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Blu-Ray Review: SUCKER PUNCH Is Horrendous, But The Package Is Great

If there was ever a film completely dominated by visuals and aesthetic it is Sucker Punch - unfortunately for the success of the film, that is to the detriment of audience's enjoyment - and that suits the transfer to high-definition perfectly.

I started my review of Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'hoole blu-ray with a statement that is just as appropriate here, given that this film offers the second half of the argument in that statement: there are two Zack Snyders. The first is the accomplished €œbig film€ maker, entrusted with the huge responsibility of rebooting Superman in what could well be that properties last chance for some time, and possessing an impressive visual style that can make his work stand out as unique and hugely creative. And the other is the brash, immature film-maker who makes "art" for himself, based on his various personal fantasies, which ends up being hyperbolic nonsense. And if you're wondering which one made Sucker Punch - the clue is in the fact that it boasts robot samurais, teenage girls in slutty schoolgirl outfits, Nazis and dragons. The plot runs a little like this: in a dystopian alter-reality a young girl is sent to a mental institution, and creates a two-tiered world of escapist fantasy in order to hide from the grim reality of her situation (sexually abusive stepfather, crooked orderly who has forged his way to Babydoll's lobotomy, further abuse in the asylum). Within those hyper-stylized realms she bands together with her fellow inmates, all re-imagined through the filter of her imagination as gun-toting, ultra-violent vigilantes dead-set on completing a series of missions in order to facilitate their escape from the institution in real life. It's more a vehicle than a plot really, and the holes are so obvious that it doesn't really hold up to anything more furtive than light digging, but that's sort of the point - Snyder has simply cobbled together a flimsy canvas on which to draw his fantasies. It's all set in layered dream-scapes, so conventional narrative rules don't apply (or any rules really - which is something Snyder is consciously pushing throughout) and it's not difficult to accept that the film isn't going to be governed or restrained by a rigidly defined plot. The heart of the problem is that Sucker Punch is arguably the most vulgar film I have ever clapped eyes on, thanks to it being no more than a glorified music video, designed to entice and entertain video game fans without the mental capacity to value a film for what facets traditionally contribute to movie greatness. There isn't an ounce of subtlety to it at all, and rather than be swept up in the imagination of the piece, or even knowingly smile along at the child-like pleasure of including dragons and giant trains and robot samurais, you come out at the end feeling drained and bludgeoned. I have to concede that it does look good, but style does not always make up for an entire lack of substance, or for a film that so thoroughly believes the value of its subject matter that its insistence becomes ridiculous. Sucker Punch is sort of the ultimate anti-pretentious film, it has the seem delusions of grandeur, but at its heart the message is so inherently lacking profundity that that insistence looks nothing short of ridiculous. Why is it all done with such po-faced urgency? Snyder appears to have succeeded in making a film all about escapism and fantasy, with huge scope and unbound, enthusiastic imagination and sucked all of the possible joy out of it. Yes there may be some value in mirroring the dichotomy of the captive girls' reality and their necessary escapism, but the director can't have it both ways - suggesting the grim reality and then fetishising the fantasy sequences to such an extent that it all becomes to perverse to really understand what his message was in the first place. If ever there was one. And by the way Snyder, giving a girl a gun and the ability to kick people's arses (predominantly men or masculine cyphers), dressing them in the slutty wardrobe of your seediest fantasies is not the same as empowering them. It is merely reinforced objectification, and in conjunction with the heavy action sequences, the urge for the audience to reduce these female characters to their composite body parts (and the sexy ones at the top of the list, obviously) is deliriously, distastefully obvious. Sucker Punch is the most visually obsessed film of this or any generation: it isn't just that Snyder is intent on creating a hyper-stylised aesthetic that looks entirely of itself, but his cinematography and design work fetishise the position of the audience as the voyeur. Playing on that traditionally safe relationship between audience and film, Snyder takes a leaf out of the horror genre's book by making us patently aware that we are captive, and by extension complicit viewers and he seems to revel in the juxtaposition of our discomfort with some of his subject matter and the gleefully encouraged escapism of the fantasy. it's a jarring experience, and it isn't pleasant. Not that I've ever wanted to, but I now feel a little too privy to exactly what Zack Snyder masturbates over. And I have to be honest, that's not a situation I ever want to enter into willingly or otherwise again. So on the whole then, the characters are undeveloped, the whole sorry affair is sexist (against both sexes) and the narrative is a bloody mess. But we knew this already - what really matters with this release is what has been done to atone for the problems with the film...

Quality

If there was ever a film completely dominated by visuals and aesthetic it is Sucker Punch - unfortunately for the success of the film, that is to the detriment of audience's enjoyment - and that suits the transfer to high-definition perfectly. The transfer is immaculate, textures and detail are both exceptional, and colours are vibrant and rich, even in a pallette that spends a lot of the time wading through middling muted tones. Even when the film is at its darkest, the limited colours remain as strong and black levels are wonderfully discernible, while skin tones never stray from being realistic and natural even in the more stylized sequences. The sound transfer is equally as five star quality, and there's very little to criticise in either the sound design by Snyder's team or how well it has been shipped across to the home video release. The soundtrack still sparkles a lot brighter than the film itself, so to hear it exactly as intended, cutting sharply through all levels is a rare highlight. While the film definitely wasn't for me, fans will certainly love how well it has been transferred here, and it is impressive to see how well it has been handled even though the film bombed on cinematic release.

Extras

It's like the studio knew they had a difficult sale on their hands, presenting Sucker Punch to the secondary market that would likely chew it up and spit it out the same way the box office did, because the overall package here is very well put together - and Warner deserve credit for not simply putting the film out to die a slow death on shelves. There are few of the obligatory usual suspects, which are instead replaced by the new Warner staple Maximum Movie Mode which adds an extra level of depth to the commentary feature and a selection of Original Animated Shorts which typically look brilliant and offer some prequel material to the fantasy sequences. Shame the Behind the Soundtrack feature was so limited though... Maximum Movie Mode Original Sucker Punch Animated Shorts Sucker Punch: Behind the Soundtrack DVD Copy Digital Copy Extended Cut Sucker Punch is available to buy on Blu-ray now.
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