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SUCKER PUNCH: A ‘MIRACLE’ IN VISUALS, YET A ‘CATASTROPHE’ IN WRITING!
Okay, so after a full eight hours of sleep, deciding whether or not I can give this film a pass simply because of its visual magnificence, I’ve decided I cannot. However, that doesn’t mean that I didn’t like the film, because I did (I’m a sucker for visuals!). But even with that said, I will still be forced to admit the obvious here...the film’s ONLY saving grace is the fact that Zack Snyder and his cinematography/effects team are so damn good at the ‘look’ to their films!
(“Snyder also added that he enjoys the freedom of filming his own original script.” –Sucker Punch Wikipedia)
Oh my...how should I put this? It is very difficult to criticize the work of someone whose talent I adore so much...someone whose work I’m, literally, a fiend for. But the truth must be told here–Zack Snyder’s true gift lies in the craft of direction. He made unforgivable mistakes in his screenplay. It’s not the dialogue I’m speaking of...it’s the story.
Rule #1 in Story: DON’T EVER, EVER INTRODUCE A NONSENSICAL MIRACLE AT THE END OF YOUR TALE TO RESCUE YOUR CHARACTERS! There is a character called ‘the Wise Man,’ who suddenly makes an appearance at the end of the film–a scene, which nearly made me go postal I was so furious at it! First off, this particular character is a figment of another character’s imagination–‘Baby Doll’ (Emily Browning). It was fine for Baby Doll to receive inspiration from him within the deep recesses of her mind, as it’s normal to retreat within oneself in the midst of horrific circumstances. However...IT MAKES ABSOLUTELY NO SENSE FOR HIM TO APPEAR AT THE END OF THE FILM (IN THE ‘REAL WORLD’) OUTSIDE OF THE IMAGINARY WORLD IN WHICH HE WAS CREATED! Though this mistake is likely to drive a number of people crazy, believe it or not, it isn’t even the worst one of the film.
Another calamity within the tale that really got under my skin would have been the instance in which Blondie, Vanessa Hudgens’ character, WILLINGLY SPILLS THEIR PLAN OF ESCAPE TO THE PEOPLE THAT THEY ARE PLOTTING AGAINST! Zack...seriously? First, you portray Blondie as this confident bad ass, who is capable of magnificent feats within Baby Doll’s fantasy world, but then, in the ‘real world,’ she turns out to be weak, spineless, and dumb as a rock! In no way does this fit with any of the information you presented beforehand...I felt like you lied to the audience. When working on a story in the future, know this–such information should be TORTURED out of a character, not willingly given up! If you’re still not convinced of my point, let me give you an example: a story that takes place within the African American slavery period. If it’s a story involving Nat Turner (the baddest ass slave in history, who led a revolt, resulting in 56 white deaths–men, women, and children), can you imagine him being weak enough to run to his owner and say, “Masta, Masta, we tryin’ to escape...we gon’ kill all ya’ll tonight...don’t go to sleep, cuz’ you gon’ regret it!” What you did with Blondie’s character was, literally, on that level of ridiculousness!
And this brings me to my last point–the protagonist. (Only the most skilled writers can completely switch protagonists in a story, and do it in such a manner without upsetting the audience.) At the end of the story, Baby Doll, the heroin you believe in, the person that you’ve invested emotion in and want to succeed, is suddenly sacrificed, and you’re given a replacement protagonist–‘Sweet Pea’ (portrayed by Abbie Cornish). The problem is that you don’t give a crap about Sweet Pea, because the focus has been on Baby Doll the entire time. I don’t know what Zack was thinking when he wrote that particular ‘switch’ in the story, especially since he hadn’t given us ANY background information on her! Well, I guess he would say that he did give us a background on her through dialogue given in a mix of scenes, involving her or her sister, Rocket (Jena Malone). The thing is, dialogue can never match the effect of being taken directly to a scene to witness background information with your own two eyes. This is one of the very reasons why we felt much closer to Baby Doll–we saw her history, and therefore we know what her biggest regret is...we know where her deepest hate lies...and we know what it was that landed her in a corrupt psychiatric hospital. We cannot say the same for Sweet Pea, and this is why the audience cared nothing about her, and this is definitely why she should not have been made heroin!
And I hate to throw another jab in here, but with regards to the source of Baby Doll’s hate, which I mentioned above, why is there no justice for him? Her rapist, gold-digging stepfather was one of the most evil S.O.Bs in the story, and he’s the reason that Baby Doll ended up in the hospital in the first place! So, why in the hell is his character abandoned as soon as he signs her over to the hospital? Inexcusable, Zack!
Writers, listen up (Zack Snyder included)–all films are about their ending...all of them! That is the point at which you cannot let your story go to pieces! No matter how magnificent a job you’ve done up to that point, if your ending fails everything you’ve done beforehand is forfeit. Please, remember that. Most of the Sucker Punch reviews I’ve read thus far have been written by inarticulate people, who only went on and on about ‘how much Sucker Punch sucked!’ They felt what I felt but have been unable to express it properly, so I’ve said these things for them. With that said, I must give Sucker Punch and “A+” for visuals, but an “F–” for story. I hate to seem mean, but it’s a god-awful screenplay...there’s no other way to put it.
(c) Marque Terrynamahr Strickland/2011