Things have a strange way of coming full circle: After coming up with new fashion for a while, we go back to retro designs; after half a century of improving our graphical capabilities, games are going back to 2D. Apparently it is similar for film. I've just caught Suckerpunch, the new film by Zack Snyder, yesterday, and I was pleased with what I saw, and at the same time surprised at how pleased I am. We keep murmuring to ourselves how films need to have a good plot, a good story, great characterization and what not, something that Christopher Nolan does really well, but are there room for films that are just about visual coolness?
To even bring this up as an argument is very interesting - films arguable started as eye candy - storyless and plotless bunch of pictures linked by our persistence of vision into a chain of pointless events. In 1896, when Auguste and Louis Lumière first showed their film sequence of a train pulling into the station, audiences reportedly ran out of the theater, thinking that the train was real and coming for them. Then in 1899 Georges Méliès figured that by messing with the film strip, he could create illusions that seemed like magic to the audience, effectively giving birth to the field of special effects. However, after more than a hundred years of looking at such films, the magic has kinda gotten lost on us - and films became more of a medium to tell stories in rather than a performance in itself.
Recently, we seem to have gotten this magic back. There are filmmakers out there who seemed to have realized that just because we have the ability to create illusion doesn't mean we have to create Shakespearean stories with them. Why not create illusions just for the spectacle? We see this in torture porn like Saw and Hostel, a truckload of armageddon films, and some niche action flicks like Kill Bill and Shoot 'em Up. And today there's Suckerpunch.
One complain I have about such films is their apparent need to pretend they have a story of any kind. The parts of Suckerpunch outside of the dream sequences were, to me, the weaker parts of the film. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying good stories and visual eye candy can't go together, the first Matrix film and Inception did that very well, I'm just saying if your film is really about the eye candy, then be proud of that fact. That said, the dream sequences were some of the best video game geek service I have EVER seen in a film (maybe beside Silent Hill) - how can you say no to a mecha-samurai wielding a minigun fighting a blonde girl in a sailor-schoolgirl costume? How?