Wednesday, August 24, 2011

REVIEW: Sucker Punch

Sucker Punch
Director: Zack Snyder
Year 2011

Sucker Punch is a mind bending, anime infused, action super charged, mental drama filled, melting pot of all that goes on inside the sick and twisted mind of director Zack Snyder. Following the misadventures of the saddest girl in the world, Baby Doll, the film opens in melodramatic music video fashion presenting a series of unfortunate events that leave the main character's sister dead by cause of a stray bullet. Bearing the brunt of the blame, Baby Doll is then sent to an insane asylum by the request of her abusive stepfather. Now this is where it gets trippy.

Once inside the asylum, Baby Doll must transport herself into a fantasy world filled with dragons, zeppelins, samurais, zombie soldiers, futuristic robots, and everything in between, in order to free herself from the ever watchful and abusive guards of the facility. Sound pretty strange? Well you'd be right, but what Zack Snyder does here is mash up all of these random elements and surprisingly makes something coherent out of it. Even if it is a bit overkill in some parts and unexplainable.

Welcome to the wackiest ward in the world!

Baby Doll AKA Hannibal Lecter.

If you've seen Sucker Punch, then chances are your eyes are feeling a bit raped. The amount of visual flare that can be found up on the screen in one single second of this flick is astounding and in my opinion that's not a bad thing. Especially if your film is set in an insane asylum. The maddening effect of the special effects, feels perfectly at home among the psychotic minds that must inhabit this bat shit crazy institution. I found it an interesting metaphorical play, by bombarding the viewers with this alternative reality, that could only exist inside the head of a crazy person. Interestingly enough, the only way that this crazy person, said Baby Doll played by Emily Browning, can break free from this oppressive place is by dealing with her inner demons and taking her manifested guilt head on.

Now, am I giving Zack Snyder more credit then he deserves or is there really some substance underneath all this glitter and glam? I think there is. I think the film is just one big metaphorical cluster fuck, that in the end tells a simple story about one girl who regrets the actions that she made which caused the death of her little sister. You can see this reflected in the two characters, Sweet Pea and Rocket. A mirrored pair of sisters that resemble the kindred-ship that both Baby Doll and her sister had shared. These two characters, played by Abbie Cornish and Jena Malone, personified the protective nature that Baby Doll possessed for her sister and they even get a chance to reenact, so to speak, the horrible event that led to Baby Doll getting a one way ticket to the looney bin.

The saddest girl to ever wear a sailor suit.

I have no idea what's going on! I'm freaking out!

I can explain the metaphorical connections between the relationships that Baby Doll finds within the asylum, but for the life of me the only thing connecting these bat shit crazy moments and death defying missions that the girls undertake in the fantasy world, can only be described as coming from the mind of a nutjob. Like I said before, having the film set in an insane asylum validates this outlook that Baby Doll might not be alright in the head after what happened to her sister and having to deal with the terrible guilt that resulted from that horrible event. This justification could quite possibly be the only rational that Snyder could get away with by putting so much testosterone charged imagery into a film that is inhabited by so many female characters. I get the escapism of the fantasy world, I understand that she must go there to deal with the events going on around her in the institution, but I just can't understand why the fantasy world that she finds comfort in would be fueled by so much machismo and scantily clad male culture cues.

In actuality I'm not complaining, because I dig all of the elements that are splatter onto the screen, but I just don't see the genuine validity of having these girls project themselves through the eyes of an average teenage boy in order to find strength within themselves. It just seems so strange to have an empowered movie about strong female characters, only to be displayed as nothing more then eye candy for genre and cult nerds everywhere. It's a bold move and unorthodox to boot, yet I still can't seem to discredit the overall nature of Sucker Punch. The metaphors work for me, aside from the male induced fantasy world, and that's enough for me.

The girls take a break from war to walk in slow motion.

This fat slob likes what he sees.

