Sucker Punch

Sucker Punch is not one of the worst movies of the year, it’s three of the worst slapped together on a single reel. The first film takes place in an insane asylum, where a girl has been wrongfully committed and faces the prospect of a lobotomy. That doesn’t go anywhere.

The second film takes place in a sort of bordello, which we’re left to assume the girl in the insane asylum has decided to pretend she’s in. The movie never really comes out and says she’s imagining it, nor attaches any real world relevance to it, until the last 90-seconds when it’s far too late to get anyone to care. Even though she’s twenty, apparently this girl’s imagination works on a fourth grade level, because the bordello slash strip club is the kind of place where the girls’ idea of getting friendly with the clients is kissing them on the neck, and instead of strip-teases they all just sort of get on stage and sway back and forth with their clothes on.

The third film imagines our heroine as one of a group of female commandos, who show up and receive a bunch of cliché life advice from an old guy who appears for no reason, before wandering off to kill a bunch of robots in alternate dimensions. Rinse and repeat. This third place has no real relation at all to any of the others, and it’s sort of like a dream within a dream; which is to say it means even less than the dream which came before it. We know that this third world starts playing on the screen whenever the girl fantasizes that she’s in the previous fantasy dancing, why or what this has to do with her boogie moves (which we never see) remains a complete mystery. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say this world exists only because co-writer/director Zack Snyder thinks girls with samurai swords are cool.

Girls with samurai swords are cool, but only if there’s some reason to give a shit about what they’re doing with them. You can have girls running around punching robots in the face, but if we know going in that this is just some empty fantasy which doesn’t mean anything, well there’s really no reason to pay attention much less care about what happens. Making a movie set in a series of fantasies or delusions only works if those fantasies or delusions mean something. Imagine Inception if they hadn’t told us you can die in the dream world, or be sucked down into limbo. Inception took place in a world that wasn’t real, but we cared about what happened in that fantasy because they found a way for that unreal place to have real implications. Sucker Punch doesn’t bother.

Even if it did bother, the three completely different movies going on here have so little connection to each other that it’s basically a big waste of time. Sucker Punch was written without a story to tell or without a single idea in its head beyond the poster they’d use to advertise it. It’s kind of incredible that a script this bad got this far, if indeed there was a script, it’s hard to believe that anyone involved with this production could have actually sat back, watched this disaster, and then thought they might want to let other people take a look at it. In their place, I’d be too embarrassed.

The story’s so completely lifeless, the characters so hollow, the connection so non-existent, that you can’t even really sit back and enjoy the visuals. It’s as if Sucker Punch goes out of its way to make sure you know they’re empty visuals, forms without substance, and even if all the CGI is done well enough that it should look real, it won’t, because you know it’s all just a pointless, hollow fantasy. The only thing that matters in this movie is what’s happening in that insane asylum, which the film ignores entirely after the first five minutes in favor of showing us a series of meaningless delusions.

Of course it’s not as if the visuals are all that impressive, at least not in long stretches. They look good in the trailer but in the movie they reveal themselves to be something else, something entirely flat and unoriginal. You’re sure to hear a lot of critics comparing this movie to a video game, but what a lot of the ones who haven’t actually played any games won’t be able to get across is how literally true that is. One of the fight scenes plays out almost exactly like a battle in an outdated version of Tekken or Mortal Kombat, right down the camera angles used. There’s a greater than 50% chance at least one person in the theater will stand up and shout “critical hit!” at some point during that sequence. Sucker Punch is a film so creatively bankrupt and empty, I’m not sure it even qualifies as a music video, let alone a video game or a movie. At least video games sometimes try new ideas, Sucker Punch is recycling video game ideas from the decades since defunct Sega Dreamcast.

The whole thing’s utterly tone deaf too. It seems to have no idea how the audience will react to what’s going on. Sucker Punch actively works to make it impossible for anyone to sympathize with or care about its characters. This is a movie in which the hero slaughters a fairly cute, sleeping animal to steal something from it, and then murders its understandably angry mother too, for no reason. Well I guess it didn’t matter, none of it’s real anyway is it? But aren’t we’re supposed to cheer for this? Be invested in it? I don’t get it. I don’t know what Zack Snyder was thinking and can’t even begin to fathom how any movie this bad was allowed to exist. The movie’s title has nothing to do with anything appearing on screen, so I’m pretty sure it’s actually a reference to what the people who made it are doing to their audience. Be ready. Don’t let Zack Snyder punch you in the wallet.

Josh Tyler