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Sucker Punch has stunning visuals, lifeless script

By Syed Ahad Hussain
On April 20, 2011


It's not the first time that we've come across a film that has factual epic war scenes with fictional settings, but if this fantasized and fictional depiction of history is helmed by someone like Zack Snyder, moviegoers should have their fingers crossed. Nothing less would suffice. After all, a Zack Snyder film is not merely an experience, it's an event.

Sucker Punch is Snyder's first movie based on an original script, which he co-wrote with Steve Shibuya. We've come to expect scintillating visuals in the master film-maker's films and Sucker Punch is no exception. But unfortunately, the movie falters in the story narration. In fact, this one's a game of see-saw, with its dull and emotionless characters, some absorbing special effects and a weak, lackluster climax.

Set in 1955, Sucker Punch is the story of a 20- year old orphan girl known as Baby Doll (played exceptionally by Emily Browning), who accidentally shoots her younger sister while defending herself from her abusive stepfather. Baby Doll is sent to the Lennox House for the Mentally Insane to be lobotomized. There where she meets other inmates whom she befriends and with whom she hatches a plan of escape.

Escaping a mental institution isn't a new concept in Hollywood. What distinguishes Sucker Punch from the rest are the fantasy sequences imagined by Baby Doll every time she is asked to dance for the charity shows. In her imagination, the institution is a brothel, where she and her fellow inmate friends are erotic dancers, the orderly (who her stepfather bribed) is the mob boss and owner of the brothel, Dr. Vera Gorski is the dance instructor, and the doctor who has to lobotomize her is known as "High Roller," for whom Baby Doll's virginity is preserved.

Sounds interesting enough. So, what went wrong?

First of all, the supporting female characters, Amber (Jamie Chung), Blondie (Vanessa Hudgens, who's better seen with guns instead of guitars), Rocket (Jena Malone, who tried too hard to look innocent and naive) and her older sister Sweet Pea (another amazing performance by Abbie Cornish after Bright Star), are so shallow and underdeveloped. They might keep you from walking out from the theater by their attractive presence on the screen, but you won't feel any emotional attachment to them. Also, their makeup and their seductive avatars make them look like ramp models straight out of a Victoria's Secret fashion show, instead of girls with troubled pasts.

Even the finale leaves a lot to be desired. The ending is neither shocking nor engaging. You might develop a little bit of sympathy for Baby Doll, but in the end, she will terribly disappoint you. The writing is flawed—no two opinions on that.

On the plus side, the musical beginning, from the death of Baby Doll's mother – to the flashback scenes is attention-grabbing, and reminds you of the opening of Walt Disney's film Up. All of the fantasy/action sequences are equally astounding, while the execution of each and every stunt is exceptional. Every Snyder film is embellished with stunning visuals, and Sucker Punch boasts of mind-boggling visuals as well, creating magic on-screen.

Every frame is worth admiring and applauding, especially the very first fantasy sequence in which the character of Wise Man (played with brilliant by Scott Glenn); the subsequent battle of Baby Doll against three giant samurais is also remarkable, jaw dropping, and memorable.

As for the actors, Cornish is unbeatable and that's the truth. Very few actors can rise above the script and she is one of them—she's pretty much the lifeline of this film. Browning also succeeds in making us sympathize with a shallow Baby Doll. Glenn hardly appears in the film, but also leaves an impact; however, Carla Gugino's character is sadly wasted in this film.

Sucker Punch comes with the baggage of humungous expectations, mainly for the one name attached to it: Zack Snyder. One should expect an energetic film with memorable characters, such as those in Watchmen and the Spartans of 300. The benchmarks only get higher and higher every time Snyder makes a film and Sucker Punch, unfortunately, is a huge let down. While it may be visually stunning, musically enriched, and have an impactful cast, its disastrous, boring, and lifeless script is its failure.

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