REVIEW: 'Sucker Punch'

I went into this movie with a pretty good idea of the criticisms against it (I’m a huge film buff, so I’m always reading reviews). The consensus seemed to be that the story and the acting were terrible, and the special effects were dazzling but empty of feeling. There was an undercurrent to most of the reviews, too, where the critics attacked Snyder’s attempt to “empower women” by showing the main characters (all young, attractive women) in high-octane fight sequences and skimpy costumes. The critics felt that the whole thing was misguided or even insulting. All that aside, I remembered seeing the trailer months before the film’s release and getting really excited about the visual style of the film, which incorporates elements of kung-fu flicks, samurai epics, steampunk, ultra-futuristic sci-fi, and film noir. I decided to see Sucker Punch anyways, even if it meant wasting a few bucks.

I should mention that I usually only go to the theatre to see movies that I’m sure will have good acting and a good story. I probably do more research than is necessary before I buy my ticket. I went into Sucker Punch, though, knowing that I shouldn’t expect high quality storytelling. That made the experience so much better. I allowed the fantastic scenery to wash over me, and actually had a good time laughing at the more gratuitously bad scenes.

The story (if you still care at this point) revolves around a young woman known only as Baby Doll, who is shipped off to a horrific mental asylum by her abusive father after her mother dies. There, she sinks into a second dreaming reality where she is a dancer at an exclusive brothel. She bands together with four other girls in this “dream” to descend into a third reality. Here they fight samurai, clockwork-powered Nazi zombies (I know, right?) and futuristic robots to obtain magic items that will help them escape the brothel in the second dream level.

A collection of enemies from the film "Sucker Punch"

But never mind all that. In Sucker Punch, it’s the visuals that matter. If you’re going to enjoy the movie, just focus on the cinematic style in scenes set the third level. Most are beautifully choreographed and feel like a richly illustrated sci-fi landscape. The action scenes will have you breathlessly trying to describe them to your friends afterwards: “And then she leapt into the air, and the sword came down, and the explosion, and…” You’ll likely find yourself waiting through the dialogue just to get to another “episode” of action.

There’s something to be said about the whole “female empowerment” element in this movie, in that Zack Snyder may or may not have explicitly tried to include a strong female image in the film. If it was a goal for him, I’d say he didn’t succeed, but he also didn’t totally fail. If that sounds a bit indecisive, consider this: In his most well-known movie, 300, there was a very similar scenario to the one in Sucker Punch, except that it was skimpily-clad men in awesome fight scenes, instead of women.

Female emprwerment, or over-analysis?

Few people objected to this, but before you call me out and say that “Men aren’t objectified like women are”, wait. I don’t believe any of it matters in the case of this film. It’s definitely worth discussing, but ultimately, Sucker Punch is a 1 hour, 50 minute piece of cinema that deserves a viewing (maybe two) for the sake of drinking in the visuals, not arguing over female empowerment. My advice would be to enjoy Sucker Punch for what it is, and save the really deep analysis for a movie that will actually have some staying power, like The Social Network or Black Swan.

With all that said (Whew!), I’ll give Sucker Punch a rating out of four stars (the standard movie-reviewing scale). This one loses a lot of marks for its poor acting and story, but stays out of the “bomb” territory solely on the merit of its visuals. See it – but turn off your brain!

Tomorrow I’ll bring you that article on YouTuber Toby Turner, as I mentioned in my Source Code article, so stay tuned for that. Below are some links to more info on Sucker Punch, including an article on the film blog that partially inspired this review/commentary, where the writer discusses female empowerment in the film and why it’s a bit of a non-issue.