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Book Review: SUCKER PUNCH: THE ART OF THE FILM

There's something worrying me about Sucker Punch. The trailers so far look mind-boggling- a mess of over-excitement, over-stylized and under-thought. Maybe Snyder has lost his intelligent touch? Or maybe too many of us are assuming that something so brash, and so hyperbolic could ever possibly translate into a conventionally enjoyable film experience. But one thing is certain about Sucker Punch: the art is astounding. And in line with next month's release of the film, Titan have given us a copy of 'Sucker Punch: The Art of the Film' to review, which is available to buy now. And by crikey, it looks good. I have the sneaking suspicion that Zack Snyder is mildly insane. This nagging feelings comes from a conversation I had recently with our own Matt Holmes about the differences between The Watchmen helmer and Chris Nolan and what happens when you give each of them money to make a movie about dreams. With Nolan you get a high-concept heist thriller, slick of aesthetic and clever (or vague) enough to inspire myriad different readings, but give Snyder the same parameters, and you get an LSD trip that lacks any kind of restraint. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KrIiYSdEe4E If you know my writing style, you'll be aware that I'm no fan of needlessly oblique critique- I have far more fun with banal and accessible similes, so Sucker Punch excited me even more because it gives me the opportunity to wheel another one out. Looking at that trailer, the film looks like the cinematic equivalent of a world cuisine All You Can Eat. Such eateries serve a wide selection of delicacies, from curry to pizza to hamburgers to jam sponge and custard- all delightful on their own, but God forbid you get over-excited and mix them all together. For what once individually was a good idea is now a mismatched sludge that assaults the senses rather than tickles them. Anyway, back to the book. While the huge scope of imagination behind the film may spell problems for that project's execution, this secondary source is excellent. It represents not only a formidable tomb of the designs and formative ideas that prefigure the movie, it also gives an insight into the process of idea genesis, how designs evolved and became the final results we will see on screen in March. The official pre-release blurb carried a quote from Snyder which offers exactly what he hoped to achieve with the book's release:
I saw the book as a visually interesting way to deconstruct the process of designing and prepping a film- peeling it apart layer by layer. So much amazing artwork is generated throughout the development process of a film, especially one that occupies so many different worlds and environments. I wanted to be able to share that in a meaningful way, beyond what€™s captured on screen.
It is probably best to consider the book as an Extra Feature to the cinematic release, something to be enjoyed before viewing, and then even more afterwards, with the gloss of familiarity adding a depth of meaning to the various beautiful designs and ideas that are held between the pages. Ideally, I would have liked a little more in terms of text- just because a book positions itself as an Art book, it doesn't mean you necessarily have to scrimp on the word count- especially since what little text there is offers a little further insight into the decision processes behind some of the design choices. I'm sure adding some more text would not have compromised the overall visual bias of the text either, and to be honest, it's far too pretty a thing to spoil. If the book has taught me one thing, it's that there is that I still have room for excitement for Sucker Punch. The artwork is fabulous, if a little hair-brain, and somewhat typically of a Zack Snyder production, you can practically smell the sex on the page. Time will tell whether this skin-deep beauty that could have been a little better with some added weight is the perfect allegory for the film itself- for its sins, it is pretty vacant- but if it is, it will at least look dazzling. 'Sucker Punch: The Art of the Film' is available to buy now.
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WhatCulture's former COO, veteran writer and editor.