Starring: Emily Browning, Carla Gugino, Abbie Cornish, Jena Malone, Vanessa Hudgens, Jamie Chung, Scott Glenn, Oscar Isaac, Vicky Lambert

Director: Zack Snyder

Writer(s): Zack Snyder, Steve Shibuya

Cinematography: Larry Fong

Original Score: Tyler Bates, Marius De Vries

Running Time: 109 Mins.

A distinct visual style, something that director Zack Snyder is far from lacking, however this overwhelming sense of making something that looks good and/or accomplished can often highlight the severe lack of any depth beyond such visuals triumphs, or flourishes. Thus far Snyder has just about manage to get enough  substance in their to justify his means, Watchmen (often deemed a failure, financially at least) was the pinnacle of this, it was a modern epic perfectly marrying Snyder’s eye for slo-mo and OTT set pieces into something sprawling that did Alan Moore’s source material justice. similarly so with Dawn of the Dead (one of the better horror remakes of recent years) and 300, while a visual triumph, was always a slave to its flimsy graphic novel so for that we cannot blame Snyder.

Moving onto Sucker Punch then, where does this (inevitably stylised) fantasy sit, well it marks the mans first direction of his own script and therefore is a slave to nobody but his own imagination…this perhaps is the problem. You see Sucker Punch is, simply put, a mess, clearly it is and always was going to be nice to look at but the premise hinted at something akin to Inception. A reality within a reality within an imagination (or something along those lines), alas Snyder is no Chris Nolan and seems incapable of wielding his mass of schoolboy ideas into an engaging narrative.

Split into 5 sections the film literally plays out although its director wrote a list of things that 16 year old boys find cool, so dragons and orcs, giant samurai warriors, steam-punk second world war battles and futuristic trains inhabited by robots. Each scene is loosely linked as Baby-Doll (Browning) dances whilst imprisoned in a mental institute (reimagined by her as a brothel) and slips into these alternate realities created by her mind, sounds a little complex? It really isn’t, simply a ham-fisted attempt to string these scenes Snyder clearly craved to use and couldn’t think how else to construct them into a good narrative….so he didn’t!

It would help were the characters more than mere ciphers, Browning is the lead, but seriously lacks anything marking her out as more than just eye-candy, she seems fragile but the actions suggest not and the surrounding girls consist of the ballsy one, the enthusiastic youngling, the wiser older one and the other one! That really is as deep as it gets, even when the chaotic action pauses for attempts at a little pathos (crying is about as far as it goes!) it becomes a little embarrassing and out-of-place, these girls can act (Browning was good in Lemony Snicket, Hudgens had charm in High School Musical) but on Cornish comes out of this with any credibility, both as the most attractive (hey, call me shallow!) and the only one that eeks a little character from her flimsy, forgettable lines.

One would hope that even if the central characters are 2D the support would at least e able to add a little charisma, not so, Scott Glenn is bizarre in his role as Wise Old Man offering nothing mre than sage advice, and Carla Gugino and Oscar Isaac are hobbled by simply offering sympathy and snarling villain roles respectively. All of this means that as you may have suspected the visuals have to real legwork to do in order to make Sucker Punch worth watching…and at times they do, an opening scene set to only music is great (echoing Watchmen’s similar credit scene) but it all gets rather tiresome as the film progresses with slo-mo after slo-mo, bullet strewn and fire ravaged as the screen is there is nothing at stake meaning there is also nothing to invest in.

On this evidence it is probably best that Snyder is returning to direct someone else material for Superman: Man of Steel, god knows another slice of Sucker Punch wouldn’t help the mans career!

VERDICT

Snyder will likely discover the hard way that a little substance goes a long way, Sucker Punch is not a disaster (it is nice to look at, and typically stylish, for a time) but proof if proof were needed that visuals alone cannot maketh a film, even if the cast is hot to trot!

 

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