"Too much of a good thing... can be wonderful". - Mae West
As it turns out, too much of a good thing is... just... too much. If we learned anything from Willy Wonka, it's that gorging on sugary confections without at least some protein and fiber ends badly. Zach Snyder, he of the oversaturated digital palette and the speed-it-up-now-slow-it-down fight scenes, has submitted Sucker Punch for our approval - and I, for one, don't. Approve, that is.
How can a movie chock-a-block with scantily-clad vixens wielding all manner of ordnance, steam-powered Nazi zombies, gigantic glowing-eyed samurai, Manga-adorned human-operated robots - how can such a steaming jambalaya of awesomeness turn out so... pedestrian? Chris Lee has done a good job of exploring the issue at The Daily Beast (http://www.thedailybeast.com/blogs-and-stories/2011-03-27/sucker-punch-why-fanboys-have-turned-on-zack-snyder/2/), but I want to expand on a few points.
First of all, the First Rule of sci-fi/fantasy/comic books should be remembered at all times - internal consistency must be maintained. Everyone in the fictional universe must behave like they are in a real place where everything that happens in that place is within that place's range of believability. If there's any wink-wink, nudge-nudge, all is lost. Young mutants with special powers go to a private academy to sharpen their powers? Of course they do! Sucker Punch lacks a believable universe altogether - it's more a string of stunning set-pieces. It's difficult to satisfy the First Rule because there is no perspective from which to make the determination. It's like surveying from a moving train, constantly shifting. I know this is part of what Mr. Snyder was going for, but after a while it just gets tiring. Inception drove dangerously close to the same edge, but managed to pull it off.
Second, constraints are good. Unfettered access to financing is not always the best creative fuel (e.g. Michael Cimino). Snyder may have benefited from the presence of a studio bean-counter forcing him to tell a story without resorting to a zillion dollars worth of CGI. Some of the best art is produced under duress, under the gun, under deadline, under the threat of violence. Herzog gets it. The Dogme directors get it. Even Tarantino gets it - particularly with Reservoir Dogs and Jackie Brown. Zack needs to take some advice from his fellow young directors. Sucker Punch smells of too much money and too many cloying yes men.
Third, a story would be nice. I watched Karate Kid with the kids Saturday (the new one, with Fresher Prince and Jackie Chan) and it was no great film but at least it has a narrative you could sum up in a sentence or two. Kid moves to China, gets bullied, learns Kung Fu, and (spoiler alert), beats bully. Most of the best movies can be boiled down to just a line or two - to a pitch. Rear Window - a guy stuck in his apartment thinks he has witnessed a crime but has a tough time convincing the police (so he sends his gal pal to pinch the perp). The Thing - scientists in Anarctica unearth a scary alien that can mimic human form and they can't tell who's who so they have the coldest Mexican stand-off ever. Taken - they took her, I'm getting her back. As for Sucker Punch - not so easy. And I don't mean not so easy in the Christopher Nolan, mind-bending sort of way. More like a "let's just string together a bunch of really cool music videos and see if a narrative emerges". It doesn't.
Fourth, would it hurt to sneak in a joke here and there? A light moment. A fleeting snicker. Seriously, Zach. Even No Country for Old Men had it's share of levity.
Yet, I remain hopeful that Snyder will, having gotten this bloated floater out of his system, will tighten the screws, find a quality screenwriter, and turn out some watchable films. He's got the form, he just needs to find the function.