Suckerpunch Review

Lost for words.

That’s how Zach Snyder’s new and rather fantastical adventure flick Suckerpunch left me.

And neatly encapsulates the film and its directors achilles heel to boot.

A baroque stage frames the opening scene, evoking images of burlesque shows and setting the visual tone for Snyder’s first original screenplay.

The films ludicrously melodramatic introduction rapidly establishes “Babydoll” as this particular story’s fair heroine; using overly emotive language and imagery to hammer home the desperate and traumatic situation she finds herself in.

Locked up against her will in a mental institution by a cartoon caricature of a stepfather who may very well have stepped straight off a pantomime stage, Babydoll tries to distance herself from her painful truth by creating a new reality to exist in.

Fortunately for every teenage boy in the audience, this alternate reality happens to be set in a brothel; thereby creating the flimsy premise for a host of beautiful young women to spend the rest of the film running around in their underwear.

Snyder isn’t satisfied by this mind; within her imaginary and hyper sexualised new world, Babydoll escapes into a third layer of existence that’s even more fantastical then the last.

Here she meets “Wiseman”, a mentor whose every clichéd utterance mocks his own name, who convinces Babydoll to fight against the seemingly insurmountable obstacles and gargantuan monsters found in this fantasy world.

When she steps back down to her second level of reality, Babydoll plots her escape; inspiring a group of similarly disaffected and gorgeous looking girls to earn their freedom from the mental institute by joining her rebellion against their captors.

Confused yet? I bally well help so, because this is the ridiculous storyline that Zach Snyder has smoked up for Suckerpunch.

Rarely pausing for breath, let alone thought, Suckerpunch is a graphic assault on the senses; bombarding the viewer with wave after wave of rich visual language, appropriately accompanied by bombastic sound effects and musical score.

Only problem being Snyder appears to have forgotten to engage his brain, or anyone else’s who watches Suckerpunch.

Delivering narrative and context through imagery rather than words, Snyder tries to make the audience connect with his characters without ever attempting to form a plausible storyline.

The ridiculous contrast between the stunningly attractive actresses and obscenely grotesque men they are forced to fawn over is very calculated, yet it’s never clear what this two dimensional view is supposed to illustrate.

After a half hour Q & A session with Snyder, I’m not sure he knows either.

Snyder tries to deflect accusations of exploitation and sexism that have engulfed Suckerpunch on the other side of the Atlantic; claiming his film actually empowers women.

For anyone who’s watched Suckerpunch and its gratuitous depictions of female characters, this is probably the most fantastical moment of the evening.

Which is quite impressive, given what Snyder’s competing with.

Of course, I’d be lying if I said the thought of watching a string of beautiful actresses cavorting around in provocative clothing didn’t appeal to me.

I just wouldn’t pretend I’m a feminist while doing this.

Perhaps I don’t understand how a woman who dresses up as any number of the male fantasy figures that are constantly paraded throughout Suckerpunch empowers them, because I’m not a woman.

I do know what I’d think of a male character who was portrayed as such in film though, and empowerment wouldn’t be one of the first words I’d choose to describe it.

Not even close.

It would have been refreshing if Snyder had been honest and just admitted he wanted to make a film with really hot actresses running around in their underwear all day.

No shame in that.

Well, maybe there is.

But denying this is your motivation is far worse.

Snyder even tries to pass responsibility for his hyper sexualised depictions of women in his film onto us, the intended audience, by claiming this is what we expect to see.

Of course, after spending half an hour listening to his ideas, it’s fair to say coherent thought isn’t one of Snyder’s natural gifts.

What he can do is communicate through visual language more verbosely than any other director I can think of.

I still don’t really know what to make of Suckerpunch; it’s a very peculiar experience to have your eyes and ears constantly stimulated by graphic sights and sounds for two hours without ever having to think.

About anything.

It’s even possible Snyder’s created a new genre of film with Suckerpunch; who needs plot and narrative structure when the Imax screen in front of you is saturated with such beautifully realised imagery?

Still, it’s hard to escape the feeling that Snyder cooked up the perfect name for his vanity project.

Jonathan Campbell

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Dates ‘n stuff

April 2011