Sucker Punch Reviews
Theatrical cut: Visually, this movie is a vast collection of fantasy/sci-fi/cinematic/video game archetypes and references thrown together into a blender, with an almost active contempt for internal consistency. How else do you explain pitting sexy actresses in Sailor Moon-type costumes, and armed with machine guns against zombie clockwork German WWI soldiers AND orcs AND dragons AND robots? And for good measure, add mental institution/women in prison cliches AND burlesque costumes. Some credit must be given for sheer bravado here. And yet the combination and vertiginous piling of images simply fosters boredom.
Narratively, the filmmakers would like the audience to believe that the movie is like a violent version of Baz Luhrmann's Moulin Rouge. But what actually is on screen is a collection of scenes that don't even purport to relate to one another or cohere. Dream worlds are stacked one on top of another, teetering like a pile of misshapen rocks. This is the kind of movie where dialogue cliches originating in bad war movies and bad B-movies are used to punctuate explosions, and where the heroine has less and less interesting things to say than Arnie in any of his movies during his heyday. And the cherry on this bizarre confection is a ridiculously turgid voiceover attempting to indict the target hyperactive and addled male audience for objectifying women (and making the movie objectify women). This, after the audience has been subjected to waves of sleaze unconvincingly countered by pseudo female empowerment.
This movie is horrifically cynical, either stupendously lacking in self-awareness or a brazen attempt exercise in self-hatred. In any case, this is a must-see if only for just how messed up and demented a major studio blockbuster can be. It appears to be a highly expensive rendering of the imagination of a toddler on a sugar high, assisted by a horny but bored teenager who has absorbed plenty of contemporary mass media and does not care to process any of it.
With his first foray into original material, Sucker Punch, this becomes even more of a glaring problem. All of Snyder's problems as a storyteller are brought to the forefront of this film, which is disappointing considering that there's potential in this world Snyder and co-writer Steve Shibuya have created. It's a female-driven story of empowerment and overcoming objectification of women and even metaphors of overcoming sexual abuse; the problem here is that the story is told through such a confusing manner to the point where the film almost seems to be simultaneously misogynistic and intended to be empowering for females. The emphasis on overcoming oppression in fantastical settings with less focus on the real world creates a lot of problems regarding Snyder's intent of what this story wants to be.
The layers of fantastical escapism don't end there. As Babydoll (Emily Browning) dives into the imaginary brothel she's created to cope with her institution in a mental asylum, she drifts further into many other worlds alongside her fellow dancers (Abbie Cornish, Jena Malone, Vanessa Hudgens, Jamie Chung). These segments are where Snyder is given his chance to shine: with visual heavy moments of action and fight choreography. From the likes of a steam-punk World War I setting to a orc-infested castle or a futuristic train guarded by a mini-army of robots, each setting is beautifully designed and make for mostly fun romps of swift action, captured smoothly by Snyder's go-to DP Larry Fong.
Even these moments aren't without fault though. By just the second or third introduction to these fantasies, there's an overwhelming sense of repetitiveness. A Wise Man (Scott Glenn) delivers an expository explanation of the five girls' goal, they enter the world, fight their way through waves of enemies, and reach the aforementioned goal. Rinse and repeat. It feels like being relegated to watching someone play a remarkably mediocre video game: for a while, you can't help but have plenty of fun and be invested in the fictional world, but at a point, it feels like time to play something a bit more enjoyable.