110 minutes

300 director Zack Snyder's live-action follow-up to his smart adaptation of Alan Moore's Watchmen is a richly imagined but dramatically airless surreal fantasy, where The Matrix meets Terry Gilliam inside a steam-punk video-game staged by Baz Luhrmann gone burlesque. Its astonishing visual imagination and outrageous mash-up sensibility mark it as a truly original piece, especially coming from the cookie-cutter blockbuster culture of contemporary Hollywood, and it's a testament to mr. Snyder's current position in the major studio hierarchy that he could get it done on his terms.
Sucker Punch is essentially a meditation on the nature of escapism and storytelling (or escapism as storytelling), as a young girl (Emily Browning) institutionalised by her wicked stepfather at a theatrical Gothic asylum copes with her tragedy by hatching an elaborate escape plan revealed through the dreamworlds she retreats to inside her mind. The problem is that this trip through nested dreams-within-dreams, a la Inception, quickly settles into a deliriously self-indulgent showreel of increasingly out-there visual ingenuity harnessed to a basic videogame structure (collect the five items that will unlock your way out). Such delirious creativity ends up drowning the quaintly old-fashioned Dickensian melodrama of the poor orphan girl at its centre, effectively presented in a silent pre-credit intro that may be the best thing about the film; it also wastes a game, talented cast in two-dimensional parts (it's a miracle that Ms. Browning, Abbie Cornish, Jena Malone and Carla Gugino actually manage to make affecting characters out of all the cliches).
Undoubtedly destined for cult oddity status, Sucker Punch is a well-stocked toy box for a talented but sprawling director who may have overstretched himself; the risk isn't any less valid for all its flaws, but you wish there was something more than just eye candy.
© 2011 Jorge Mourinha

Starring Emily Browning, Abbie Cornish, Jena Malone, Vanessa Hudgens, Jamie Chung, Carla Gugino, Oscar Isaac; with Jon Hamm; and Scott Glenn.
Directed by Zack Snyder; produced by Deborah Snyder, mr. Snyder; screenplay by mr. Snyder and Steve Shibuya, based on a story by mr. Snyder; music by Tyler Bates and Marius de Vries; director of photography (Technicolor, Panavision), Larry Fong; production designer, Rick Carter; costume designer, Michael Wilkinson; film editor, William Hoy; visual effects supervisor, John Desjardin. 
A Warner Bros. Pictures presentation, in association with Legendary Pictures, of a Cruel and Unusual Films production. (US distributor and world sales, Warner Bros. Pictures.)
Screened: distributor advance press screening, Columbia Tristar Warner screening room (Lisbon), March 24th 2011. 


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