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Sucker Punch: An Interesting Failure

The WW I scene is crazy fun, but the two follow-ups don’t proceed with any kind of theme or thought except the seeming goal to borrow visual elements from as many fantasy blockbusters as Snyder can squeeze in. The second big battle finds the girls on a WW II-era bomber and the third puts them on a Vietnam-era chopper, but any suspicions that Snyder has something to say about the history of American overseas military operations are quickly stomped out by the parade of dragons and robots the girls so mightily conquer.

The more Snyder keeps amping up the action, with swordfights and shootouts and ear-shattering electronica covers of classic stoner songs like "Tomorrow Never Knows" and "White Rabbit," the less involving the story gets. The baddies in the set pieces are just a boring, interchangeable array of faceless, easily slain automatons. When the girls go up against dozens of silvery robots that recall both I, Robot and Terminator 2, it turns out these weaklings can literally be sliced up with swords. What is scary about that? These blast-em-all sequences become unforgivably repetitive.

After a while, I just wanted to get back to the asylum/theater, but the excitement runs thin there too. Snyder is completely incapable of, or at least uninterested in, developing plot and character through dialogue, so the dramatis personae amount to a noble innocent (Babydoll), a group of sidekicks (the other girls), and the sweaty, nefarious gang of interchangeable villains. One of them, a troll-like mayor the girls must dance for, doesn’t even get anything to say. Instead Snyder lovingly realizes the slo-mo descent of a clump of ash from his cigar. A major weakness is that the only antagonist who says anything much, the chief of the asylum/theater, is a major bore. The actor playing him, a nonentity called Oscar Isaac, doesn’t register as even sinister enough to play a floor manager in Casino.

Just to rub it in, Sucker Punch trails off into a muddled and downbeat final scene. We can only hope that Snyder is wise enough (as George Lucas was not, in the most recent trilogy of Star Wars movies) to recognize that he is a visual artist, not a writer, as he prepares to reboot Superman.