“Sucker Punch” is one of those movies I expect people to “watch when it comes out on DVD,” and I don’t really blame them. In the few weeks leading up to it’s release, I had already decided this was going to be a guilty pleasure movie, something to go to for a good laugh, some sweet action and a bunch of gorgeous babes. To justify (mainly to myself) seeing the movie in theatres, I did a little research into the plot and such. The trailers really just advertised the fact that it was a Zach Snyder film (and who didn’t like 300, right?) and that there were a bunch of hot young girls with guns fighting all sorts of monsters and bad guys. On the movie’s website I happened to watch the extended trailer, which actually hints that there may be an interesting plot to this visuals heavy romp. Justification in hand, I headed out for my second encounter with the new Rave theatre in the area.
“Sucker Punch” really lived up to it’s name in about every aspect it could. From the in-your-face opening scene, the comic book-style action, the plethora of girls in brothel-style attire and the no feelings taken into consideration ending, I was sufficiently sucker punched out of my seat. I want to first go over the plot, which in all honesty was what got me to the show in the first place. As it turns out, poor Baby Doll has a sh*tty past. Her mom died, here evil step father wants to cut her out of the will, and she can’t aim a gun to save her life. That combination of factors lands her in the asylum, compliments of dear old dad. Of course, he doesn’t just want her committed, he wants her mind completely erased. After all, she isn’t really crazy, she’s just been through a lot… As a way of dealing with her impending under the table labotomy, she creates several new layers of Matrix/Inception style realities. In each, she is more and more able to manipulate what is going on around her, something she isn’t capable of doing in “real life.” The action scenes that we assume are the bulk of the movie are part of her tertiary reality, a reality were she uses exaggerated violence to accomplish tasks. The secondary reality, where the real bulk of the movie takes place, is one where Baby Doll and the other girls are dancers at an early 1900’s burlesque house, giving dances and other “favors” to the important clientelle. As the movie progresses, it seems like the made up land is really a better expression of what is going on in the asylum than we are originally led to believe.
So there’s my story synopsis for you. If that doesn’t do anything for you, fine, I’ve got a few more positives for the movie to go over. Let’s start with the cinematography. All I can say is, this thing looks good. I mean, it looks real good. I can only kick myself for not having seen it in IMAX when I had the chance. If you’ve seen 300 and Sin City, you know what you’re in for. If not, the best way to describe it is as if you were watching a comic book with real actors. Now, “Sucker Punch” differs in that the bulk of the movie is not overly stylized, just the big fight scenes. The Burlesque scenes are actually quite impressive in their own way, really visualizing the grittiness of the girls’ situation. I wouldn’t call these scenes realistic, but they did convey the emotion of the story. The action scenes were certainly out there, but definitely in a good way. The monsters are well crafted, and while the producers commited the ultimate sin of creating full CGI bad guys, I don’t really see any other way to have done it and I forgive them. You really get a feel for the depth of imagination of both Baby Doll and the creators of the film in the diversity of settings. You start in a medieval Japanese castle with giant samurai, then trek across time and space to fight zombie Nazis in World War II, ride a rigged train to a futuristic city and fight a dragon and an army of orcs inside a castle. All the while using weapons in the form of swords, axes, machine guns, mechanized suits, WWII bombers and rocket launchers. These scenes really had a video game feel to them, and I’m surprised the companion title hasn’t been released yet.
Acting was a bit suspect, but in my opinion rightfully so. It may be hard to believe Vanessa Hudgens hacking away at Nazi stormtroopers, but remember, we’re watching the imagination of a girl in an asylum. Everyone has a strong personality in their own mind, and that is what we are watching. Over the top, unpredictable, and iconic are exactly what the film calls for, and exactly what it delivers. We get very solid performances from all the girls, especially so from Abbie Cornish who plays Sweet Pea, the sort of big sister and leader of the group. Scott Glen is fun as the Wise Man who continually pops up in the action scenes to guide the girls to their goals. I will have to admit, I thought it was Leonard Nemoy until the credits (sorry Scott!). Oscar Isaac, who played Blue, was the most interesting character in my opinion. His characters are very dynamic throughout the various realities, but his personality remains the same.
Being rated PG-13, we don’t get much in terms of gore, but we do get a lot of great action. Numerous epic battles rage throughout the movie, with as much violence and weaponry as you could ask for. We get a disembowled dragon and a few headshots and dismemberments onscreen as well as a few particularly brutal slayings just offscreen. Since we’re talking about visual goodies, I’m gonna address the elephant in the room. Plain and simple, these girls are sexy. Now, I don’t really dig the whole 1920’s dancing outfits and I’m not the kind of guy that gets off on chicks shooting guns, but there’s something about watching 5 babes for an hour and a half that really adds to a movie. Maybe I just said it.
Now that we’ve come to the conclusion of our show, let’s get a few things straight. I thought this was a good movie. I’m trying to think of a few reasons to knock it off this pedastle I’ve created, but nothing comes to mind quick. There’s a good and engaging story, interesting characters and great plot progression. Visually its a treat, stylized where it should be and toned down when the action slows. Even the music was fun, giving us a great soundtrack of heavy rock to jam and kill bad guys to. The thing you have to remember is, “Sucker Punch” is great at being itself. It’s original and fun, and most definitely does not adhere to the norms. If you want all action, watch “300.” If you want all drama, watch “The Notebook.” If you’re just here to see a bunch of hot chicks walking around, do everyone a favor and pick up the latest SI: Swimsuit Edition and get out of here. There’s a lot more to it than any one of those elements by itself.
Thanks for sticking around and hearing this all out. I don’t usually rave about movies, but I felt someone had to to give the flick its due. I’ve spent a lot of time touting the effectiveness of the story, the engaging nature of its plot, etc. After all that, I will have to mention this in closing: The biggest question I had after walking out of the theatre was “Who do I have a bigger crush on, Vanessa Hudgens or Jamie Chung?”