If you ignore the fact that Snyder and this story seem a little misogynistic, then you'll be blown away by this magnificently diverse and spectacularly striking film. There is so much going on in Sucker Punch, that I find myself at a loss on where to start first. The fantasy world is charged with a kinetic atmosphere that pulsates with every passing moment. The instances when Baby Doll gets lost in her dancing, is both hypnotic and awe inspiring with each introduction to this wild world that can only be found within her mind and among friends. From the chilled snow scattered dojo, to the eroded battle torn trenches, to the orc infested castle battlements, to the sleek futuristic space train, this film is vivid in every sense of the word.

With each reentry to this parallel dimension of the mind, the stakes are raised providing some enthralling dramatic moments in both the opposition the girls are against and the outcome that results after reaching their goals. We come to find out in this film, that the world they inhabit outside of the fantasy realm and within the bordello replaced insane asylum, is brutal. Death can be delivered quickly and without warning. It's almost a shock to the viewer's system when we find this out, because we take for granted that this is all a world outside of the reality. We initially believe that whatever happens inside this fabricated realm doesn't effect the here and now of the asylum, but that belief system comes crashing down once we realize that when characters fall in the fantasy realm of both the mission based world and strip club, they meet their demise in the real world in a different fashion but with the same result. The technique has shades of the Matrix stored within its workings, yet it's all devised within the mind.

This movie is giving me heartburn.

Where in the flipping hell are we?

These aspects of the film that I've covered are flashy and eye catching, often overshadowing some of the more stable portions of the movie, but I must not forget the caliber of the main cast. Emily Browning's portrayal of the sedated Baby Doll is subdued and restrained, even when she is dealing out death in the fantasy world. It's not the most energetic of roles, but it gives off a dreamlike quality that fits in nicely with the lobotomized style finale that caps off the film.

Other notables are the already mentioned Abbie Cornish and Jena Malone, who play the two sisters Sweet Pea and Rocket. The two of them are amazing, putting so much heart and feeling into their roles that they definitely stand out as the best and most engaging of the bunch. Cornish's Sweet Pea was one of my favorite characters of the film and I found there to be so many parallels between herself and the real life character of Baby Doll, the one within the asylum. Her protective nature towards her sister and the respect that Baby Doll shows her during the final moments of the film, almost makes me think that all of the girls that she interacts with within the asylum were just various personalities of Baby Doll herself.

It came across to me that after the death of her sister, Baby Doll's mind was fractured into various pieces, all which encompass the group of girls that she comes to befriend in the asylum. The most strong willed and closely mirrored version of her true self was Cornish's character Sweet Pea, thus enabling her to survive the pit falls of the other characters. It's just a theory, but one that seems to make more sense then finding literal specific objects in a fantasy world that will help you escape a very real and physical problem of being trapped within an insane asylum.

Either way, I love the film for making me think and giving me a reason to invest the time in trying to figure things out. Sucker Punch is definitely a film that people need to give a second chance. Try not to take it at face value and you'd be surprised at what you find underneath.

What the hell did you just say about my mustache?!?

Your ass has just been lobotomized.

Sucker Punch is a kind of film that I doubt we will ever see again in the Hollywood scene. Its counter intuitive nature and immature approach might mask some of the rather deep aspects of the narrative from the majority of viewers, but that doesn't necessarily negate those extra ordinary elements that really make this film exciting and new. It's the combination of these components that make this film so special and extremely entertaining. Sadly, such a diverse concept might not grace the cinemas anytime soon seeing from the underwhelming response the film has had.

On that note, I feel that it's still a miracle that at least something of this unusual caliber was even made at all. With its ups and downs, Sucker Punch is a highly enthralling film that really needs a second glance. I highly recommend this film to anyone you enjoys unorthodox films that cater to an attention deficit filled crowd, yet offers a bit more breadth for the keen eyed observers. Give it a chance... you might actually get Sucker Punched.

4 out of 5 stars     Zack Snyder You Sneaky Son of a Bitch!


  1. Awesome review. I loved this movie, I thought it was awesome how it was so small but grew into something larger.

    I wish more people would appreciate the movie.

  2. Exactly! I loved how it began intimately with Baby Doll's tragic misteps and banishment to the asylum into an epic mindscape that goes just plain crazy.

    Still don't understand why the film is so underappreciated. Glad you dug it and the review.