I loved Watchmen and didn’t care for 300. That seems to be the opposite of the general consensus regarding Zack Snyder’s work. But either way, he’s one of the few visually-minded directors who consistently amazes me. His imagination in these effects-laden fantasies is miles ahead of the likes of Michael “Transformers” Bay and Roland “2012″ Emmerich and Sucker Punch, his first wholly original work, might be his most imaginative film to date.
The best way I can describe the film is as a conglomerate of the cuckoo’s nest film and a prison break movie, drawing artistic influences from video games, anime and graphic novels. The closest comparison I can think of is Neil Marshall’s Doomsday, which borrowed elements of everything from Mad Max and Escape from New York to 28 Weeks Later and Gladiator and garnered a similar distaste amongst most critics.
The film centers on Baby Doll (Emily Browning), who is admitted into a mental institution after accidentally killing her younger sister in an attempt to protect her from their abusive father. The asylum doubles as a brothel run by Blue Jones. Oscar Isaac was the best thing about Ridley Scott’s Robin Hood, and he again excels as the similarly slimy orderly.
Baby Dolly quickly becomes friends with four other patients — Sweet Pea (Abbie Cornish), Rocket (Jena Malone), Blondie (Vanessa Hudgens) and Amber (Jamie Chung) — and includes them in her plan to escape. Baby Doll only has three days before the infamous High Roller (John Hamm) comes to give her a lobotomy.
The erotic Carla Gugino plays a sympathetic doctor who helps the girls polish their stage work so they can impress their clients, and she soon finds out that Baby Doll is one hell of a dancer. But we never actually see her dance because she closes her eyes at the start of each performance, which takes us away to a fantasy land where she and her friends battle dragons, robots and zombie Nazi soldiers. Scott Glenn guides them through the fantasy world and explains how they can obtain the four keys they need to escape from the ward.
I began to tire of the battles by the second or third sequence, but I’m not sure if that’s because they never came across as more than ultra-expensive music videos (set to some pretty awesome music) or because I loved the more reality-based whorehouse/asylum scenes so much. I found myself caught up in their schemes to obtain the various keys.
Snyder’s use of slow-motion is again a bit much, but it didn’t bother me because the imagery was so awe-inspiring that I didn’t mind looking at each shot for a few extra seconds.. Still, it’s something Snyder will need to tone down for his Superman reboot, which currently has Kevin Costner, Diane Lane and Amy Adams lined up to support relative newcomer Henry Cavill as the Man of Steel.
I don’t normally like to comment on the reaction of other critics or a “consensus” opinion when reviewing films, but it baffles me that so many people could praise Scott Pilgrim vs. the World and then trash Sucker Punch.
Perhaps its subject matter makes it too dark and perilous for Sucker Punch to provide the escapist adventure most were expecting. I think that’s what made it work for me, though. I actually cared for the characters because they were plagued by a legitimate threat. I felt a real sense of danger and urgency, something I never felt in Scott Pilgrim or even the Matrix films.