Baby Doll is a young girl wrongly sent to a mental asylum by her abusive stepfather and scheduled for a lobotomy in 5 days time to stop her revealing the truth about her stepfather. As she awaits her fate, she escapes into a dream world where she dreams she’s a dancer trapped in a mob-run brothel and meets Amber, Blondie, Rocket and her older sister Sweet Pea. Together, they plan to escape both the imagined brothel and the real asylum by gathering a map, fire, a knife, a key a fifth item to be revealed...
Zack Snyder has definitely developed a look: Highly stylised, comic book inspired visuals with plenty of sweeping camera movements and slow motion shots. So far it’s worked well for him; his remake of Dawn of the Dead and his two graphic novel adaptations (300 and Watchmen) went down well with critics and audiences (even his animated owl movie went down OK last year), and now we have Sucker Punch which represents Snyder’s first film based on an original story. So can Zach Snyder, Superman’s director-to-be, write a film as good as he can film it? Based on this evidence, he should probably stick to letting other people come up with the story.
Sucker Punch look stunning, visually it’s exactly what you’d expect from a Snyder film. Story wise though, it’s terrible, it really is. It saddens me to say it too, because it has all the elements of a great story: Inception-like dream levels and complexity, a group of hotties kicking ass and taking names, Alice in Wonderland-like fantasies, a group of hotties, 300-meets-Watchmen-like fight scenes... Did I mention the hotties? It takes all of those elements and combined them to create something which is absolutely sinfully boring. It’s shocking that something so full of action and gorgeous women struggles to keep a viewer interested but unfortunately it really struggles, and the only way it manages to keep attention focused on itself is by being loud. Very loud.
I imagine that after Inception went down so damn well last summer, major studios started pushing forward any film with dream layers in it. In Sucker Punch, we’re treated to three levels: You have your real world where Baby Doll is trapped in the asylum, the first dream layer where Baby Doll hatches the escape plan with her cohorts, and when the girls are trying to acquire one of the items needed to escape, we enter the second dream layer (the dream within a dream) where the girls acquire the items through a variety of different scenarios. This is where the fantastical becomes the maniacal. Steam powered Nazis! Robots! Dragons! They’re all here, and make absolutely no sense being in the movie. They’re nice sequences, and the fighting is all well choreographed and looks good, but it’s going to lose a large percentage of the viewing audience. Plus, because they enter this dream level to retrieve an item, it makes these segments seem like computer game levels embedded within the film, mini-quests on a variety of different maps with different bad guys. It worked in Scott Pilgrim because it was funny and appropriate, it doesn’t in this
As far as the acting goes, no-one’s particularly great, they all do their jobs with the fighting and the action and the looking sexy. They aren’t helped by some decidedly dodgy dialogue. Emily Browning (Baby Doll) carries the film well enough with plenty of loving/pervy looks at her face and other parts and only Abby Cornish kind of half stands out as the older sister who’s against the escape plan then comes on board, really clichéd stuff here. There’s also a really quite random cameo in this. I won’t ruin it, because as far as I know, his name hasn’t/doesn’t crop up in any of the adverts or promo material, but I’ll say it was lovely to see him even in a minor role, but then sad to see his small part underwritten. He has 2, maybe 3 lines and they’re still corny. Sad.
Overall, Snyder has created a 14 year old boy’s wet dream: Scantily clad women, gun fights, sword fights, steam powered Nazis, dragons, robots, bombs, everything a teenage boy would need to happily satisfy him and keep him locked in his bedroom for weeks. The soundtrack combined with the flashy visuals makes this seem like a 100 minute music video, and thus it holds no real substance: Definitely a choice of style over substance. As far as reports that Snyder may be taken off the Superman franchise because of this, they’re rubbish: Sucker Punch isn’t truly terrible, and he isn’t writing Superman, he’ll make it look flashy with Nolan taking care of the words and the story. I was so looking forward to this, and it saddens me to say this film truly lived up to its name: This movie was a real Sucker Punch.