So first of all, a disclaimer. I don’t think I eeeveeerrr want to see Sucker Punch again. But this doesn’t stop me from ranking my trip to see it last March as the best cinema “experience” I’ve had since I saw Avatar. Now don’t stop reading thinking I’ve been replaced with a pre-pubescent fool, allow me to explain.
To provide a little background, I saw Sucker Punch on a wet Friday afternoon on one of Canada’s largest cinema screens (the Scotiabank theatre’s “UltraAVX experience” – wow… the ability to pick your seat and recline a wee bit). I had a bag of skittles and a litre of coke to keep me company. Did someone say sugar rush? Oh and I didn’t have to pay for any of this as I had a free pass.
But let’s put these extenuating circumstances aside and get down to the proverbial brass tacks. Sucker Punch’s declared production budget was $82m and it took in a world gross of $89m. Take in the money that will have been spent by the publicity department (presumably about $20m) and it’s going to take a considerable amount of DVD, On-demand and Bluray sales for Warner Bros to consider it as profitable.
Zach Snyder’s other two spring hits – 300 and Watchmen – had both received mixed reviews but went on to make good money at the box office. Sucker Punch is a very different beast though. Based on Znyder’s first original story and screenplay, it tells the story of a teenage girl, Baby Doll, who is committed to a mental institution by her father. To avoid this new reality she creates an alternate world using the people around her as characters in her imaginary escape plan. Fun stuff!
To say things are stylised is like saying The Wizard of Oz is a little camp. The hospital world is dark and decrepit while the fantasy sequences that Baby Doll and her female cohorts fight through look like some of the prettiest computer game cut scenes you’ve ever seen. That’s not to do them a dis-service, in fact quite the opposite. These sequences are jaw-dropping in their scope – the CGI composition and skimpy outfits on show combining to create the ultimate 12-year-0ld boy’s fantasy. You can argue until the cows come home over whether all this is an empty misogynous mess or an empowering experimental film, but at least Snyder is pushing the boat out a little. TimeOut Chicago’s Sam Adams puts it better than I could…
Snyder has reached into his soul, a dusty trunk filled with Victoria’s Secret catalogs, disassembled action figures, and a worn-out VHS of Brazil. That’s what artists do, even when they ought to know better.
To try and get a handle on what we’ve treated to over the course of the two hour running time, grab a mixing bowl and throw in music videos from the 90s, manga, world war II movies, medievil fantasy fight sequences, softcore pornography and some graphic novels. Now put this mixing bowl on the ground and jump up and down on it. Hell, if you’ve got a car take it outside and run it over a few times. You’ve not got some indication of the amount of references and styles thrown in here.
I think it’s quit easy to work out where it all went wrong for Snyder and Warner Bros. People placed too much focus on the failings of the script and were reluctant to just let themselves get lost in these multiple realities. It has to rank as one of the most misunderstood films of the year. Much like we now acknowledge Eraserhead, Labyrinth or Akira for the influential risk-taking pictures that they were, I genuinely think that Sucker Punch is the kind of movie that could be discussed in film schools across the world twenty years from now as epitomising Hollywood cinema – for good and bad – in 2011.
The escapism, visual stylings, ambition and seriouslywe’rejusthavingalaugh on display is mind-boggling and sold me from the opening sequence right through to the final escape. 100% style over substance – and proud of it.
Zach Snyder is currently directing the next Superman movie – Man of Steel – which comes out in mid 2013. I hope it’s even more insane than this…