Thursday, April 7, 2011

Sucker Punch (2011)

Title: Sucker Punch (2011)

Director/Writer: Zack Snyder

Cast: Emily Browning, Jena Malone, Carla Gugino, Scott Glenn


Zack Snyder is one of those directors whose films I always look forward to because so far, he’s directed a pretty decent bunch of films: Dawn of the Dead (2004), 300 (2007), Watchmen (2009). I haven’t seen Legend of the Guardians yet, so the verdict is still out on that one. Recently, Snyder was chosen out of a short list of filmmakers to direct the upcoming Superman: Man of Steel. So of course I was pumped up for Sucker Punch. The previews, pictures and posters all gave us a glimpse of what looked like a visually striking motion picture filled with fantasy and beautiful women. From the promotional material we all saw, Sucker Punch was destined to be the type of film that was tailor made for the fanboy in all of us. So, with that said, why was I so let down? Read on and find out.

Sucker Punch tells the tail of Babydoll, a 16 year old girl who’s just been sent to the Lennox House for the Mentally Insane. You see, her scum bucket of a stepfather wants her lobotomized, to hide the truth behind the death of Babydoll’s mother and sister. Also, so she can’t get her hands on her recently deceased mother’s fortune. The mental institution isn’t a pretty place, young girls like Babydoll are liable to get raped or killed in a place like this. Good thing Babydoll has one hell of an imagination. Whenever things get too ugly in the Lennox House, Babydoll closes her eyes and escapes to a series of imaginary worlds that include fighting Giant Samurais, Fire Breathing Dragons, Orcs, Robots and even Nazi Zombies! Sounds like one hell of a kick ass movie don’t it?

Well, it was and it wasn’t. I’m not going to say that Sucker Punch was a complete waste of my time. Visually, the film kicks ass on more then one occasion, it’s as a whole that the movie just doesn’t gel. I get what Snyder was trying to do. He was going with the old “young girl escapes into an imaginary world” type of film. Sucker Punch wants to be mentioned along side films like The Wizard of Oz (1939), Return to Oz (1985), Pans Labyrinth (2006), Labyrinth (1986), Mirrormask (2005) or the many versions of Alice in Wonderland. Unfortunately, unlike these movies I’ve just mentioned, Sucker Punch didn’t have characters we can care about. All we get are cool looking special effects and action sequences, which I loved and enjoyed; but let’s face it, if you don’t accompany special effects with an engaging story and characters we can give a damn about, then what’s the point? Then all you have is a film that will play like a hollow showcase of visual effects, which is for all intents and purposes exactly what Sucker Punch is. A hollow spectacle. Then there’s the whole issue of this being a CGI fest, where nothing feels real or tangible, but that would make for a whole other article.

Watching Sucker Punch is like watching a movie on fast forward, with no time for character development or emotion. And that’s the films main flaw in my book. Sucker Punch is in such a rush to show you its 75 million dollar special effects and action sequences that it forgets we need to know who these gals are in order to give a hoot about them. How desperate is this film? Well, here’s an example: in the film, Babydoll is supposed to have these amazing dancing abilities. Whenever she starts dancing, people are hypnotized by her moves. Everyone has to stop what they are doing to be enthralled by Babydolls dancing. At the same time, whenever she starts dancing, that’s when we (the audience) are whisked away to special effects land, I mean, Babydoll’s dream worlds. Here’s the strange thing though: we never get to see what the big fuzz is about her dancing! In fact, we never get to see her dancing at all! And her dancing is supposed to be this big element of the plot! What the hell?! But like I said, the film is in a hurry. I personally hated that about it. Snyder might be a good director when his films are based on someone else’s script or on a graphic novel, but when it comes down to writing and directing a film based on his own ideas, apparently he has no grip on the importance of story telling or of development and emotion.

Here’s another thing, Sucker Punch attempts to be a deep film. It has a character played by Scott Glenn that is supposed to be a god like character that’s always giving the girls advice and hints on how to survive, just who the hell is that guy? And why does he pop up through out the whole movie? It’s never explored or explained, we just gots to take for granted that this is some nice guy that has taken a liking with these girls. Some critics have gone on to say that the film is misogynistic; others say it’s a female empowerment film. I say the film is none of those, its simply a fanboy’s wet dream. Any lover of Japanese animation, manga or comics in general should get what Snyder was trying to accomplish with this film. Comics and fantasy art have always been about scantly clad babes kicking ass, so it’s no big shock to me when I see these girls fighting giant samurai’s in mini skirts and school uniforms, its all part of what makes up the world of a fanboy. The reason for comics being all about bodacious babes is because the target audience for comics and films based on them are the hyper active libidos of teenage boys, this is the same target audience Sucker Punch is going for and this is probably the main reason why the film is rated PG-13. If I had to compare Sucker Punch to something, it would be to an issue of Heavy Metal Magazine. Don’t know if any of you guys and gals out there are familiar with said magazine, but on a monthly basis, this magazine pumps out issues filled with some of the best and some of the worst fantasy art and stories around. Sometimes the stories and art are groundbreaking stuff, sometimes its amateurish, on any given month, an issue of Heavy Metal Magazine is a mixed bag. But you can be sure beautiful women and erotica are in the mix. Same can be said for Sucker Punch. Some of it is great (the fx) some of it is not (the script and the storytelling).

