Mar 28 2011

Unreal Movie Review: Sucker Punch

Published by at 12:00 pm under Movies,Reviews

0.5 out of 5 stars

Pure. Unadulterated. Nonsense.

That would be my abridged three word review of Sucker Punch, but I’ve got a whole lot more to say than that. It’s heartbreaking to be so disappointed by a director you admire, and through bizarre trailers and nonsensical plot synopses, I was hoping that Sucker Punch would end up surprising me.

And it did, but the wrong way, as it is by far one the dumbest, substanceless movies I’ve ever seen. It’s a film I would have made when I was thirteen, full of machine gun fire and hot women in skimpy outfits, with me pretending it all served some greater purpose, when really it was pure, unapologetic fluff.

There are fun ways to make a movie like this, to base a film solely around over-the-top action while still holding on to a coherent plot. Snyder himself did this in 300, the bloody, slow-motion epic that was little more than a giant battle sequence, but still had a solid plot line behind it. Spartans defend their city, that was it, and we didn’t need a whole lot more than that.

But Sucker Punch? The movie is so disjointed and poorly scripted you could barely even call it a film. it’s like someone took a bunch of video game cutscenes from four titles ranging from Final Fantasy to Killzone to Metal Gear Solid and interspersed them with footage of bootleg versions of Burlesque and Girl Interrupted. Where to even begin.

Sailor Moon meets Kill Bill meets Casper the Friendly Ghost. Seriously, she’s almost albino.

The titular character of the film is named Baby Doll (Emily Browning), but we don’t even hear her speak for about the first half hour, which should give you a sense of how deep the characters are in the film. Despite her propensity toward muteness, Baby Doll is the only one with a backstory, having been committed to an insane asylum by her evil stepfather after she tries to defend herself and her sister from his advances. He tried to murder them in order to claim their recently deceased mother’s inheritance, but manages to pin the sister’s death on Baby, and plans to have her lobotomized at the institution within the week.

The other girls locked up with her in the abusive institution have names like Sweet Pea (Abbie Cornish), Blondie (Vanessa Hudgens), Amber (Jamie Chung) and Rocket (Jena Malone), and we’re given practically zero history as to their reasons for being there. That would cut into the sweet monster/robot/nazi fighting action, wouldn’t it?

The film immediately, and confusingly jumps into a completely different setting. The asylum disappears and for practically the rest of the film, the setting is now a nightclub/brothel, where the girls are all dancers/hookers, bossed around by asylum head-turned-pimp Blue Jones (Oscar Isaac) and aided by psychiatrist turned madam Vera Gorski (Carla Gugino). There’s no reason given for this shift, and I can’t think of one other than it gives the film an excuse to dress up its hot female cast in burlesque outfits for the entire film. I guess hospital gowns and grime wasn’t sexy enough.

But to quote Inception, we have to go deeper. Baby Doll is ordered to dance, and when she does so, she goes into a kind of trance that transports her to some far off fantastical land. Here she fights monsters using a sword and a katana, and learns that she needs to find a collection of items in this alternate universe in order to aid her escape.

I’ve never seen a movie with so few pairs of pants.

So literally, the film’s plot from here on out is Baby Doll dances in front of people, which apparently is so good it hypnotizes them (though we never get to see the routine ourselves), and while this is happening, her friends steal the items they need to plot their escape, which include a map, a lighter, a knife and a key.

What we see oncreen when this is happening is an epic battle scene starring the girls all decked out with automatic weapons and blades. For example, when finding the map, in reality, Sweet Pea is merely taking it down from a wall in an office, but in dream world, it’s an epic quest where the girls are in a dystopian future, fighting steam-powered Helghast Nazi zombies in order to get the map from their rotting commander. This kind of scenario is then repeated across different settings with different enemies that include orcs, dragons, robots and more.

But these scenes serve absolutely zero purpose whatsoever. The entire place is a dream, so there’s no feeling of actual danger, and the “epic quests” to acquire the item in these sequences are just a pointless way to spice up the relatively mundane action of sliding a knife out of a holster or a lighter out of a pocket.

It’s hard to tell which segment is supposed to be a reprieve for the other. Are these scenes meant to distract us from the horribly scripted conversations and emoting going on in the imaginary brothel? Or are the burlesque scenes meant to give us a break from the relentless, stupidly ridiculous action of the fantasy assault dance missions?

Bunny jetpack mechs fighting resurrected steampunk Nazis. The mind, it boggles.

