Sucker Punch, the new movie from director Zack Snyder (Watchmen, 300), opens this weekend. It's a big budget, special effects-stuffed action adventure featuring four young girls doing battle against giant samurai, winged serpents and zombie soldiers. Critical consensus hasn't been good.
While the movie is being largely panned by critics - hovering around the 30 per cent mark at Rotten Tomatoes - some critics seem to enjoy its visual spectacle. The one thing they all seem to agree on, however, is that the easiest way to describe it is... "video game".
Here's a small sampling of critical reception, in which Snyder's "Alice in Wonderland with machine guns" popcorn flick is summed up so succinctly by another medium.
"Sucker Punch" is certainly the strangest dance musical of all time. Each time the female protagonist goes into her bump-and-grind, the routine is depicted as a video gamer's fantasy of violent combat against zombie Germans in World War I, or cyborgs, or dragons. It's like Roxie Hart of "Chicago" ran off for the weekend with some pimply adolescent Xbox fiend.
- Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune
The blurring of reality and fantasy is there in every frame and echoes the grim storybook quality found in the graphic novel world and the fantasy look favoured by gothic video games - a sort of "Guernica" of comic-book chaos.
- Betsy Sharkey, LA Times
Some have complained that Sucker Punch feels like a video game, which is a weird complaint to make. Yes, it does feel like that, and very much on purpose. The structure of the film – Baby Doll and friends have to find a map, a flame, a key – is lifted entirely from video games. But more than that Sucker Punch feels like PLAYING a video game. Earlier this year I hated Battle: Los Angeles for giving me the feeling of watching a video game over someone's shoulder; Sucker Punch's action scenes succeed by making me feel like I'm pushing the buttons. Yeah, they might all be Quicktime Events, but they're immersive and complete, as all great video game experiences are. When you're playing a truly great game the distance between you and the action melts away, and that's what happens in Sucker Punch.
- Devin Faraci, Badass Digest
OK, if you're a 15-year-old boy (or a 30-year-old boy, or a girl with a '50s pinup jones), there's no denying that the girl-gang casting of Sucker Punch - pouty, pigtailed Browning; the regal, Nicole Kidman-esque Abbie Cornish; punky Jena Malone; plucky Vanessa Hudgens, and the exotic Jamie Chung - has a certain allure. But even with the strip-club fantasy costumes and the drop-downs into video gamelike alternate universes, the eye candy quickly gets stale.
- Stephen Rea, Philadelphia Inquirer
An unerotic unthrilling erotic thriller in the video game/comic book crossover vein, "Sucker Punch" is " "Last Airbender" with bustiers. […]These furies in fishnet stockings are neither convincing substitutes for Uma Thurman in "Kill Bill" (plainly an inspiration) nor involving characters. At times, their digitally enhanced battles look like state of the art (circa 2005) video game graphics. Scantily attired, they still aren't sexy. In mortal danger, they still aren't sympathetic.
- Roger Moore, Orlando Sentinel
it's merely a lazy technique for Snyder to reduce his already exceptionally thin story to its lowest plane. Why shoot for meaningfulness or subtlety when a narrative can - with the lamest of ploys - simply be turned into a bloody video game level?
- Jake Coyle, AP
Sucker Punch is a girl-powered Sailor Moon anime crossed with a Russ Meyer sexploitation flick. It's Shutter Island, Inception, Kill Bill, a video game and your worst nightmare mashed up. It provides sporadic seconds of splendid eye candy separated by minutes of muddled exposition and flat acting.
- Peter Howell, Toronto Star
It's Snyder's first stab at original material (with help from Steve Shibuya), and you can't fault him for ambition. He quotes from classic Hollywood movies (like "The Wizard of Oz"), and wants to pay homage to their transportive power. But with all of his green-screen, CGI, treated-image technology, all Snyder does here is transport the audience into the middle of a pretty lame video game.
Gary Thompson, Philadelphia Daily News