By Brian Lafferty
July 15, 2011 (San Diego) – Sucker Punch is what happens when you give Zack Snyder carte blanche to do whatever he wants. 300 was my first exposure to Snyder. It wasn’t a masterpiece, or even a great movie, but if you were looking for a good sword and sandal epic with lots of slicing, dicing, and blood, then you couldn’t miss.
After Watchmen, my favorite Snyder film, came Legend of the Guardians, his first venture into animated film. I admired the animation but I highly disapproved of its violent content and less-than-kid-friendly tone, which left children scared and crying.
Now there’s Sucker Punch. I’ve seen bad movies this year but very few have been as detestable as this one.
I won’t bother discussing the plot, since it makes absolutely zero sense. It tries for a complex storytelling device a la Inception, but it’s so bad that it fails miserably even in its attempts at plagiarism.
My problems with this film began with the opening sequence, which both illustrate Snyder’s propensity for his slo-mo action shots. An example: Character A pulls back her fist at normal speed, about to throw a punch. Action then slows to a crawl as Character A throws a punch at Character B. After the successful punch, the speed returns to normal as Character B falls back.
This is a trademark that Snyder should just as soon disassociate himself from. He doesn’t merely overuse it: he masturbates with it. It’s not even good in small doses. It’s a major and unnecessary distraction. Any time a film’s temporal rhythm is disrupted, it calls attention to itself. This technique is used to such groan-inducing frequency that the film quickly becomes a 112-minute attention whore.
Watchmen and Legend of the Guardians had eye-popping cinematography. Sucker Punch has a lot of color but none of the richness and detail. The film’s color palette and production design create an odd irony: rarely has such a movie made use of almost every color of the rainbow and at the same time look so bland and dull. The generic art direction and bare bones production design don’t help, either.
The action sequences (or, for purposes of accuracy, “action sequences”) lack imagination and excitement, which is made all the more eye-glazing with the nonstop slo-mo. The girls shoot, slice, and dice with as much routine as if Zack Snyder plays a video game that he knows so well he can play it with his eyes closed.
The biggest offense, the thing that makes it more than just a bad action movie, is its misogyny. There is a difference between a character hating women and a movie hating women. Sucker Punch is a misogynist film. Snyder’s costume designer, Michael Wilkinson, dresses the girls in skimpy, midriff-exposing outfits. The girls are treated horribly by the mental hospital only because the script demands it. There’s something in the atmosphere, tone, and attitude of Sucker Punch that hates women.
The bonus features number only a few but the most substantial is an advanced commentary of the Director’s Cut, which uses storyboards, interviews, and behind-the-scenes footage to illustrate what went into the making of the movie, all of which is shown while the movie is in progress.
Nevertheless, there are only five and a half months left in the year and right now Sucker Punch is a candidate for the Worst Movie of 2011.