If you’re 14, male, and have spent the last few years of your life immersed in video games, you will find that Sucker Punch is the wet dream of your wildest fantasies, sexy, tons of explosions, amazing visuals and lots of punching, kicking, swordfights and even dragons and heavy artillery thrown in for good measure. What’s missing is a coherent story, a coherent setting and any sense of filmmaking. Coming from Zack Snyder as a follow-on to the critically acclaimed 300 and powerful (though controversial) Watchmen, it’s startlingly chaotic and confused.
A sort of genre-melange, Sucker Punch starts out as a promising horror film, dark and moody, with cute “Baby Doll” (Emily Browning) fighting off her evil step-father’s sexual advances, then attacking him with a gun when he makes a move on her younger sister. A tragic misfire and Baby’s killed her little sister. Stepfather (Gerard Plunkett) has her committed to a home for the mentally insane that turns out to double as a ritzy speakeasy.
Speakeasy? Like, 1940’s? Kinda yes, kinda no. One of the most confusing things about Sucker Punch was that it seems to shift eras as easily and frequently as it shifts genres, and while most of it seemed to take place in the 40s, probably during Prohibition, there were frequent modern touches both within that storyline and the fantasy storyline of Baby Doll’s imagination.
The Asylum is home to only attractive women, all of whom are expected to both perform erotic “plays” on stage and entertain individual customers. Yes, it’s an asylum that’s also a brothel. Baby Doll’s posse ends up as Rocket (Jena Malone), Sweet Pea (Abbie Cornish), Blondie (Vanessa Hudgens) and Amber (Jamie Chung).
The only way to escape the brothel/asylum is through defining her own violent, lunatic world, the Wise Man (miscast Scott Glenn) tells her in a dream sequence, and much of the film is her escapist war fantasies set mostly in zombie-filled World War II trenches, but with demons straight out of Lord of the Rings and a dragon that looked like Eragon’s angry sister on a really bad day.
I’ll be honest with you: Sucker Punch was a complete mess of a film. The visuals were amazing but the story barely held together at all, just about every female in the film is beautiful, good, and, oh yeah, abused and tortured by the men in the film, all of whom are sadistic scumbags. There’s barely any redemption at the end of the film and by then it was too late, I’d just unplugged and was ready for it to end. Your experience may vary, but I was pretty darn disappointed by this big-budget disaster.
Mr. Snyder, as the film’s writer and director, I would encourage you to spend some time with your therapist talking about the dark, twisted psyche that’s revealed in Sucker Punch before you start working on your next project, Superman.