Maybe no one should have talked during Sucker Punch, then movie audiences would have grasped the film is nothing more than a glorious, rambunctious mind trip. That’s all it needs to be, characterization simple, solidified by Zack Snyder’s use of a slow motion montage in the opening moments, probably the only director who can still get away with it in this post-Matrix Hollywood.
It’s nearly impossible to get across what Snyder was doing with this material in words. Once a mechanized samurai begins towering through a building, Baby Doll (Emily Browning) flipping, spinning, and slicing it to pieces, Sucker Punch never slows down. She’s using her imagination, something she never had a real chance to do as a child thanks to an overbearing stepfather, the set-up one step away from Cinderella in a way. In this version, it’s about orcs, knights, nazi steam-powered zombies, and robots instead of pumpkins.
The film is a little bit of everything, loud, at times obnoxious, glorious in the extreme, physical, violent, and adding a dash of titillation just because. Sucker Punch is one part anime absurdity held up by equal parts video game absurdity, although not for the “video game generation” as we know it. Snyder holds his cuts, the effects sequences lavishly sweeping around, unafraid to keep the camera in place and rolling as CG creatures explode into a flurry of dust. It’s refreshingly clean viewing, appreciating its own work and visual panache as Baby Doll escapes her mental confinement.
Almost nothing is real in this world, even the set-up of Baby believing she’s in some sort of burlesque show (with a little extra) is all her own, the degraded mental facility the only thing she knows. The director’s cut adds a volatile 18-minutes, mostly to the action where it belongs. It gives the actresses physicality more screen time, their efforts and training paying off as they rip through mountains of made-up villains as they attempt to escape from the hell they’ve found themselves in.
These are girls with guts and bravado, dressed for sex appeal because sex sells sure, but considering what it’s trying to be, it fits. As mental escapism, they’re viewed as sex objects in reality. As a live action piece of Japanese animation, it’s always been the norm for school girls to go on a rampage, fighting evil or kicking with the best of them. In video games, it’s Lara Croft, a sexy British diva with every means to an end, no fear. Even in their reality, the girls are fighters, seeking their freedom against ruthless male oppressors, continuing even after their own are taken down when their plan is uncovered.
They each see themselves as a heroes, not victims. They’re fighting for more than themselves, just presenting it as some of the widest, sharpest screen spectacle in years. It’s unrelenting just like the girls and Snyder’s yearn for additional absurd, intense, and lavish effects.
For all of it’s imagination and creativity, there’s always something to bring Sucker Punch back in line with everything else these days in Hollywood: Orange and teal. All of the flair, slow motion, dramatic edits, and splashy viewpoints feel wasted when you fail to use an ounce of those same creative juices to make it look fresh. Someday, we’ll look back on this trend and laugh at what a wasted opportunity (visually) this era of film was. It’s a shame Sucker Punch joined in.
Everywhere else, it’s a marvel, a Warner encode that is pleasingly granted a high bitrate, while capturing a pure, coarse grain structure without fault. Even a few dramatic spikes are chewed up and spit out without looking back. The myriad of visual effects have limited impact too, and if anything, give the film a staggering sense of pure fidelity. The war sequence as the girls are dropped into a fantastical World War II featured devastated structures, aerial battles, zeppelins, and ground troops, all rendered to absolute perfection.
In close, facial detail is dominant, astoundingly defined at times and consistent in its texture. Sharpness is pure and natural, not even close to being considered artificial. Despite the plethora of digital work, not an ounce of the film appears un-film like. Colors outside of the dreaded familiar hues are fantastic, carrying a warmth or a coolness that suits the material and provides some saturation.
Black levels are nothing short of flawless, capturing a dynamic between them and the at times bright, hot contrast. The image is simply loaded with dimensionality, pure and rich. It never loses those qualities, again impressive considering how much is going on and how often. Sucker Punch in HD never seems to be struggling to present the material in any deficient way, and the end result is a spectacle of format potential.
Pick an action scene and just go. This is a new demo disc no matter what your old one was, a heartless, mean-spirited mix that could care less about other people, property, or living situations. The goal is to blow the listener away with pure, untouched, tight bass, ridiculously strong, accurate surround tracking, and some added flair because well, it can.
Every one of Baby Doll’s dreams/visions/thoughts are a magnet for the best home audio can offer. In the first as she goes one-on-three with the samurai, sword and bo staffs swing gracefully, the slow motion only making it easier to appreciate how smoothly transitions through the stereos and surrounds are. War time means mortar fire, planes diving overhead, blimps meeting their fate, rampant gunfire, and hiss as steam-driven Nazis meet their (hopefully) final end.
Into a battle of orcs and dragons we go, a sequence that seems to be tossing a middle finger at the Lord of the Rings films that don’t even carry half of the oomph this track does. Explosions, 50 cal machine gun fire (anything goes here), and the roar of flames as they spew from the mouth of an angry mother dragon are so pure it’s ridiculous.
You don’t even need the action scenes to impress though, the solemn lyrics (actually sung by Browning) of “Sweet Dreams” in the opening are wonderful, clear, and balanced beautifully with the instruments. Some bass being pushed from a hip-hop bit at 1:03:00 is punishing, devastating to anyone’s ears if they’re not ready for it… and that’s exactly why it’s awesome.
You’ll find two discs inside the case, one for the Theatrical cut, the other the extended version rightfully preferred. On the first, you’ll find animated shorts (really motion comics) focused on the fantastical action sequences that will forever remain the highlight of the main feature. Behind the Soundtrack is a brief bit on the music, quickly forgettable.
The extended cut holds the good stuff, a Maximum Movie Mode with constant input from Snyder as he chats about how they made the film while additional bits include stills, sketches, and other such fanfare. It’s glorious in its completeness, but it’s a shame you still can’t access the basic materials outside of the film.