisp, clean and very easy to follow, while the action assaults your eardrums from all angles. The back speakers are very loud and full of gunfire and chaos, while the front speakers continue the mayhem with more up close action and carnage. I haven’t heard such an intense track before and luckily Warner Bros delivered where it counts for an otherwise passable movie.
Sucker Punch comes with two cuts of the film, the first being the 110 minute PG13 cut and the second being an R rated Extended Cut that clocks in at 128 minutes. I saw the theatrical cut in theaters and wasn’t too impressed, especially after hearing about several scenes being cut to make the PG13 rating. When it was announced that this Blu-ray bundle was going to have an R rated cut, I was really hoping that it would save the film and hopefully add more story, but sadly it doesn’t. There’s a few scenes that get tossed in, one being a pointless musical number and another being an extended fight scene, which was cool, but only weighed down the film. The most important scene was one that featured Jon Hamm as the High Roller. In the theatrical cut he is only shown as the doctor that does the lobotomy scene and I was pissed that he was only on screen for maybe three minutes, luckily in the R rated cut we get to see the talked about scene between Hamm and Browning. It’s really good and it does add a little bit to the film, but after it cuts back to the rest of the film the scene feels wasted. If only the film would have stayed with this tone then maybe it could have been better, but I’m thinking that the only reason that scene worked so well in the first place was because Jon Hamm is an awesome actor and Emily Browning seemed to work better with him than anyone else in the film.
Here’s a list of the special features:
Sucker Punch: Animated Shorts (HD, 11 minutes): This feature is pretty much a promotional motion comic that gives a little back story to the fantasy sequences. They don’t really work well as their own short, but more as a marketing tool.
Behind the Soundtrack (HD, 3 minutes): A look at the soundtrack of the film with Snyder and the composers. It’s nothing special considering most of the covers in the movie sucked ass.
Extended Cut: Maximum Movie Mode (HD, 128 minutes): This is the saving grace for the whole package. Warner Bros Maximum Movie Mode is such an immense experience. It allows for the director to stand side by side a separate video stream and discuss the filming techniques he or she used while filming their movies. Snyder allows us to see how he achieved the slow motion shots and how he designed the visuals and how he structured the film. I just love the attention to detail Zack uses and I really wished the end result of Sucker Punch was better, but at least Warner Bros has provided us with one awesome special feature that really helps the Blu-ray.
Overall, Sucker Punch is a failed attempt at something that could have been special. Director Zack Snyder put all of his cards on the table, both writing and directing the film and it clearly shows that he needs to either work on his writing ability or just stick to adapting other people’s scripts. He has a very strong eye for visuals and he proved that he can film some really neat action sequences, but all of that feels wasted with a shitty story that lacks any connection to the action. Warner Bros has provided us with a near perfect video transfer that’s very clear and full of color and an impressive audio track that is very active and detailed. The special features are lame and passable for the most part, but the Maximum Movie Mode is very detailed and worth a watch. I’ve noticed that even if the movie sucks, the Maximum Movie Mode manages to still be engaging enough for a one time viewing. It’s great to see what goes into making movies and it’s even better when the director can take control and show you scene by scene how they it’s all done. The film is worth a rental for those curious, but for those that saw the theatrical cut and was hoping the R rated Extended Cut was going to be better, stay away from this Blu-ray release. The Extended Cut doesn’t really add anything and the movie still sucks.
Movie – 6.5/10
Video – 9/10
Audio – 10/10
Special Features – 7/10
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