Tuesday, March 29, 2011

"Sucker Punch" is one hell of a good time (and not just for fanboys): B-

Zack Snyder has been taking a beating over the past few days. The response to "Sucker Punch" has been overwhelmingly negative. With complaints surrounding the movie's undertones of sexual abuse, lack of believability, weak character development, and CGI-overkill, "Sucker Punch" will probably be remembered as one of the worst films of 2011 (and possibly all time). Once the credits started to roll, I knew I'd be joining the ranks of the minority of people who enjoyed this movie. Because I f-cking enjoyed this movie.

The story of "Sucker Punch" focuses on a young woman who is institutionalized in the 1950's. Babydoll (Emily Browning), as she's later named, lives with the memory of her younger sister's death at the hands of her abusive step-father. Falsely accused with no famliy to turn to, Babydoll is dropped off at a mental asylum. The women's ward is run by a young, greasy hustler type named Blue (Oscar Isaac). Babydoll's step-father works out a deal with Blue to have her lobotomized within a week so that she doesn't remember the truth surrounding her sister's murder. **SPOILERS AHEAD**

As Blue gives Babydoll the tour of the ward, he takes her to the Theater. There, we are introduced to Dr. Gorski (Carla Gugino), a dance teacher/psychologist who works for Blue. Dr. Gorski takes Babydoll under her wing and teaches her to escape the dismal reality of the hospital by simply getting lost in her thoughts [actress Jamie Chung referred this as 'fever dreams' in a 2009 interview]. The hospital is a jumping-off point for alternate realities. In the second level of reality, the hospital is re-imagined as a brothel. Blue commands Babydoll and the other women to dance for his customers and satisfy their "needs." In a fashion, Babydoll and the others are exploited as whores, with Dr. Gorski as their madame and Blue as their pimp. **It's important to note that we never see OR hear any sexual abuse or sexual acts in the movie. Many reviews I've read complain about the overall misogynistic undertone of the movie, that Snyder is a woman-hater and a pervert. The whole brothel-thing seemed to bother a lot of women, but Snyder was tasteful; we don't ever see a nipple, or even a whole ass cheek throughout the entire film.**

Babydoll is scheduled to perform for the elusive High Roller in three days. Babydoll joins the other girls one day while they are practicing their dance routines. With the flip of a switch, Bjork's "Army of Me" comes on and Babydoll gets lost in the music. This is where the third reality comes in. As she dances, Babydoll imagines a frozen Asian landscape, where she meets the Wise Man (Scott Glenn). The Wise Man reveals to her that in order to escape the hospital, she must go on a quest to find 5 items: Fire, a Key, a Knife, a Map - the 5th item will remain a mystery to her, but the Wise Man ensures that only she will know what it will be. After kicking some major samurai ass, the music stops and Babydoll snaps out of her fever dream. She gathers the other women - Sweet Pea (Abbie Cornish), Rocket (Jena Malone), Blondie (Vanessa Hudgens), and Amber (Jamie Chung) - and reveals to them her plot for escape. The women agree to help Babydoll in her quest. Each item can be found in the hospital, so Babydoll and the other women go on a sort of treasure hunt to snatch them up.

The 3rd level of reality can only be reached by Babydoll as she dances. Like Carroll's story of Alice in "Through The Looking Glass," Babydoll is able to use her imagination to bring in elements of her real life into her dream - which explains why we see the other four women are able to be in the 3rd level with her. In pursuit of each object, Babydoll and the girls go deep into CGI-enhanced dreamscapes, each one with its own unique obstacles. There are steampunk-powered Nazis, an incredible medieval dragon that would put "Dragonheart" to shame, sleek robots in the belly of a futuristic bullet train, and (as mentioned before) some really big samurai set against the backdrop of a snowy Asian temple courtyard.