Finally, Sucker Punch is a filmed that’s influenced by many others of its ilk. For example, this is a story about a girl who escapes to a dreamland, and on one of these dreamworld’s she ends up fighting giant samurais. Sounds a heck of a lot like a scene from Terry Gilliam’s Brazil (1985) to me. It’s got the dream, within a dream, within a dream thing from Inception (2010). There’s a scene where Babydoll ends up in a dreamworld fighting what can only be described as Orc’s from Lord of the Rings. Hell, the whole film looks like something Tim Burton might have cooked up on a Saturday morning after watching too many Japanese cartoons. So anyways boys and girls, this film wasn’t a total waste, but its nothing to write home about either. I left the theater feeling very underwhelmed, like I had just watched a film that bounced off my brain never to be seen again. I say that with a heavy heart, because I was actually looking forward to this one. Still, every director is entitled a dud, I guess this was Zack Snyder’s turn.

Rating: 2 1/2 out of 5

BrazilThe Criterion Collection (3-Disc Boxed Set)MirrorMaskReturn to OzPan's LabyrinthLabyrinth (Anniversary Edition)Heavy Metal (Collector's Edition)Heavy Metal/Heavy Metal 2000


Unknown said...

Nice review! It basically confirms my suspicions about this film. And I bet we will get an unrated director's cut on DVD, which seems to be Snyder's M.O. (how many versions of WATCHMEN were there). The problem with Snyder I find is that he gets in his own way. He also often inserts stylistic things just because he thinks they're cool and not for any other better reason. That was my problem with parts of WATCHMEN. I'm still curious to see SUCKER PUNCH but I can wait 'til DVD.

Jack L said...

Great review!
i've read many bad negative reviews for this film, so that combined with the fact that I didn't enjoy Snyder's previous work, makes this film a miss for me...

BRENT said...

This finally opened here in NZ last night. I'm with you here, the movie is all great action sequences with not alot else. When Sweetpea isn't doing her escapism dancing the acting is awful and very short on plot.
But the CGI is magnificent and I like his style. He tries to be somewhat the philosopher here and I think he should leave that line alone and concentrate on plot development instead of trying to be a guru to the audienence.
It is a shame because it ruins the whole movie. If Synder had expanded on the characters then Sucker Punch would have been a really cool movie. Instead it is an expensive disapointment.

odenat said...

i want to see a post about your European vacation too :) Where have you been and what was it like ?

SFF said...

I fall into the wait for DVD camp at this point, but I do want to see it. Welcome back my friend. Hola senor! My European Spanish accent. Best, sff

Your review was a pleasure to read.

Franco Macabro said...

@J.D.: In deed, Snyder has mentioned that he will be releasing a directors cut of the film when it goes out on dvd and blue ray, I wonder how different the movie will seem then. I'll definetly be checking out the directors cut when it's released.

@Jack L: If you hated Snyder's previous work, you'll hate this one! In my opinion, its his first real stinker. Still, the film is not without its merits as far as the visual effects and style goes. It's the quintesential example of style over substance.

@BRENT: Totally agree with you on the fx work, its the only true highlight of the picture. Loved those giant samurais, and those robots, and the nazi zombies. Snyder should learn to realize his strenghts and his weaknesses as an artist. He might do great on direction, but as far as writing goes, he should leave that part of his films to those who know how to develop an engaging script with characters we can care about.

@Odenat: It wasnt actually european, that was just a reference to the national lampoon movies. But I had loads of fun, went to a couple of theme parks and saw lots of movies. Saw Sucker Punch on IMAX, it was my first IMAX movie experience.

@The Sci-Fi Fanatic: Thanks man, its good to be back!

Thanks to everyone for their fine comments!

Fritz "Doc" Freakenstein said...

I was somewhat disappointed by your review of Sucker Punch, Francisco, because you usually dig deeper into a film’s themes and you don’t just look at them at their face value. I agree with your overall assessment of Sucker Punch, but I’m still not sure from your review as to why you didn’t like it.

