Don’t always believe what you read. While the new Zack Snyder movie malarkey Sucker Punch has taken its punches and drubbings at the hands of the critics and public punditry that influence the ratings on Rotten Tomatoes, it actually ranks high on the fun-factor and guilty-pleasure indexes. Yes, the movie overreaches on many levels and underperforms by any scale of intelligence and artistry. But this visually hyperactive attempt at a psycho-fantasy yarn, a mutant merger of Shutter Island and Charlie’s Angels, also has a perverse attraction.
On the evidence of 300—a cinecartoony take on the Spartan war—and this nutty pastiche project, Snyder seems like a modern-day entertainment machine weaned on comic books and computer games. But he also seems to have had a distracted and marginal interest in history, at least in terms of the potential for staging conflicts in various battle zones throughout history—one of the shticks in his latest project.
Apparently, a new narrative window on outrageous plot twists is ye old insane asylum, if we’re to believe Shutter Island and this entertaining hokum. Our charming and soon-to-be kickass protagonist (Emily Browning), abused by her stepfather, is committed to a gray and gothic institution in Vermont: naturally, a dank, squalid, and forbidding landscape of terrors. The plot and FX budget thicken considerably once Snyder gets inside his heroine’s addled mind and injects a fantastical subplot involving scantily clad girl posses who wield heavy artillery and take no prisoners. Boom goes trench warfare in WWI, boom a medieval castle with a mean-mofo fire-breathing dragon, boom a hellbent bullet train on Saturn, boom goes Snyder’s childlike imagination and love of things that go boom.
At best, Sucker Punch may ultimately enter the dubious achievement zone of cult classics, joining films like Showgirls (another movie peopled with lissome young gals) as examples of cinema so bad it loops around to being, potentially, inversely enjoyable kitsch. You may find yourself with a headache from eye-rolling, but with the right low expectations and spirit of cartoon-flavored silliness, Sucker Punch won’t leave you yawning or watch-checking.