I absolutely detest Zack Snyder. He’s the guy responsible for that watercolor nightmare, 300, and the inspiration for Alan Moore’s deteriorating liver since directing The Watchmen. Very little came from either movie. Gerard Butler really launched his “acting” career with 300, and then subsequently starred in just about 300 romantic comedies and horrendous action movies since 300’s release. And The Watchmen gave us more opportunities to look at Carla Gugino. Let’s be honest, you can’t possibly have enough scantily clad Carla Gugino in your life, you just can’t.
So, why go see Sucker Punch? The reviews were terrible, Zack Snyder was involved, and the trailer smacked of a desperate production company throwing every possible cliché they could into even the most remote square inch of the screen. Girls in miniskirts armed to the teeth as they do battle with giant stone samurais, steam-powered zombies, trapped in a slow-motion Hell, forced to walk away from explosions without turning around.
Again, why go?
Haven’t you been paying attention? Girls in miniskirts armed with swords and guns, steam-powered zombies, and Carla Gugino is in this Snyder vehicle too, trading gratuitous cleavage for a horrendous Polish accent. Listening to her talk, you’d think she was searching for a talking moose and squirrel, dah-link. Snyder has decidedly planted his foot in the shadow of Michael Bay, making overblown action movies, sucking them dry of the sleek and bright crispness that Bay’s drivel has to offer, and replacing all of that with dark filtered lenses and washed out art direction.
However, with Sucker Punch, what you don’t get out of the trailer is the story. It’s an adult fairytale lifted from the likes of Pan’s Labyrinth and Perfume: The Story of a Murderer, where a girl is orphaned and exiled by her step-father into the dungeons of an asylum for girls. Inside, the girls are made to perform their tragedies on stage as a part of the progressive therapeutic stylings of Gugino’s character. When these performances happen we’re transported inside the mind of the performer, a mind armed with the tools she needs to fight her demons (and more and to the point, get through the embarrassment of being on display).
There are at least three levels of existence in this movie, as Snyder tries his hand at a little Inception-styled story telling. There’s the reality we start with full of grays and blacks as Babydoll is introduced to the asylum and she sees the girls performing their tragedies on stage. And then there are the warm colors of a bordello, as we’re inside one of the girls’ minds where the performances are dances given for the mayor and other guests. And then there are the action sequences inside Babydoll’s mind, where the girls are quested by Scott Glenn to collect the tools they need to escape before Jon Hamm comes to give Babydoll a lobotomy.
As the movie fades to black, Gugino’s character ties it all together, telling us, the audience, that we’re the main character.
Essentially, we’re Babydoll. We’re armed with the tools to destroy the demons in our minds, to overcome our obstacles; all we have to do is get up and fight. The Sucker Punch in question is that we, the audience, have been a part of the movie all along. These girls, imprisoned in this Hell by men, that is the action sequence in our mind. That is our distraction as we work through our own lives, making our own Hell disappear, even if it is for two hours or so. And it’s that little bit of voice over that makes Snyder’s fingerprint worth bearing. Perhaps it’s a little ham-fisted, but it’s a nice thought.