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!