By Scott Kayser
Our imaginations are often used as a means to escape reality. Zack Snyder’s latest film, “Sucker Punch,” explores this concept from the perspective of a young girl in a mental institute. As a direct product of our imaginations, movies are utilized in much the same way: to escape from the pressures of everyday life for a couple hours. However, the only thing I found myself wanting to escape during my viewing of “Sucker Punch” was the theater.
As she is about to be lobotomized for a mental illness she doesn’t suffer from, Baby Doll (Emily Browning) re-imagines her surroundings in an attempt to escape her cruel, harsh reality. In her imagination, the mental hospital where she is held captive becomes a brothel and her fellow patients (Cornish, Malone, Chung, Hodgins) become prostitutes. With the help of these girls, Baby Doll plots her escape from the brothel and in order to do so, must acquire various items from the brothel’s faculty, namely the owner of the brothel (Oscar Isaac). While Baby Doll dances (described as “moaning and gyrating”) and distracts the necessary people, her fellow prostitutes steal the item needed. As Baby Doll danced, she would slip into a deeper imagination level where grandiose, exotic action sequences were metaphors for the theft of each item.
Now, I love action sequences as much, if not more, than most people. However, the action sequences of “Sucker Punch” didn’t leave me satisfied. Certainly these sequences showcased Snyder’s style, utilizing unique angles and copious amounts of slow motion, yet the felt extremely empty. There was a wide array of locations and villains present in each of the various sequences, however, each merely felt like a rip off of movies I’d already seen. Lord of the Rings, I, Robot, and the Matrix were among the many movies that were imitated throughout the course of this movie.
Moreover, the audience was given little reason to believe anything was truly at stake two layers of imagination deep. Aside from a clichéd voiceover about angels at the beginning of the film, there was never really an explanation for the imagination sequences and this lack of information made it difficult to become invested in the characters and what they were trying to accomplish.
Browning as the lead, Baby Doll, never impressed. Her character felt devoid of most emotions, although I’m reluctant to decide whether Browning is at fault or Snyder for his poor script. Despite all their skimpy outfits, Baby Doll’s female companions never really grabbed my attention either. Oscar Isaac as the brothel owner, Blue, was an entirely forgettable villain and the Transylvanian accent of Carla Cugino’s Madam Gorski served only to annoy.
“Sucker Punch” built itself around action sequences but without a solid story behind them, both the action sequences and the movie lost all meaning. Putting all effort into being visually appealing with no substance to warrant it. With no breakthrough performances by any of the cast to distract from all of that, the movie seemed like a terrible joke. Perhaps most disappointing of all, I never got to see Baby Doll’s “moaning and gyrating.” After having said all of this, I still respect Snyder as a director, yet I hope that his first attempt at writing is his last.