OK, I know Miss Madeleine annihilated Sucker Punch last week with a blisteringly accurate review, but after seeing it this week I just gotta throw in my 2 cents. First off, she’s technically 100% right — the movie was riddled with weakness and flaws: the acting was atrocious (Vanessa Hudgens is a Golden Raspberry frontrunner), the writing overwrought and confusing, and the plot… well, I’m not sure writer/director Zack Snyder even understood the “plot”. However, truth be told, I have to say I can’t not recommend this movie for anyone who ever read comics, played Dungeons & Dragons, stays up all night playing XBox, or has ever even considered going to Comic Con. Why? Because truth be told, Zack Snyder hits so many Fanboy sweetspots, so relentlessly and masterfully, that you’d be a fool to miss seeing Sucker Punch in full cinematic glory.
Now again, I repeat — Madeleine’s review was spot on. On paper, everything was wrong — too much crying, the fighting physics and special effects were a little off at times, the dialogue wooden and wracked with cliches, the morals heavyhanded and the different “levels” convoluted and absolutely unexplained. But when you’ve got a giant mech blasting holes in zombie Nazi soldiers (yes, they were zombies and Nazis… even tho all the aircraft and grenades were from WWI), the best CGI dragon ever brought to film (until The Hobbit comes out, that is), and a slew of girls dressed up in schoolgirl outfits (Japanese schoolgirl outfits at that) slicing up giant robot samurais and lecherous pedophiles, well, you’ve got my attention.
The weird thing is, because of that paradox I found myself volleying back and forth between declaring this the greatest fantasy film ever made to thinking it was the worst piece of shit since X-Men 3 — usually after Scott Glenn delivered another horrendous fortune cookie truism (“If you don’t stand for anything, you’ll fall for nothing” — really?). Snyder was obviously trying to import on his film some gravitas, some Yoda-In-a-Miniskirt wisdom, but he simply doesn’t have the writing talent. When Zack Snyder is directing words written by Frank Miller and Alan Moore he’s a genius. When Zack Snyder is directing words written by Zack Snyder, he’s a ham-fisted clod.
The one nagging doubt that kept popping back in my head while watching this film was this: did Snyder really care about all the Fanboy Tropes he was paying homage to, or was he simply appropriating them? Giving us all a visual thrill without any allegiance to the essence of why we actually love these tropes? Was he just copy-and-pasting jpegs from nerd sites into After Effects and letting the animators have a go at it? I don’t know for sure, but I don’t think so. Why? Because I truly believe Snyder gets it. I don’t think you can pull off 300, nevermind the incredibly dense Watchmen, if you don’t get it. Hell, you wouldn’t even try to film the “unfilmmable” Watchmen if you didn’t get it. You’d just pull a Brett Ratner and steal someone else’s franchise. Why challenge yourself?
But in the end Snyder gives every categorical Fanboy what they want, delivering each fringe genre in self-contained (and sometimes mixed) levels, or dreams. (Or stripteases, if I’m at all understanding the film.) There’s the manga/ninja feudal Japan level, the steampunk mech level, the Dungeons & Dragons level, and even, regrettably, the robot/Blade Runner future level (which should be removed entirely from the film it was so unspeakably bad… growling robots?). And yes, like I said the animation isn’t perfect and there’s some CGI physics that are off, but when Sweet Pea is slicing a zombie’s head off or Blondie is hanging from a WWII bomber shooting a Gatling gun while zeppelins explode and crash in the background or Baby Doll is putting a samurai sword through the skull of a dragon, I bet you’ll find yourself smiling. Sure, it’ll be erased 2 minutes later when the “plot” kicks back in, but really with Sucker Punch, who gives a fuck.
Oh yeah, and it has a soundtrack. Check it out, or not. I don’t care.