Most of the special-effects films of 2011 are easy to describe — they are sequels, prequels, reboots, remakes or adaptations of novels, comic books, toys or television shows. Others are simple enough to describe in the shorthand of Hollywood math (“Real Steel” = “Iron Giant” + “The Champ“). Then there’s “Sucker Punch.”
Warner Bros. and writer-director Zack Snyder are coloring well outside the lines with the March 25 release, and the filmmaker is pleased that his movie can’t be summed up in a single tidy sentence.
“It absolutely is a point of pride, but it’s also a challenge when you start working on something that doesn’t have a lot of reference in it,” he said. “It’s difficult for everyone to get a footing. But there’s an immersive effect too, and it’s super fun and rewarding to see it happen.”
The movie is about a desperate young woman named Babydoll (Emily Browning), who, thanks to her evil stepfather, is locked up in a grim mental hospital with a lascivious guard (Oscar Isaac) and a soon-to-arrive lobotomy specialist (Jon Hamm).
But Babydoll and four fellow inmates (Jena Malone, Vanessa Hudgens, Jamie Chung and Abbie Cornish) fight for their freedom in startling fantasy battle zones, among them one inspired by feudal Japan and another evoking World War I trenches.
If it sounds dizzying, well, that might be the challenge of the movie, which Snyder said was influenced by Terry Gilliam’s mad 1985 sci-fi film, “Brazil.” “That was a movie that really inspired me on this one,” the filmmaker said. Unlike Gilliam’s grubby and grotesque world, though, this movie has nubile, scantily clad young women armed with serious weaponry.
The attire of those heroines shows the influence of manga and anime on the 44-year-old Snyder, but his other interests are on also display in the strange, stylized swirl — video games, graphic novels, rock videos, even tattoo art, among them.
“I wanted the movie to be like one big crazy fairy tale,” Synder said of his fifth feature film. Snyder has made his mark as an adaptation specialist by remaking “Dawn of the Dead” and taking the characters of “300,” “Watchmen” and “Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole” from the bookshelf to the screen.
The success of the live-action films earned him the chance to go off the grid with “Sucker Punch,” and it also has put him in the director’s chair for the upcoming feature-film revival of Superman. The Man of Steel may be an orphaned alien with heat vision and a bright red cape, but really, he’s easy to explain to audiences. That’s not the case with “Sucker Punch.”
“It’s just a bizarre, other world that we’re in,” Snyder said with satisfaction. “It’s not like anything else. And that’s a pretty great place to start.”
— Geoff Boucher
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