Zack Snyder’s “Sucker Punch”

Plus: The identity crisis of the Constitution Center’s spy exhibit

I am no longer a Zack Snyder apologist. Before Sucker Punch, I would vehemently disagree with those who said Snyder was all style and no substance. I would—and still do—state that no film director could have been truer to the Watchmen graphic novel (nerdly ignoring, of course, the Black Freighter/Giant Squid cuts). And 300, though heavy-handed with hammy dialogue and overly sculpted man-meat, helped revolutionize—like 2005’s Sin City—how graphic novels translate to film.

But there is no defending Sucker Punch. It is everything his critics criticize: being nothing more than a mash-up of music videos, video games, and some blatant “borrowing” of other movies.

Babydoll (Emily Browning)—sadly that’s her name—is a young girl who is locked up in a mental hospital by her stepfather. Scheduled to be lobotomized in five days, she plans to escape with the help of other institutionalized girls, Sweet Pea (Abbie Cornish), Rocket (Jena Malone)—how I wish I were making these names up!—Blondie (Vanessa Hudgens), and Amber (Jamie Chung).

Snyder uses an Inception-like device where the characters escape reality through their imaginations. While one minute Babydoll’s in a hospital kitchen, the next she is a sexy stripper or a gun-wielding stripper fighting undead Nazis (because who doesn’t wear fishnets in battle?). What could have been an interesting device is instead a mess. Without clear delineations, you never really know what’s actually happening, who anyone really is, and why they’re fighting so long.

And another thing: Why do the orcs look like they’re out of Lord of the Rings and the robots look like those from I, Robot? Why does the movie open with a red curtain like Moulin Rouge? If the movie had been set in the present day, you could make the argument that these films influenced the characters’ imaginations. But as it’s set in the ‘60s, are these simply “similarities”? Without a doubt, Sucker Punch is a pretty movie where lots of things go boom. But don’t expect it to be enjoyable or have a lot of plot or to make sense. In the end I have to agree with my friend who said, “Zack Snyder’s movies make great previews.”

Commence worrying about his upcoming version of Superman. (In theaters.) My Grade: C-

With a title like Spies, Traitor and Saboteurs and music from Austin Powers playing in the lobby, I expected to see a display of spy paraphernalia. Instead, this exhibit, created by the International Spy Museum and now at the Constitution Center, examines the balance between securing the nation and ensuring civil liberties. The title and up-beat lobby music are misnomers; they belie the actual, sobering exhibition.

Spread throughout several rooms, the exhibit explores terror within the United States, from 1776 to present day—from the burning of the White House to the bombing of Oklahoma City. It is a tremendously serious, reverential, and quiet exhibit where levity (like school children’s laughter) seems inappropriate. Artifacts on display include a burnt piece of the White House, robes worn by Klansmen, and a fragment of a plane that hit the World Trade Center on 9/11.

With the graphic nature of several photos and the difficult subject matter, this exhibit is not for everyone (especially younger children). However, it is an interesting and important reminder of the constant threat we face. Just ignore the lobby music.

Last Chance: For those of you who have not yet seen the Art of the American Soldier collection at the Constitution Center, March 31st will be the exhibit’s last day. Make sure you schedule enough time to savor the experience of seeing “Front Street, Hamilton, Bermuda,” “Marines Call it That 2,000 Yards Stare,” and “Martyrdom Denied” up close.