The Hollywood nerd parade marches on as “visionary” (according to the commercials) director Zack Snyder (300, Watchmen) harnesses his inner Uwe Boll in this special effects-heavy pastiche of video game genres starring a bevy of scantily clad young beauties. At the very least you’d expect a mildly fun exploitation fest, but the heavy-handed, excruciatingly dull Sucker Punch contains absolutely no joy and only the slightest traces of originality.
The film opens with an overly stylized montage set to a moody rendition of “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)” sung by the film’s star Emily Browning (expect a mess of modern renditions/remixes of alt-classics from The Smiths, Pixies, Bjork, et al.). Browning plays Baby Doll, a Hot Topic Jane Eyre who is unfairly locked away in a mental institution around the time of WWII. She is forced to undergo a lobotomy, but just before icepick-hits-skull the viewer is transported to an alternate scenario where Baby Doll is the new recruit in a group of attractive showgirls. The girls have names like Sweet Pea and Rocket and they all have different colored hair so you can tell them apart. Baby Doll unites the girls in a quest for freedom from the abusive manager of their strip joint and viewers are soon transported to yet another fantasy world, this one being an apocalyptic war zone populated by undead Nazis, giant monsters, dragons, and robots. In this world, the girls are super powered freedom fighters who follow a quest to find items that will guarantee their victory, thus serving as a parallel to their ongoing escape attempt in fantasy world one. Violence suitable of a PG-13 rating commences and the film plods along towards an anticlimactic finale.
The layered fantasy worlds that worked to some degree of success in Inception fall completely flat in Sucker Punch since none of the characters outside of Baby Doll are grounded in a presented reality. The film’s closing sequence that recalls The Wizard of Oz or, more recently, The Fall tries to make up for this, but to absolutely no avail. Actors like Carla Gugino and Scott Glenn do their jobs despite laughable dialogue, which really just serves to kill time between action sequences. The action is what you’d expect though it is often muddled by the film’s dull color scheme. Snyder pulls his visuals from fantasy and action video games and fills the over-the-top sequences with an astounding amount of “stylish” slow motion and sexy poses. The film obviously aspires to be visual poetry for the current geek generation, but will ultimately only appeal to those that enjoy watching their friends play video games.
Sucker Punch opens wide in Philly-area theaters today.