Zack Snyder tried something here. He wanted to make a modern day Alice in Wonderland, a fairy tale written from scratch, told in the medium of absurd action movies. It’s a valiant and noble thought, but I’ve never seen a movie miss a mark so widely. Any points for originality or trying something new are just completely eclipsed by how stunningly bad the final product is.

Snyder’s signature visual style is out in full force here, and he’s cranked the dial up to eleven in terms of over-the-top slow motion action. Yes, there are a few scenes that are rather well choreographed, but there’s just way too much CGI here, and as I mentioned, most times everything just feels like an extended cinematic from a video game. It’s too much. It’s all way, way too much.

There could have been something here. I imagine a story about a group of girls in a mental hospital, banding together and fighting their demons by retreating into their minds. Their quest would be to confront the evil that put them there (an abusive father, sibling, authority figure, whoever, manifested in monster, zombie or dragon form), and they would emerge on the other side, sane and ready to attempt an escape.

But there’s just no depth like this in Sucker Punch, none at all. By the time she starts gunning down main characters, we don’t even care, and when it finally returns to the reality of the asylum, you almost forgot that’s where we started as this whole film feels like some sort of nightmare that I had to experience instead of the creative, stylish movie this could have been.

0.5 out of 5 stars

“Hahaha, can you believe they pay us to make this shit?”





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27 responses so far

  • Blake

    Holy shit, Paul! Congratulations on allowing your taste to grow up!

  • zazaza

    I sorta liked it, I’d give it 6.5/10 (would not watch again)

    1) Awesome, depressing cinematography and atmosphere
    2) Sweet CGI and fitting music
    3) Hot chicks

    ???

    Profit

  • http://mandyatlarge.com Mandy

    *sadface*

  • Arafax

    …reviews like that make baby-jesus cry :(

    I am disappointed, was looking forward that movie

  • Madison

    I’ve been saying that Snyder is a hack for years – hopefully now people will realize that for themselves. THIS is the guy who’s gonna make Superman?

  • James

    Despites what you can say, I still wanna watch this movie.
    I don’t expect much of it, but I liked the trailers and I wanna give the movie its chance on the big screen…

  • Bandit

    Meh. Turn off your brain, and watch the movie for what it is. Eye Candy.
    – Music: Soundtrack is billy badass with some remixed songs that really work.
    – Background Visuals are out of this world.
    – Well choreographed fight scenes. I thought the fight scenes were on the mark. However, IT COULD have used LESS slow-motion.
    – I was also confused by the imaginary world, inside another imaginary world. Like a less thought-out Inception.

    HOLY HELL, and I forgot the very worst thing you can do in my estimation. Try to drill / slap the audience in the face with an idea or point. I wont spoil this for folks that haven’t seen it yet, but good god it was cheesy.

  • john v.

    wow. A buddy of mine saw the movie last night and tore it apart. I came here expecting a somewhat more refined review…. man, was I wrong. Looks like I’ll save my money.

  • http://thesolarsurfer.blogspot.com Hilary

    Awww Paul, I really thought you would love Sucker Punch. I think the key for me was walking into the theater not expecting a plot. It’s clear from the previews that Snyder just wanted big action scenes so I wasn’t upset when that was what I got. I think if you walk in with the right mindset to just have a good time you can enjoy the film for what it is: a bunch of badass chicks blowing shit up.

  • supermanboobs

    Is it worth just to wait till it comes out and rent it once?

  • Sam

    Now i understand plot and story are the must important aspects of a movie but to completely dismiss the beautiful visuals and excellently choreographed fight scenes is doing the film and yourself, as a critic, a serious injustice. I would give it a 3 out of 5 on visuals alone. For some reason people went into this movie expecting it to be some sort of thesis on feminism in pop culture or something like that, I honestly have no idea why. Did you not see the trailer?

    P.S. I get the impression that this is a movie that will benefit greatly from a directors cut.

  • Sam

    P.P.S. There is no excuse for carla gugino’s accent. But she definitely adds to that whole visuals argument so I’ll let it slide.

  • Stuntman Mike

    I harken this to the Wachowski bros. Speed Racer. An attempt by a visual director to overload the visual aspect of the medium with adolescent imagery. And, to be honest, it suceeds in that aspect easily.

    It’s sort of like this. It’s useless to rate Sucker Punch on the scale of a normal film. To be honest, the plot is a 2/10, character development a 1/10…but on the aggreagated enjoyment scale, it’s a solid 7/10 of a movie.

    I can enjoy almost any movie. It’s a hoot, and that’s all there really is too it for me.

