I’ve never really had anything bad to say about Zach Snyder in the past. I found his remake of Dawn of the Dead passable (it’s a tall order to stand toe-to-toe with Romero’s classic, so he should take “passable” as a compliment), and his next two films, 300 and Watchmen, were admirable adaptations, yet one suspects they succeeded largely by virtue of their adherence to the source material. Granted, Watchmen did deviate from it’s source in relation to the ending, but I’ll blaspheme and suggest that this improved upon the original, doing away with the cheesier aspects of the “Architects of Fear” climax native to the comic (That’s right, comic; If you wanna be a pretentious asshole and call it a graphic novel because you can’t accept that “funny books” can be art, then you shouldn’t be reading them). I’ve never seen his “sword & sorcery & owls” film, Legend of the Guardians, but I hear surprisingly good things. That, too, was an adaptation. Soon one began to wonder what the director would do if allowed to pen and shoot a film purely of his own design, which brings us to Sucker Punch. Here Snyder was given full reign to do as he wished, complete with upwards of $80 million to do it with. What have we (and likely the higher ups at Warner Bros.) learned from this little experiment? Never do that shit again. Zack Snyder cannot create without a blueprint, or perhaps just won’t, because that’s not really what he’s done here. He’s borrowed from countless previous works of film and literature (Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Kill Bill and Moulin Rouge to name a few) and generically regurgitated current genre infatuations (gun porn, steampunk, mecha), then half-assedly duct taped it all together with a plot that simultaneously objectifies and sympathises with the victimization of its female cast and his trademark editing style (slow it down, speed it up, repeat).
The film follows Baby Doll (Emily Browning), who is wrongfully imprisoned in an asylum following the accidental death of her kid sister, the result of Baby’s attempt to stop their stepfather from molesting them. Orderly and part-time rapist Blue (Oscar Issac) agrees to fudge the paperwork so Baby Doll will be lobotomized later that week. At this point, the film shifts to Baby’s perspective, and as her mind crumbles under the weight of her predicament, she re-envisions the asylum as a brothel, with Blue cast as a villainous pimp, while she and the rest of the mental patients (Abbie Cornish, Jena Malone, Vanessa Hudgens and Jamie Chung) are seen as cabaret performers and sex workers. Baby and the others hatch a plan to gain their freedom, the major points of which are seen as a series of over-the-top battles that takes the girls from the combating undead Germans in trenches of WW I to slaying dragons in a fantasy-themed universe. Throughout their trials, they are aided by the Wise Man (Scott Glen) in their quest to recover the items needed to make their escape, before the mysterious High Roller (Jon Hamm) comes to take Baby away (in actuality the doctor coming to perform the lobotomy).