One has to wonder if Warner Brothers watched the box office receipts roll in from this past weekend and think, "oh, crap...we gave Superman to this guy?" Sucker Punch lost out to the second Diary of a Wimpy Kid film.
"This guy" is directer Zack Snyder and his film track record is a little sketchy...at least in the monetary sense. After helping revitalize the zombie genre with 2004's Dawn of the Dead, Snyder scored his biggest hit to date with 300, a stylish and bloody actioner. It's blue-screen heavy effects gave it the appropriate comic book adaptation feel. The daunting task of adapting legendary graphic novel Watchmen to the big screen divided critics and fans and did nothing to draw word of mouth viewers past the first weekend. I enjoyed it, flaws and all, but it was definitely not meant for mass-audience acceptance.
Sucker Punch drew me in on Snyder's repuatation and the dynamic visuals of the myriad trailers bombarding us for months. As a friend put it after seeing a commercial for the first time, "Is this one of those movies that nerds are going to jerk off to?"
Crude though it might be, her statement isn't far from the target audience Sucker Punch would seem to be aiming for...which is both its blessing and curse. It was naturally doomed to face critical derision and attacks on what might seem to be sexual pandering. It is little more than two hours of fanboy cliche and comic/manga sensibility...scantily clad cuties in sci-fi/fantasy action scenarios. When your lead character is platinum blonde with pigtails in a school girl outfit complete with sword, pistol, knee-highs and heels...well, Oscar screeners probably aren't in the cards.
Here's the thing, though...perhaps I am the target audience, because I rather enjoyed Sucker Punch on its shaky merits. I don't think a single trailer, poster or flashing internet ad ever implied it was anything more than pure eye candy. If you walk in with that mindset and patiently wait through the relatively short efforts at story between the action pieces, you might enjoy it, too.
What story there is wraps around doe-eyed Babydoll (Emily Browning), abused and labeled loco by big bad men and shipped off to an asylum where she meets similarly damaged women. Babydoll apparently copes with her imprisonment by sending her mind into flights of dynamic fancy (I'm not going to pretend I always understood where the blur of fantasy and reality truly occurred). These illusions (delusions?) are part of an escape plan and each scenario is key to finding something to facilitate it.
What the movie is truly about are the four vibrant, violent and endlessly kinetic action-fx sequences. Any of them could have been lifted from four different movies and possibly fared better as such. The first sequence, in which Babydoll faces off against giant samurai-esque warriors, is easily the most exciting and memorable.
Probably what ultimately sold me in the thumbs up column was the music. Clever covers of songs like "White Rabbit" and "Where Is My Mind?" along with Bjork's "Army of Me" pump extra life into the visuals.
Sucker Punch is far from perfect and while this nerd won't be pleasuring himself to it, he wasn't offended by its blatant attempt to appeal to the gamer/fanboy/overgrown teenager in me.
Warner Bros. probably isn't too worried about Supes, either. Some guy named Christopher Nolan is producing and he knows thing or two about comic book flicks.