You have all the tools you need. Now fight!
Every now and then a director gets thrown under the bus. Sam Raimi had Spider-Man 3, Peter Jackson had The Lovely Bones and Spielberg had Crystal Skull. When a director stumbles they’re body of work is up for debate.
I’ve never been Snyder’s biggest fan. His work tends to be either simplistic, tone deaf or just a series of misunderstandings about the material he’s working with. But, he can has a visual style that can soften his weaknesses. With Sucker Punch, a film based on his own material, could Snyder deliver?
While Sucker Punch attempts some interesting concepts, its understanding and execution of them is poor.
Sucker Punch sees Snyder straining, to make a point, the story lost in wave after wave of visual dazzle.
Sucker Punch centres on Emily Browning’s Babydoll, sent to a mental institution by her cruel stepfather after her sister’s accidental death.
There are two realities. One is the world of the mental institution, the other the more ‘fantastical’ world of a bordello. It overlaps the institution, a place where Blue (Oscar Isaac) traffics the girls as sex workers. Whenever Babydoll dances for ‘customers’ she conjures up a dream world that cast her where she (and her fellow detainees) exist as super-heroic fighters, with the objective of obtaining several objects that will lead Babydoll and her friends to freedom.
Snyder appears to be under the impression that a girl with a gun and sword equals some sort of empowerment. Character is something that Snyder appears to have misplaced as he, strangely, focuses on the sexuality of Babydoll to the point where that becomes her defining attribute.
The women are shown through the prism of being highly sexualised creatures and men as dirty, depraved stereotypes who covet them. Presenting these characters in a highly sexual state with very little substance, then giving them weapons and proclaiming it as empowerment doesn’t work. They’re sex objects and presented as such with very little to suggest there’s a character underneath all the, admittedly, gorgeous sheen. They’re walking stereotypes and lifeless ones at that.
Despite some terrific action sequences that showcase Snyder’s skills – always coherent despite the overuse of slow-motion – the action has a purpose and invention. It’s a shame he didn’t display that in the narrative.
Sucker Punch neither excited nor disappointed me. It is at times a confusing and shambling mess of a film, ambling to make a point but so lacking in subtlety. It needs a defter touch but loses whatever it has to say through the noise and distortion of its peculiar narrative.