Sucker Punch is the new film from Zack Snyder, who was responsible for the Dawn of the Dead remake, 300, and Watchmen. I’m a pretty big fan of Watchmen, but I personally wasn’t floored by 300, at least not as much as most people seem to have been. Judging by the early theatrical trailers though, it seemed like Snyder was creeping back into similar territories, so I was anticipating the film. I didn’t make it to the theater in time, having a young child will often make this happen, but was still interested in watching it, despite the overly negative reviews. It looked exciting, and titillating, so what was it exactly that critics and movie-goers seemed to hate so much about the experience? Finally popping the Blu-Ray in for the first time, I’m left with mixed feelings.
The story somehow manages to be both simple, yet complex. Most of the compexity though, seems to be unnecessary. The film presents several different versions of what is to be perceived as either fantasy, or reality, but it never really established which universe the main story takes place in. I mean the main fantasy is clear, and is made clear by the use of giant robots with guns, steam powered Nazi zombies, and ridiculous, other-wordly gun and sword play. But that’s not the only alternate universe that our main character seems to fantasize about. When we are first introduced to her, her mother has just died, and it’s made clear that she’s been battered and sexually abused by her stepfather. When her stepfather passes that abuse on to her little sister, she takes matters in her own hands, and tries to kill him. Ultimately she fails, and he puts her into a mental asylum, and pays an orderly to forge some signatures to allow for a lobotomy to be performed. This is, of course, so that she can’t alert the authorities as to what actually happens that night.
Now let me just stop here for a minute. I know that this is a severely battered girl, and I’m not going to pretend, even for a second to know what goes on in the mind of someone that’s been through such a thing, but why is it, after being surrounded by police and other various figures of authority, that she didn’t tell them what happened before she got to the asylum? It seemed like the thing to do, and perhaps if she had done so, instead of sulking at the camera while being taken into custody, she wouldn’t have ended up there to begin with. Now, I’m in no way assigning blame to her, she is clearly the victim here, and nothing of this nature should ever happen to another human being. But, I do feel as though this is a sloppy bit of writing. Yes, we get that she’s traumatized, but to the point that she can’t speak? Clearly as she’s being accused of murdering her sister, who she apparently loved dearly, she would have taken a second to shout “It was him, not me”.
That’s not my only gripe with the film though, so allow me to continue. One of the big problems I had was the fact that a clear-cut message was never established. To an onlooker, this would appear to be a story about woman-power. Not allowing yourself to be victimized, and taking things into your own hands. In reality though, this is really only delivered in the ultra-fantasy segments of the film. Even in the alternate reality, the girls are victims, held in a brothel of sorts against their wills, and forced to service clients in various ways, on top of being forced to work in the kitchen, and other various household tasks. Perhaps I’m wrong on this, but the message that I received was, if you’re victimized, battered, brutalized, or even raped, just let it happen and take your mind to a happy place. We are left with a few parting words that makes mention of you having the power to fight, but nothing of this nature is ever actually relayed to the viewer. What they seem to be saying is, don’t actually fight, allow bad things to happen to you, but imagine a world where you’re free while the atrocities are being committed, and everything will be alright. This doesn’t seem like an overly positive message to me, and it’s muddied even further as the story weaves in and out of the different fantasy worlds.
Where this film does excel though, is at being a technical exhibition of what Blu-Ray can do. The visuals are absolutely stunning, as are the CGI effects. The fantasy worlds are beautiful and chaotic. In particular, I found myself glued to the screen during the alternate version of what was clearly intended to be WWII. Hitler unleashed an army of the undead, powered by steam. This created some intense action scenes, and it was extremely clever for the zombies to bleed steam as wounds are delivered. This is one of the reasons I feel like the Blu Ray is worth a purchase. Even if you’re not a fan of the film, it would serve well to show off your home theater setup to friends who haven’t yet made the jump to Blu-Ray, or possibly even High Def as a whole. The disc it’s self comes loaded to the brim with two different version of the movie, a theatrical cut on DVD, and the extended R rated cut on Blu-Ray, as well as a digital copy. The special features include something called “Maximum movie mode” which is a two hour exploration of the creative process behind the fantasy world, hosted by director Zack Snyder. There’s also a featurette outlining the creation of the soundtrack, and a set of animated short films that serve as prequels to the movie.
In the end, Sucker Punch doesn’t deliver the experience that I was hoping for, but it does deliver on some well choreographed action sequences, some stunning visuals, a solid soundtrack, and looks and sounds great on my home theater. I would recommend buying the disc with apprehension, as you may or may not enjoy the film, but as was stated above, if you have a nice system, it will serve you well when showing it off to friends and family.