The dawn of a new geek-meets-pop era has quickly emerged through the highly-stylized, highly-conceptualized works of director Zack Snyder. His 2009 adaptation of Watchmen displayed a carefully picked playlist worthy of Martin Scorsese’s musical sensibilities. This year, Snyder’s sheen-coated adventure/actioner Sucker Punch plays like every joystick warrior’s favorite video game – this time backed by 9 tracks worthy of your next girlfriend’s mixtape.
Babydoll, played by Aussie bombshell Emily Browning, must deal with the trauma of her inadvertent murder of her sister by scaling the inner sanctions of her sanity, all the while devising a plan to break out of Lennox House for the Mentally Insane (an obvious nod to Eurythmics singer Annie Lennox). This all occurs while Browning herself lends her voice to a select number of pop gems of yesteryear. This is where the film’s soundtrack really jumps past being a pseudo-jukebox musical.
“Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)” is as haunting as Helena Bonham Carter’s hair, with Browning’s small but sweetly broken voice creeping along the light orchestration (in place of Eurythmics’ Dave Stewart’s pulsing synth lines). Eventually, the metal guitars and Kashmir-esque string section sort of give the Danny Elfman treatment to the track: dark, sexy and just right for brandishing a katana.
Now with the film industry’s recent obsession with Pixies’ “Where is My Mind?” (as heard in Observe and Report and It’s Kind of a Funny Story), never has the song been arranged to highlight the kind of emotional climax often missed by the ironic, late ’80s overtones of ho-hum indie covers. By this point in the film, Babydoll has literally lost her mind.
Finally, Browning’s rendition of The Smiths’ “Asleep” actually spills gallons of the kind of hope and optimism in a Sigur Rós track. Gone is the desperation of Morrissey’s drowsy cry. Listeners will let go of the depressing nature of this classic much like Babydoll’s character. When Browning says “sing me to sleep,” a sense of victory oddly but surely lingers.
Of course, the soundtrack includes other non-Browning covers like “White Rabbit” and Search and Destroy,” but the punch really lies in Browning and the producers’ ability to bring out emotions often missed by listeners enjoying the source material for nostalgia’s sake.