Incoherent Fantasies

Eye candy aside, Zack Snyder's latest movie is a strange, brutal slog

Director Zack Snyder has made good movies based upon graphic novels (Watchmen, 300) and children's books (Legends of the Freaking Creepy Owls), and has even shown that he's adept at remakes. (His Dawn of the Dead is a blast.)

With Sucker Punch, Snyder is using his own original screenplay. The movie is sad proof that he is much better off working with other people's material.

While the film is visually exciting and sometimes even dazzling, the story's framework is an absolute mess. The film features bland cartoon characters that give the viewer little to root for. It looks and plays like a video game—except that video games are often quite fun and peppy, whereas Sucker Punch is a brutal slog.

The story follows Baby Doll (Emily Browning), a young woman committed to an insane asylum by her stepfather after she accidentally kills her sister, in slow motion, during a very stylistically shot rainstorm. In the asylum, characters are introduced that will play parts in the alternate universes that Baby Doll creates in her mind to escape the horrors of an impending lobotomy ... or something like that.

In her main fantasy world, Baby Doll is working at a place that might be a brothel. I say "might," because Snyder is forced to be ambiguous about just what it is that Baby Doll and her friends are doing when they're not scrubbing floors and chopping onions—thanks to the desire to keep a PG-13 rating.

At the maybe-brothel, Baby Doll is often asked to dance, because she's really, really good at dancing. However, Snyder employs a strange trick in that whenever Baby Doll starts to dance, her mind takes off to another alternate universe, where she and her girlfriends (Jena Malone, Abbie Cornish, Vanessa Hudgens and Jamie Chung) are superheroes who fight everything from dragons to zombie German soldiers.

Whether or not Browning can actually dance remains to be seen. However, we do know that she is mighty capable of running around in the snow with a samurai sword whilst her quite- glorious bellybutton is fully exposed.

The crux of the film has to do with women trying to escape from male tyranny ... or something like that. The women have to gather five separate items, including a map, something to make fire, and a knife. It's like Snyder went to a kindergartener and asked he or she to map out a treasure-hunt movie in purple crayon.

While Browning and Cornish do decent work, just about everybody else is tough to watch. Hudgens, trying to dirty up her image after High School Musical, shows no talent. Malone overacts with almost every word she is given to say, and Carla Gugino, playing some sort of psychiatrist/madam, clearly went to the Cloris Leachman School for Frau Blucher Acting. Her accent is intolerable.

Scott Glenn shows up as some sort of guide for Baby Doll and the girls when they are in the super-video-game fantasy world ... or something like that. It's the sort of role that would've been given to David Carradine had the man not gotten a little carried away with himself a couple of years ago.

Apparently, Snyder intended for the film to have some full-scale music-and-dance numbers, which had to be removed for various reasons. He's saying these scenes will be restored for a "director's cut." I'm thinking these scenes will make an already messy film even messier.

Snyder is currently at work on the next Superman movie, with Henry Cavill as the Man of Steel and Amy Adams as Lois Lane. Warner Bros., which released Sucker Punch and will be releasing the next Superman film, must be concerned about the lack of substance here—and the fact Sucker Punch was beaten by Diary of a Wimpy Kid 2 at the box office last weekend.

Let's hope Snyder's take on Superman is a little more coherent than Sucker Punch, and that Vanessa Hudgens is refused any role in the film.

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