The action in this movie may be overkill, but it's so incredibly awesome. It's cheesy, it's over-the-top, but it's entertaining as hell. Snyder is definitely a fan of slow motion, and he certainly exercises his right to use it ten times over. I can't really say enough for the visual accomplishments of "Sucker Punch." I really haven't seen anything like it. It's even more impressive when you consider that "Sucker Punch" was not a graphic novel or comic book, but a raw idea from the mind of Zack Snyder. You either have to drop a lot of acid or play a ton a video games (actually, probably both) to come with such a unique look and feel for a movie purely devised from your imagination. **Another important note while we're on the subject of action sequences and visual effects: If the trailer looks like a goddamn video game, the movie will probably look like a goddamn video game. Do you play a lot of video games? No? Hmm, you probably won't enjoy yourself!!!**

On the subject of character development, I disagree with many reviewers out there who said that they didn't "connect" with the characters. At one point in the movie, a certain character sacrifices her life in order for Babydoll and the others to escape with one of the items. THIS S--- MADE ME CRY. So I'd say that I definitely connected.

The story is a bit jumbled and lacks clarity, that I have to agree with. But I think I deciphered it pretty well in the beginning of the article. It's not too hard to follow, but Snyder doesn't do a very good job of explaining the alternate realities. In "Inception," Nolan sprinkles in detailed explanations by having the characters discuss it amongst each other, like when Cobb is training Ariadne to be an architect. With "Sucker Punch," you just get a heavily-accented Carla Gugino talking about freeing your mind and letting go. It doesn't make a whole lot of sense, but for those of us with escapist fantasies, it's easier to believe in Snyder's story.

I don't want to give away the ending, for fear that a lot of you still haven't seen the movie. And I don't blame you for that; with all of the negative press and the Snyder-bashing reviews, it's hard to muster up to the courage to take a chance on "Sucker Punch." For me, those nasty reviewers and iMDBers made me shudder at the though of paying to see such teenage fetishist filth. But to tell you the truth, I walked out of that theater imagining myself in a long trench coat, fishnet stockings, knee-high military boots, wielding a big MFing gun.

Our dreams are vividly imagined worlds of uncertainty and terror. Do you think you'll be more inclined to remember a dream about a family picnic, or a dream depicting your closest friend being pumped full of bullets? I guess what I'm trying to get across is that"Sucker Punch" gives you two solid hours of pure imagination and fantasy. It's messy, it's raw, it's overwhelming, it's violent - but you'll wake up and you'll remember what you saw.

P.S. - Please don't start a war in the comments. Thanks!


  1. Wow. That was a damn good review. The last line really sums up the whole Sucker Punch experience. This is actually the first review I have read of this movie that make any logical sense. Thanks!!!

  2. This Zack Snyder seems to a film maker everyone loves to hate!! I loved 300 but hated Watchmen which I found too long and extremely boring. And yet his cinematic techniques are really cool. Sucker punch is yet to play here in NZ but I am really looking forward to it. I hope I'm like you and really like it!!

  3. This was my most anticipated movie of 2011, but I might not go and see it now. But hey, I like to have fun!

  4. Although I disliked the film, I can respect why you found it enjoyable. I wish I could love this film the way you do but there is just so many things about the movie that irked me.

  5. Definitely one of the most positive reviews of SUCKER PUNCH I've found online, and I quite get where you're coming from. This is pretty much the review I would have written if I wasn't disappointed by certain aspects.

    I do very much agree about that death scene. That tugged at my heart a bit, and did not see that coming. Nor the subsequent deaths after that, which rather shocked me by its suddenness. Glad you enjoyed SUCKER PUNCH, lady dude.

  6. @ The Rapid Reviewer: Thank you so very much.

    @ Brent: I agree with you, "300" was brilliant while "Watchmen" had potential but it lost steam half-way through. I hope you enjoy SUCKER PUNCH over in NZ!

    @ Stevee: I think you should try it out, because the visuals and action sequences alone are incredible!

    @ CS: I appreciate your respect. I could have easily gone the other way with my review, because there were many imperfections. I think I was just in the right mood when I saw it...

    @ Andy: Yes! That death scene was captivating, right? Glad to hear that you felt the same way. Thank you for your kind words, I'm pretty sure you're the first to call me LADY DUDE, which is fine by me!

  7. Great summary of the film! I also enjoyed your postive take on what worked with the film. Although, I didn't enjoy it quite like you, I can still understand the reasoning behind your positive sentiment.

    Hopefully, Snyder can return to his former glory and help get the Superman franchise back on track!

