Originally Published: April 13, 2011, on Screened.com

I remember growing up painting with watercolors and I always used to love mixing my favorite colors to make new ones. There was one time though when I tried to mix all my colors and all that ended up doing was make black. No color. Devoid of the vibrancy and energy that you could get when mixing just a red with a blue or a red and yellow. So I couldn’t blame Zack Snyder when I heard Sucker Punch was going to be a movie that combined zombie Nazis, killer robots, fire-breathing dragons, and half-naked hot chicks (only trumped of course by fully naked hot chicks). But knowing all this, I also knew that it was going to take some real move magic to keep this from just becoming a bland, boring experience that happens when you combine too many elements and stray too far from the basics like plot and character development.

A 20-year old girl simply known as “Baby Doll” (Emily Browning) is institutionalized in an insane asylum after accidentally shooting her sister in an attempt to prevent her from being molested by their step-father. In the hopes of collecting the inheritance the girls were to receive after their mother’s passing, the step-father greases some palms in order to have a doctor (Jon Hamm) rush to the asylum and perform a lobotomy on the grief stricken Baby Doll. In order to help cope with her gruesome fate, Dr. Vera Gorski (Carla Gugino) helps Baby Doll to retreat to a fantasy world where she is able to open up and begin to lay out a master plan of escape for herself and four other girls she befriends in the asylum, Rocket (Jena Malone), Amber (Jamie Chung), Blondie (Vanessa Hudgens), and Sweet Pea (Abbie Cornish).

Unfortunately, even with this more than capable cast, Zack Snyder’s first foray into film with a completely original script is exactly what I feared, a hodgepodge of great elements and pieces that simply don’t mesh well when mixed altogether and ends up becoming bland and predictable. In fact, after the first ten minutes I was able to piece together exactly how the rest of the movie would go and this made the remaining 99 minutes a bore-fest that pushed the limits of my digital watch’s battery as I kept checking it on average every five minutes to see how much more of this poor attempt at sensory overload I had to endure.

After Baby Doll creates her alternate world in order to cope with her situation, the plan she comes up with gives the film a hint of a cheap heist movie as her and her sexy cohorts must go around and collect certain items from the asylum in order to orchestrate their escape. While doing this, Baby Doll creates a new world within her coping mechanism world each time and so her quest for fire pits her against fire-breathing dragons and her quest for a map puts her in some twisted WWII trenches against Nazi zombies. Although each sequence is action-packed and cinematically beautiful, they feel more like prolonged video game cut scenes and the fact that Baby Doll must do this repeatedly makes the movie as a whole feel like you’re watching someone play one long fetch-quest in a crappy RPG.

On top of this, the tragic fate that comes for some of the characters falls on an uncaring audience because it seems that in taking the time to make sure his use of licensed music fit with the action scenes he was creating, Snyder neglected to develop any of his characters. In fact, there seems to be such little connection with the audience to these characters that there are points in the movie where you don’t know if you should be hoping for the half-naked heroines success or actually rooting for them to fail just to liven up this one dimensional film foray.

There are some small positives to Sucker Punch though. Sucker Punch could be a prime example in a college film editing class of how to do things properly as I won’t deny that Snyder’s signature cinematography, special effects, and use of licensed music were again well implemented throughout the film, but at this juncture these technical points have almost become an industry standard and so shouldn’t blow you away by any means.

Aside from this, Sucker Punch really just falls flat. What was supposed to be a movie that kept you guessing and came at you from various angles, much like the maneuver for which the movie takes its name, is nothing more than a predictable waste of time that tries to distract you with bright lights and beautiful women in order to cover up its glaring lack of plot, character development, and originality.

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