    Also, Rocket is sexy.

  • Heen

    The only way I’ll watch this movie is through bloodshot eyes ;)

  • Weed Jimson

    A friend of mine said they should have named this movie Donkey Punch. She said she would have preferred one over sitting through SP

  • Rowan

    I liked it. I didn’t see it as an excuse to show off random fight scenes, I saw it as an interesting look into the mind of a schizophrenic; Most likely occurring after the loss of both her mother and sister. All the fight scenes and even the burlesque house was just elaborate ways for her to cope with her environment.

  • Jackson Briggs

    I COMPLETELY AGREE with you that this movie is horrible trash. The funny thing is it took you seeing the final product to realize that and not 1 minute of trailer footage like the rest of us. Opinions though, everybody has one. I like Wrong Turn, a movie which so clearly is bad and could be recognized as so from the trailer.

  • http://matthuliz.multiply.com/ matthuliz

    I hate to say this because Zack Snyder has become a favorite movie director of mine after seeing 300 and Watchmen, but his latest film is all about him sucker punching the movie viewers!!!

    http://matthuliz.multiply.com/reviews/item/8

  • kenyon

    i disagree with you. how can you go into a movie like this and expect anything other than a visual feast. OH AND ANOTHER THING, i hate this review. its like someone going to see WANTED and expecting some sort of deep plot. good luck girls

  • 8bithero

    People need to stop- giving Hollywood money for making crap like this.

  • Comfortable Madness

    .5?!!! Really come on! As others have said not a deep movie by any means but for sheer enjoyablity at least a 3! I’m tired of reading about how dissapointed or bad this movie was/is. It was video game cut-scene awesomeness done by 4 hot chicks. I’m not ashamed to have spent money on it. Enjoyed the hell out of it. Should it gain any critical acclaim for acting or story? Absolutely not. But sometimes just watch something and enjoy it. Don’t go any deeper than watching it. Not everything needs or has to be Citizen Kane.

    P.S. Abbie Cornish is awesome.

  • H Ramos

    When I watched this movie I thought the whole “dance” thing was when Baby Doll pretended to be schizo and flail around, because she isn’t really as insane as she’s made out to be, and she flails wildly enough (“dances”) that nobody could take their eyes off her. It sort of makes sense.

    Sort of. I watched it expecting hot chicks in action though. ;D

  • suckerpunched

    the trailers reveal NOTHING about the movie.

    It was fun to watch, with the CGI and hot chicks…but that was about it.

    Otherwise it played out like an episode of Muppet Babies: Remember how they’d go on some big adventure and when it was all over it turned out that it was just their imagination and the toys were now all scattered around the nursery floor?

    All in all, the visuals were a bit over-the-top, even to be considered surreal, the acting and scripting was forgettable and disjointed, and it all seemed to go nowhere.

    They didn’t even take advantage of the film’s strongest point: the scantily-clad hot chicks.

  • werejohn

    People here keep lauding the visuals of this film, but it offers nothing visually fresh or stimulating after the first half hour. I’ve seen orc-slaying and robot-busting done better (and with less half-assed slo-mo and schizo cam) in other films. All of the supposed “visual feast” fight scenes seem to have been washed in the same color, and the sheer amount of suspension of disbelief required to appreciate the images is just taxed by how boring it all looks after a while. By the 45 minute mark, I probably had the same expression on my face that Baby Doll had the entire film.

    Yeah, criticize the guy who came in there expecting a plot, why don’t you? Excuse me for wanting to see a movie, not some digital artist’s valedictory piece. At least I can (probably) view the digital artist’s work for free. I had to shell out money to see this crap.

    And no, the hot chicks don’t count if they all look liked they’ve just been raped and all had their bunnies / puppies kicked. How am I supposed to enjoy the sight of real-life anime girls in school uniforms (or whatever the hell it was the other girls were wearing) when the expression on their faces look like an invitation for Chris Hansen to come kick you in the nads?

  • Apryl Sennott

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  • sucked

    At least they got the first 4 letters of the title right….SUCK.
    Also i feel bad for the special fx and computer animators, really are talented, but wasted their time on working on this movie.
    And also this movie will give you
    Aids.

  • http://heylady-blog.blogspot.com/ Hey Lady!

    The three word review encapsulates this movie perfectly. “Complete disappointment” would also work.

    Did anyone else notice that the chick that played “Amber” was on “The Real World”?? And she wasn’t any worse then the other girls in the movie. Good for her, guess she’s found more to do than appear on “The Challenge” year after year.

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