Review: ‘Sucker Punch’ is Live-Action Anime That’s All Shine and No Substance

Zack Snyder’s return to (mostly) live action hits screens today, bringing to life the fetishistic dreams of many a teenage boy as a mostly female cast in anime-inspired garb storm through mind of the troubled Babydoll, battling dragons, orcs, and samurai.

On paper it sounds pretty amazing: sexy young actresses, plenty of firearms, the directing of Zack Snyder, wild nightmare action sequences, and a minimum amount of leather inspired clothing. In small doses, say in trailers and commercial spots, the film looks amazing. Fast paced action, again the sexy ladies, and amazing, lush digital sets, brimming with fireballs and bullet hits. Then some slow motion, and some fast motion and some slow motion again.

By now you’re probably starting to predict where I’m going. I said it’s amazing in small doses and in paper, but how is it stretched out to two hours?
If you guessed “not that great” then you saw right through me. I, like many of you, had high hopes when I settled in for Sucker Punch. Watchmen was as good a movie as a Watchmen movie could ever be and 300
was a stylistic dick chop that reinvigorated the action genre – and its sword and sandal epic cousin.

Sucker Punch is filled to the brim with Snyder’s particular brand of direction: fast motion, slow motion, brilliant colors, and frantic action. In these moments, the movie is like crack for your eyes – addictive, engaging, and cool as shit. The action sequences are visually spectacular and will quite possibly explode off the IMAX screen and damage your retinas with just how much cool stuff is going on.

If you’re looking for live action anime, then look no further. From the Japanese inspired locations to the weaponry and costumes, this is the stuff come to life. Unfortunately, it’s not one of the great animes come to life. It’s one of the mediocre ones that’s cool to look at, with no story to speak of.

You see, much like a hot but stupid girl, a movie can’t just look good to be good. When the group of girls isn’t drop kicking zombies, hunting dragons, or machine gunning robots, there isn’t much to keep your interest.

Written by first timer Steve Shubiya, a school chum of Snyder’s, based on Snyder’s original idea, there are plenty of characters with no depth and plenty of story with no plot. The film literally seems to play out as a list of things that would be cool to see in a movie, glued together with a kindergarten paste of a mental institution plot.

Like Inception-lite, the film begins almost silently with Babydoll (Emily Browning) undergoing a traumatic situation that winds up with her institutionalized. Once there she immediately enters a dream world to escape the horrors of the situation, though that dream world is equally horrific, so she enters into yet another dream world – the one where the ass kicking is.

Again, while the ass-kicking is kicking, the film is pretty cool. However, in either of the other worlds of the film, the story and dialog are weak and muddled. When the film reaches its conclusion, no matter what the voice-over says, you feel somewhat cheated over what just happened.

All the pretty ladies do what they’re paid to do – look pretty. Emily Browning does well flipping over things in slow motion and carries a lot of emotion in her face. Vanessa Hudgens is barely there as the brunette Blondie, though she does throw a mean hatchet. Abbie Cornish and Jena Malone star as sisters Sweet Pea and Rocket respectively, and deliver most of the note worth acting – Malone in particular. Jamie Chung rounds out the group as Amber, who looks hot flying planes, but doesn’t get much else to do. Also in the cast is the beautiful Carla Gugino working through a thick polish accent and Jon Hamm who is on screen for maybe five minutes and manages to deliver about four minutes of awkward dialog. The real winner of the acting award though goes to Oscar Isaac as Blue Jones, who manages to pull off a suitably charming, sniveling, dangerous, humorous villain, maximizing the creep and evil with a great performance and an equally great mustache.

When it comes down to it, Sucker Punch is all looks and no brain, pure adolescent boner fuel. This film will most likely be very popular with many young males who’ll be content to whack off to any of the beautiful girls and overlook the inability of the film to push forward anything interesting in terms of plot. If all you want is glitz and spectacle, you can sit through Sucker Punch long enough to enjoy the cool samurai warriors, the awesomely epic World War I zombie warfare, and the run-away robot train battle. Despite how cool those things sound, I found myself a bit bored by the repetition of “need something-dream-kill stuff.”

I feel like Sucker Punch is pretty much a literal translation of a Snyder dream to the screen. Maybe this movie would have been better served a few years from now, after Snyder achieved a level of fame and admiration that dictated a film that just explored what it’s like to live in that brain of his. As it stands though, Snyder doesn’t yet interest me enough to surrender two hours to his visions if they’re not bound together with some semblance of an interesting storyline.

The Up Side: Tremendous visuals and some excellent action sequences throughout.

The Down Side: The dream within a dream within a dream nature of the film falls flat, as does the story, plot, and ending.

On the Side: Emily Browning recorded several tracks that appear both in the film and on the soundtrack.

Robert Fure is many things: horror expert, ruggedly handsome man of the world, witty prose composer, and writer of his own biography page. Beneath the bravado is a scared little boy, ready to grow into an awesome man and make lies about a scared little boy inside of him. Wait a minute...

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