A visual masterpiece in service of a terrible story, Sucker Punch is Zack Snyder’s first wholly original film, and by far his worst. Coming off of two very successful adaptions of graphic novels (300 and Watchmen), Snyder had a lot to prove when he set out to do his own material. Unfortunately, all it proved is that his style is better suited to adapting other people’s words. I’m not trying to downplay just how stunning the film really is, as practically every sequence contains perfectly conceived imagery. It’s beautiful, stylish, and artistic in a way seldom seen. Which makes the film all the more disappointing.
The film starts out promising enough, with a series of circumstances putting the character of Babydoll (Emily Browning) in an insane asylum. As with the rest of the film, Snyder demonstrates an eye for atmosphere and staging in these sequences. Eventually, Babydoll finds herself about to be lobotomized, and before she knows it, she appears in a burlesque house. It’s in this first sequence that I realized this film wasn’t going to have much of a focus. The same characters from the asylum show up in this world as well, and it becomes quickly apparent that Snyder is just playing with the audience.
As the film progresses, Babydoll finds herself teamed up with four other prisoners, navigating various landscapes that seem designed to capture the interest of 13-year old boys. This is probably the only movie I’ve ever seen that features dragons, robots and samurai warriors in locations ranging from a medieval castle to another planet entirely. It’s easy to picture Snyder giggling to himself as he wrote the film, giddy with the thought of getting to create these worlds without having to figure out a reason why. The film is a gimmick that lets him literally create whatever he can think of.
The worlds are hyper-stylized in such a way that every shot draws attention to itself. However, it’s next to impossible to “lose yourself” in the scene as you can’t help but fixate on the technical artistry he brings to the screen. The film looks like a comic brought to life, and if this had a more compelling story, that could be a good thing. As is, the film is very episodic, and each sequence, ultimately pointless. Without getting too specific, Snyder does attempt to create a link between the worlds, but it’s very forced, and not that compelling. At times it seems as if Snyder is attempting to make some grander statement, but I really believe the film exists because he thought it would “look cool.”
This is the type of film that is perfect for Blu-Ray. As the story doesn’t have much of a focus, this is the type of film worth skipping around just to really soak in the gorgeous imagery. As this is such a visual film, you’d expect Warner Brothers to pull out all the stops to make the Blu-Ray look as good as possible. And they did. Presented in 1080P High Definition, this is a gorgeous movie. The sound mix is sensational as well. One of the few Blu-Rays I’ve seen recently that I would call technically flawless, this is the type of disc worth throwing in to wow your friends.
Warner Brothers didn’t hold back with the extras either. To start with, they have included the PG-13 theatrical cut, along with an R-Rated Extended Edition. The extended edition runs about 18 minutes longer than the original, and features more action, violence, a little more sensuality, and the full musical number only glimpsed in the original’s closing credits. Running 127 minutes, the extended edition does feel longer, but it’s worth checking out.
Also included is a fantastic feature called Maximum Movie Mode. I’ve discussed this concept in prior reviews, and as always, I love when the studio does this. Basically, you watch the extras while watching the film. Snyder “hosts” this feature, and will periodically interrupt the movie to discuss that moment of the film. Sometimes, he’ll just talk about it, and other times, they give you the option to cut away and watch a feature, check out storyboards, photos, etc. This technique is really a showcase for a film’s director, one in which they can really explore anything and everything about the film. This feature provides a great deal of insight into the production of the film, and in my opinion, is probably more entertaining than the film itself.
Other features include a documentary about the soundtrack of the film, along with four animated shorts exploring the different fantasy realms of the film. These are basically comics in motion, and not as exciting as I was hoping. But regardless of these features, the standout is the Maximum Movie Mode. It’s a fascinating guide to the film, and one I’d highly recommend even to those who don’t like the movie.
Despite the impressive artistry, I was really disappointed in this movie. I have loved every one of Snyder’s films so far, and was really shocked how simplistic and choppy this one felt. I loved seeing the movie, but unfortunately, I couldn’t bring myself to really enjoy it.
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