Unreal Movie Review: Sucker Punch

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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