Living up to its simple name Sucker Punch, the latest film from director Zack Snyder, lulls you in with its gritty, stylized look and then makes off with your ten bucks about that many minutes into the film. Loosely throwing together a narrative of protagonist Babydoll's (played by Emily Browning) visions, the film explores her time in a mental institution through the mashed up fantasy worlds she imagines around her. Unlike his main character, Snyder's imagination sticks firmly to what he knows and goes back to his usual bag of tricks.
Slow-mo/bullet-time fight scenes, interesting looking characters (on the surface), and booming sound all make their expected appearances and take up a good portion of the film. Now these characteristics aren't inherently bad, but with the frequency Snyder uses them in his films it clearly shows a trading of substance in favor of creating his now brand name style. Not all markers of Snyderism are terrible though. Once again the viewer is treated to appealing visuals and an enjoyable soundtrack, with the mash up track of I Want It All/We Will Rock You being an example of what the film was going for, a combo that works.
Blending together elements of other genres; i.e. Steam-punk, zombies, dragons, samurai, robots, and assault weapons, Sucker Punch puts a bunch of "cool" things in one place and hopes for the best. The perfect analogy for the film is the former MTV show Pimp My Ride. On the show they would take a basic or tore up car and not only fix it up but add various odd ball elements that were meant to connect with the owner's taste, such as putting and aquarium in the car of someone who likes fish. Sure, it looks cool but it doesn't really make the car any better and one might argue even detracts from it with the extra attention such features would require. Sucker Punch is the same, in that all these elements look cool but don't really make the film work as a whole.
About now your probably thinking "but that's what they were going for, an over the top spectacle that doesn't need to make sense." On the contrary though, this film breaks up these action scenes with halfhearted dialogue and just enough self-empowering mantras to let you know they did try for some semi-balance of a complete film. Add to that its being marketed by the involved as some kind of feminine empowerment vehicle and you can't help but laugh at the absurdity and audacity of it all.
Before you write it off entirely though, it does have some redeeming qualities. The previously mentioned soundtrack and visual imagery are the for front of these. What can I say, it does look and sound cool. In addition, Oscar Isaac turns in quite a comical performance as Blue Jones, the de facto antagonist of the film. Outside of those few elements though, you're entering at your own risk.
Sucker Punch is a style over substance, action over story vehicle that I'm sure a lot of people will enjoy just not this reviewer. Overall, I give it two out of five stars though, as it had some moments and managed to stay out of Transformers 2 and The Last Air-bender territory. Check it out if you really can do with out a story in favor of coolness but otherwise look elsewhere for your film entertainment this weekend.