The advertising deluge has begun for Sucker Punch, but there’s something that none of the advertisements, character posters, or featurettes have really sold — this is going to be one dark and disturbing film. It might be hidden under the bordello costumes and the slick CGI, but something very ugly is happening to Baby Doll.

It says something about the film’s aesthetic that the most unsettling image isn’t the WWI zombies, the hulking robot samurais, or even a blood-stained orderly, but a smiling stuffed rabbit.  He’s not even physically present in the film. He’s merely a symbol — and when he appears again as a sad beheaded thing, it’s a grimmer picture than dragons, bombs, or brothel bedrooms.

It’s difficult to talk about The Art of Sucker Punch without giving away a lot of plot — and now that I know all the sordid details, that’s the last thing I want to do.    This is a film that needs to be experienced as fresh as possible. I have no idea if the stuff promised within these pages will tie together satisfactory. I don’t know if the film will be good.   But it’s clear from these pages that Snyder spent a lot of time creating this world, tying its levels together, and agonizing over the details of costumes, weaponry, and bedroom decor.    Everything within Sucker Punch ties into itself.

Again, I don’t know if this will be an effective film. But visually, it’s going to be amazing. Conceptually, it’s unique and daring, and Snyder will deserve a lot of credit for that alone.

But this is supposed to be about the book. The problem with reviewing a book like The Art of Sucker Punch is that it is dependent on the movie.  If you love the film, you’ll want the book.  If you loathe the film, knowing the details of Baby Doll’s katana or Scott Glenn’s costume variations won’t appeal to you, unless you’re a junkie for that information no matter what the movie.

It is a beautiful book, though.   Every imaginary world gets delicious, full-page photos that you just want to climb into.  Every character gets a lush, three-page photo spread.    There’s curves and flesh on every other page.   I don’t think there’s a single photo where a girl isn’t wearing garters or a thigh holster — which suggests this film might inspire quite a debate about what women would or wouldn’t imagine for themselves — or looking coyly over a shoulder.    If you long to see a lot of Emily Browning, this is the book you can have on your coffee table without seeming too perverted.

This isn’t a sexist pin-up book though. Nothing that boasted three pages each of Oscar Isaac and Jon Hamm (including a two-page poster of Hamm sporting a delectable white suit) could be accused of being all for the men.   Nor does anything in the girls’ expressions says “Look at me, I’m hot!”    Every page says “Look at me, it will be the last thing you see before I cut you into ribbons.”    Snyder clearly intends these women to be sexy (sexy is every other word in the book) but he is also turning those very fetishes against the viewer.  I don’t know if that’s conscious or not, but it certainly seems to be, and it’s pretty bold.

The Art of Sucker Punch gave me a lot of respect for what Snyder was trying to accomplish, and I’m more eager than ever to see if he’s pulled it off.  While he gets knocked a lot for his “I just did it to be cool” attitude (something he freely admits to having swayed a lot of his Sucker Punch decisions), I almost think he’s deliberately being flippant so that he can disarm us.   There seem to be a lot of big ideas at work in this story — and he addresses them in his foreword — but he seems to deliberately underplay them. Maybe he doesn’t want to scare off his audience.  Perhaps he doesn’t want to be accused of failing to explore them, so he acts like he doesn’t care, because it was really just meant to be badass.    But I got the sense reading this that the public Snyder is not at all the private one, who was clearly bothered enough by tales of women being unjustly accused and locked up in asylums to write Sucker Punch.

And perhaps that’s the best endorsement of the book I can give.  It’s visually stunning, it lets you linger over things that will undoubtedly be blinks in the film, and it’s attractive enough to leave out where guests might see it.  But the real value might be the tiny peek it gives into Snyder’s thoughts, and the things that fascinate him and work on his creativity as much as blood, guts, action, and CG dazzle.

Titan Books was kind enough to send me the book for review, and it’s currently for sale wherever you prefer buying your books.  If you’re a big fan of Snyder and love what you see here, there’s a special autographed limited edition of the book that’s now available.   Now that will really class up your purchasing this for Browning or Hamm.