You will doubtless know director Zac Snyder for 300 and Watchmen, his two comic book adaptations. The first was critically acclaimed and the second… well, not so much. His latest, Sucker Punch, is the next step down on his now steady decline.
While I have the utmost respect for the authors of those two graphic novels (Frank Miller & Alan Moore respectively – titans of their industry and artistic geniuses) I feel fairly safe pointing out that the tenor of the two graphic novels is worlds apart; the subject matter of 300 was mainly machismo and violence, while Watchmen has some of the richest characters and intricate story telling in any work of fiction.
Thus, Snyder’s inability to take his adaptation of Watchmen beyond the gloss and violence he happily splashed around in with 300, and engage in the intellectual side is a pretty clear indicator of the man’s capabilities; Sucker Punch is about as far from intellectual as you can get. The closest comparison I could make would be to observe that the film is essentially Sailor Moon set in a brothel / psychiatric ward.
In terms of story, the movie is a mess. I think I was meant to walk out pondering how the several layers of reality overlapped and where the true reality lay, and how smart and creative Zac Snyder is, but all I really felt was confused. But then again, I did give up early on… when the steam-punk zombie Nazis turned up.
The plot is one pointless action scene after another strung together with a flimsy excuse for a frame narrative. The copious amounts of Snyder’s signature slowmo are still effective, even if it’s making it clearer and clearer he’s a one-trick pony. However, the ungodly amount of bullet-time makes some of the more intense action sequences nauseatingly hard to follow. As to the purpose of these ultra-violent daydreams, I’m still wondering. I assume it’s because without them movie would only run 55 minutes.
The cast is compromised almost entirely of under-aged, hyper-sexualized females who live under constant threat of physical harm and sexual violence. Never once are any of them given anything like real clothes and there aren’t 5 straight minutes in this movie without a gratuitous up-skirt shot. It’s unnecessary titillation for the sheer sake of it and it left me feeling uncomfortable and slimy for pretty much 110 minutes straight. The characters aren’t even given anything better than stripper names! ‘Baby Doll’, ‘Blondie’, ‘Sweet Pea’… need I go on? It’s no wonder the film has offended women’s rights groups and been roundly decried as sexist.
Rare is the movie that I will label ‘terrible’ outright. This movie isn’t quite one of them; but it’s close. I suppose there were some things I liked; for instance Jena Malone’s hair during the dream sequences was neat. That and Scott Glenn sure is looking a lot like Leonard Nimoy these days. However the latter is really more of an observation than an endorsement.
At the end of the day, it’s pretty clear when the film ends what this movie actually is meant to be: one big ego trip for Snyder. His name is on the first 4 slides after the movie ends; he makes damn sure you know he wrote, produced and directed the film before anyone else gets any credit for anything. Frankly Zac, is this was the best I could come with, I’m not sure I’d go around plastering my name all over it.
If this is the best Zac Snyder can do when left to his own devices, I don’t have a lot of hope for Superman: Man of Steel.