He’s spun gold from the works of George Romero, Frank Miller and Alan Moore, but it’s finally time for Zack Snyder to take off the training wheels.
Sucker Punch is Snyder’s first original screenplay, and though it confirms he’s among the most exciting action directors working today, it also reveals that storytelling isn’t his strong suit.
Back-story is confined to the opening credits, where we’re introduced to Baby Doll (Browning) as her abusive father locks her in the nuthouse, lobotomy pending.
There, she meets fellow patients Blondie (Hudgens), Amber (Chung) and sisters Sweet Pea (Cornish) and Rocket (Malone), who teach Baby to retreat into increasingly absurd fantasies to escape the grim fate awaiting her.
That size-zero narrative is excuse enough for Snyder to drift away into dream sequences that’d dampen a teenage boy’s duvet. Sucker Punch features gun-toting samurais, steam-powered Nazis and fire-breathing dragons, but shows little interest in the hows or whys, only the wows.
It’s no secret that Snyder reverse-engineered the movie from the money shots backwards but the sense of coherence between rainbow reveries is negligible and, when you’re several delusions removed from reality, it’s hard to figure out what, if anything, is at stake. Style has substance in a chokehold.
Frankly, it pays to be like Baby. Block out the bad stuff and Sucker Punch is quite the trip – Snyder’s jaw-dropping flights of fancy are packed full of his trademark slow/fast/slow-mo bullet ballet.
But try as you might, you can’t silence the nagging voices that bring you crashing down to earth; the cringeworthy dialogue (“Don’t write a cheque with your mouth you can’t cash with your ass!”); the fact that girls are empowering themselves while conveniently wearing push-up bras.
As Browning and friends flit about their ‘brothel’ in skimpy burlesque costumes between orgiastic videogame fight scenes, you’ll wonder: just whose fantasy is this?