Lowdown: A gang of chicks wages imaginary fights in order to escape an asylum.
Director Zack Snyder (300, Watchmen) has earned his fame through his films’ style, and Sucker Punch is no different. The question that applied to his previous films still remains, though: can Snyder come up with enough substance to support the style, or are we in for a stylish yet hollow couple of hours?
With Sucker Punch, Snyder switches the style lever to maximum as of the word go. The introduction scene, taking place to the tune of a rather awful cover of “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)” (there is an ongoing theme of awful covers in Sucker Punch) sets things up rather too quickly. We see how a vile husband kills his wife for her money and then pins the crime on step daughter Baby Doll (Aussie Emily Browning). No one believes Baby Doll, who ends up at an asylum. The evil father pays the asylum’s boss a nice fee to have his step daughter lobotomized, which leaves our Baby Doll just a few days to escape.
At the end of the introduction we meet the gang of girls Baby Doll is imprisoned with, led by Sweet Pea (Aussie Abbie Cornish). Together with a female doctor, those girls are arranging a play; Baby Doll soon imagines that play to be reality, and we see things through her illusion – Sucker Punch turns out to take place at a Moulin Rouge like brothel where the soon to come lobotomizer is represented as a high end boss that requires special "attention" from the girls.
Our Baby Doll quickly works out a plan to escape the brothel/asylum, but the plan calls for some artifacts the girls need to acquire. The trick for acquiring them are Baby Doll’s special dances: her dance, which we never see, mesmerizes those who watch it while Baby Doll herself feels as if she is waging some heroic battle with her fellow chicks in some comics like world. These battles are where the Sucker Punch feels most at home, a dream inside a dream home (did anyone mention Inception?). Each of the battles take place in another imaginary world: a steampunk World War 1 universe, or a Dungeons & Dragons like universe to name two. There is ample room for much stylistic celebration with these battles.
However, these battles also expose the hollow nature of Sucker Punch. There are just that many times that I could watch our fantasy heroes fall from up high into an earth shaking split. There are just so many times I could withstand watching them fight monster after monster knowing fully well that they have to beat that particular monster in order for the film to get anywhere. The repetitiveness exposes the awful truth behind Sucker Punch: It claims to offer style and it claims to offer substance, but in actual fact it is nothing more than a film whose claim to fame is limited to showing us minimally clad good looking young women having a fight. If that sort of thing turns you on then Sucker Punch would be a two hour orgasm; if you’re after more you may end up like me, yawning.
At this point I will add that my interest in watching Sucker Punch was triggered by bit-torrent. According to TorrentFreak, a leading bit-torrent blog that runs weekly charts of pupular bit-torrent downloads (see an example here), Sucker Punch was a very sought after download. According to another TorrentFreak post (here), there is a good relationship between the number of bit-torrent game downloads and the grade the games receive in major gaming websites. I was therefore out to see whether the relationship between quality and number of downloads that applies to games works with movies, too. Judging by Sucker Punch, it doesn’t.
Adequate disclosure: This blogger does not download films via bit-torrent. While my belly is full of contempt towards the movie studios and the way they treat their best customers, I prefer to wait out and rent the Blu-ray version. I'm a sucker for quality.
Technical assessment: A very flashy Blu-ray in both sound and vision departments.
Overall: Meh. 2.5 out of 5 stars.