Sucker Punch Directed by: Zack Snyder Cast: Emily Browning, Abbie Cornish, Jena Malone, Carla Gugino, Oscar Isaac Running Time: 1 hr 39 mins Rating: PG-13 Release Date: March 25, 2011
PLOT: A teenage girl (Browning) is institutionalized by her stepfather. She enters a fantasy world and with the help of other girls, tries to escape.
WHO'S IT FOR? You could say video game fans or those who like style over substance. Take your pick. But that's what you need to be looking for with this movie.
EXPECTATIONS: Synder has never made a bad movie with the list now at 300, The Watchmen, Dawn of the Dead and Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole. I couldn't say I'm a fan of any girl in this film, so it's on Snyder to please me.
Emily Browning as Baby Doll: Yes, Baby Doll goes through absolute hell in the beginning of this film. First her mom dies and then that other thing happens with her stepfather. Ending up in the Lennox House is rough. After that I don't know what "really" happens. There are layers of fantasy here (like ending up in a whorehouse) and none of them seem important. Most importantly, none of them make me care about Baby Doll. She sways two inches to the right, then two inches to the left, which passes for dancing and then BAM! It's fantasy time. Browning doesn't bring any warmth or compassion to this role, which barely requires her to speak. Score: 3
Abbie Cornish as Sweet Pea, plus the other girls: Sweat Pea is in the whorehouse because her sister is. Hmm... OK. Does that mean she is in the psych ward because she was just following her sister? Mostly, the girls are never given a moment to care about or even learn their story, so they are just scantily clad filler. Score: 3
Carla Gugino as Dr. Vera Gorski: I know Gugino is a good actress, but the only thing I was thinking with this role was, quit wearing the Russian accent so thick, you're killing me. It never seemed like she was caring for the girls even though that was supposedly her role. Score: 2
Oscar Isaac as Blue Jones: We need a villain, instead we get a little weasel. Yup, he's a creep. Also, he's not very compelling. Score: 2
TALKING: I forgot to mention Scott Glenn as Wise Man. He's a captain/guru in these fantasies for this motley crew. He says things like "Don't write a check with your mouth, your ass can't cash" and "If you don't stand for something you'll fall for anything." These little speeches mean absolutely nothing. They are supposed to sound cool and motivating but don't have anything to do with the quest. Baby Doll doesn't say much either. The voiceover at the beginning and end is the most important dialogue, the only essential storytelling in the entire film. By the way, I haven't read anything yet, but is that Gwyneth Paltrow doing the narration? Score: 2
SIGHTS: It's great. We have scenes with samurai stone soldiers, World War I, dragons and a sci-fi train robot chase. The colors, the weapons, the camera work and special effects are all top notch. Again, it's great. But what does it mean? Who cares? I know Hollywood can make something look cool or pretty. Score: 8
SOUNDS: It's a music video at times and there is a little of everything from the musical selection. We start with yet another cover of "Sweet Dreams." This needs to stop. We have enough. The Pixies song "Where is My Mind" makes an appearance and so does Queen in one of the mash-ups. The musical score cranks plenty of guitar riffs, but never makes the film feel intense. Score: 4
BEST SCENE: The opening sequence plays like a good music video. It's intense and speeds through Baby Doll's life before Lennox House. I hoped that meant there was a lot of important story to get to. I was wrong.
ENDING: Um. Really? That's who we care about? Wise Man showing up just kills me. It makes no sense. It's just a desperate cry for "I'm clever."
QUESTIONS: Why aren't their obvious parallels to the real work, fake world and the super fake world? I'll wait here until I get my answer. While you're thinking, maybe you can explain to me why Jon Hamm is only in this movie for a couple of minutes and also shows everyone how to act in his limited role.
REWATCHABILITY: No, having pretty things to look at is never a good enough reason for a second viewing.
Let your imagination run wild. Whoa, Zack Snyder, um, not so fast. Sucker Punch is a chance to let Snyder's creativity vomit all over the big screen. Not surprisingly, we're left with a mess.
There seems to be no stakes. Yes, I understand five days, fire, knife, map, blah, blah. But once we're in the fantasy world and über-fantasy world, these girls are goddess that seem to be invincible. So we just watch insignificant levels of a video game. We don't even technically know if all of these girls are working together in the über-fantasy or if it's just in Baby Doll's head.
The fantasy world doesn't seem drug induced, nor does it feel like a true way to exist. At best, it's a way for girls who are tortured to escape into their imaginations in order to survive the tortures of men who are violating them. Please correct me if I'm wrong! But the movie fails to bring this idea to light because they never bother to explain or give us any insight.
It doesn't come off as female empowerment, it is stuck on how sick men can prey on seemingly helpless girls. That's not a vibe I need, especially when it's not taken seriously. And no, this movie can't possible take itself seriously. It's not a metaphor, it's an imagination run amok.
Snyder has played the role of an amped up George Lucas (the bad one, not the good). It's his first bad film.
FINAL SCORE: 4/10