  8. finally had a chance to read YOUR review of "Sucker Punch". Totally agree with all points! Seriously, if you just listened to the prologue, it would make sense!! Who said that Snyder was a woman-hater? I saw tasteful outfits and empowering women!
    you wanted to wear a trenchcoat? I wanted to wear Sweet peas outfit and run around with a gun and sword!! i can't wait until it comes out on DVD!!!

  9. @ Matty: Thanks for the feedback! I don't know about SUPERMAN. Personally, the bulletproof hero has never been all that interesting to me. But I do hope Snyder gets back on track with audiences. He deserves more credit.

    @ Movie Dame: Glad to hear you concur. The trenchcoat I was referring to was in fact the one Sweet Pea was wearing...her outfit was my favorite, but I was bummed she never used that big-ass sword she was packing. Happy to hear another lady friend enjoyed the movie!

  10. Saw this last night!! Am still going over in my mind how I felt about it. It is far superior to Watchmen, but I just felt that the between action sequences were the problem as they were somewhat weak on character expansion.
    But overall what a spectacular movie. I really liked it visually and left highly entertained. Snyder may be taking a beating but he sure can make a seriously stylish movie and I like his cinematic style and CGI tecniques.

  11. Good for you for sticking to your guns about this movie! I don't understand any complaints about overly sexual themes--but then again, I was the audience member who wanted the nipple and/or ass cheek. C'mon. If you're in a brothel, show me some skin.

    But I think you summed it up best with the "two solid hours of pure imagination and fantasy". If you go in seeing the movie with that line in mind, it's guaranteed to satisfy, because that's really exactly what it is. Great review!

  12. @ Brent: Yes! Another satisfied customer! Glad you enjoyed the movie!

    @ M. Hufstader: Haha! Yeah I guess the girls were teases...thanks for the kind words! Happy to hear that you liked SUCKER PUNCH! I'm trying to get the word out, you know?

  13. M. Hufstader of "The Smoking Pen" redirected me to this review. It was great to read, because I too am in the minority that not only liked this film - I loved every damn minute of it. The amount of bashing Snyder gor for it is beyond belief.

    The two most brought up flaws people mention are the flat characters and the whole brothel scenario. But to me, both make perfect sense. Why?

    1) "Flat" characters - what we basically see is the world through Babydoll's eyes, i.e. the Brothel is a filtered version of the real world, the Asylum. Babydoll was in the Asylum for a very short time, and had very limited interaction with the other inmates. She could not have known their personalities in depth. And because what we see is her fantasy, we also see the girls how she sees them: i.e. with only a few basic traits of their character Babydoll was able to pick up. That is why they appears "flat", but it in my eyes it couldn't have been any other way. Also, take notice how the most defined and fleshed out characters are Blue and Dr. Gorski, both of which Babydoll had extensive interactions with - the first being her abuser, and the second her therapist.

    2) The Brothel - Since the girls are sexually abused in the Asylum, it feels to them like they're in a whorehouse. It is no wonder then the fantasy layer is constructed as a Brothel! Though we can't take anything that happens here for granted, but rather as a symbolic take on something real. For example, Amber and Blondie's deaths. They weren't really shot. They were probably lobotomized in real life (as punishment for their misbehavior), therefore making them useless ("dead") for the rest of Babydoll's plan. To reinforce this, observe how they "die" on the same day the High Roller (aka the lobotomy doctor) was in the Brothel (the Asylum in reality). Plus, at the end, Dr. Gorski mentions no murders in the Asylum.

    Of course, and there's generally the amazing attention Snyder paid to details, plus the awesome action and visuals and stylish direction. Surely, it's one of my favorite films, not only of 2011, but of all times.

    P. S. If you didn't know already, there'll be a director's cut coming out. Zack Snyder said he had to cut out 18 minutes of the theatrical release. He says (and I'm assuming that 'them' is the MPAA):

    “They were just like, ‘It’s too creepy, it’s too dark'. We cut a bunch of violence — on the BluRay there’s more action. There were a couple scenes that crossed the line for them, even if nothing happens in them. Just the tone was wrong.”

    Also removed from the finished film are all the dance sequences that had been planned.

    “So much work was put into it and the girls really loved it because they had to learn these big elaborate dance numbers that we felt like could live on in the extended cut.”


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