I question in your plot synopsis of Sucker Punch why you left out all mention of the Nightclub sequence of the film, as it takes up the majority of the film’s running time. You, like a lot of reviewers, seem to want to ignore this allegorical setting, which Zack Snyder has used to parallel the events that take place in the real world of Asylum. Honestly, I find this story devise as puzzling as anyone else, but to choose to disregard it is like admitting that you don’t even want to try and understand what Sucker Punch is about. I spent some time on this in my review of it on my blog, but I am only able to guess as to why Snyder added this additional layer to the film.

As I inferred earlier, I too did not enjoy Sucker Punch, but not because I was disappointed that it wasn’t just a fanboy’s wet dream come to life. I actually would have felt cheated if the film was that shallow. The problem with Sucker Punch is that the visual narrative is convoluted enough, as to make the more profound meaning of the film very difficult to decipher. What meanings can be derived from the film are - by my emotional and intellectual biases - overwhelmingly negative. I can appreciate a film that explores the darker aspects of the human condition, but only when it is clearly executed and thematically consistent. Unfortunately, Sucker Punch is neither of these.

Like you, I am a fan of Zack Snyder, and I liked all of his films (more or less) that you mentioned. I agree that the success of these films is in no small part due to their being adaptations of other writer’s successful work. If anything, I think Zack tried too hard to craft a film that both satisfied the visceral needs of his fanboy audience, while still formulating a tonally deeper and darker narrative that would appeal to a more mature sophisticated group. I think Mr. Snyder might have been better served by using his superb grasp of film’s visual appeal, by telling a slightly more conventional story. Personally, I’m not looking forward to his directing Superman. Not because I don’t think he’ll do at least a workman like job of it, but because I am becoming burnt out on the superhero genre as a whole and Superman in particular.

Anyone who wants to read my somewhat longer opinions of Sucker Punch can do read them on my blog Guardians of the Genre at

Nathanael Hood said...


You's a real shame that this film wasn't very good. I'm one of the small minority who thinks that Snyder is a good director. I am more than willing to throw down fisticuffs to defend my belief that "Watchmen" was one of the best films of the decade.

Oh well...maybe he will learn from this film's mistakes in time to make "The Man of Steel."

Franco Macabro said...

@Friz: The reason why I didnt like it was because it didnt take it's time to develop and explore themes or characters, like I mentioned in the review, it felt to me like it was a film being watched in fast forward, going through plot points really fast so they could get to the dream sequences. It felt like it was missing the "meat and potatoes" of the story, those moments that help us sympathize with the characters where not there.

I got the whole nightclub thing, the place was more like a bordello actually, and I get it. The girls are being sexually abused in the mental institution, so they see the institution as a lurid place where men come to get sexual satisfaction. It's that kind of film where everything that happens in the real world is mirrored in the fantasy world.

I got those allegories and symbolisms, yet I still didnt sympathize with the characters, to me one of the biggest failures is that we werent given a chance as an audience to "warm up" to these girls. And this is even more so with the rest of the girls in the cast who simply feel like they are tagging along for the ride. My main gripe is that by the time the film ended, I didn't really feel I got to know these characters.

Also, like you mentioned, the implications of whats really going on in the institution were really dark. I mean these girls were getting raped and lobotomized for sexual satisfaction and greed. We get cool fx and action, with sexy girls shooting guns and killing everything in their paths, but whats really behind it all, is totally messed up.

Thanks for your comments doc, they are appreciated! And I will make sure and read your thoughts on the film over at your blog!

@Nathanael: Hey, even Spielberg has made a dud or two, and so has every director, I hope he makes up for this with Superman. Even though Sucker Punch wasnt all that, Im still looking forward to his take on the Superman universe. It seems as if Superman is going to be his biggest movie yet, it will be interesting to see what he can do with a super huge budget.

maradfan said...

OMG I was so dissapointed when I saw the movie i cried! lol yes! THAT dissapointed, i was looking foward to this. I thought just like you Franco "awesome action sequences, drama, character relations, riveting storyline. NOTHING (exept the actions scenes and a pretty decent soundtrack to go into the mix) But it lacks sooo much! I literally was in the middle of watching it and i felt like i left the movie so many times, it didnt catch my atention at all! And all in all visually it was beautiful, but so was the trailer, i felt like i was watching the freaking trailer all threw out half the movie. ::sighs:: I had to let that off my chest XD but yeah I might consider purchasing it in blue ray for the extended content, plus it just feels like its one of those movies you can put on and not give a shit about lol you can clean, cook or whatever and just enjoy the soundtrack and enjoy the effect cause it requires no attention whatsoever XD sorry for the rant, love ya cuz <3

Franco Macabro said...

@Mary: Yeah, count me in as mega dissapointed...I had high hopes for this one, but like you, I felt I was watching the previews and not a real movie with some meat and potatoes to it. Thanks for commenting cuz!

Anonymous said...

I'm so bummed! i was so hoping this was going to be a great movie, since Em browning is my fav actress and i wanted her to hit it big in hollywood. :C still going to see it though! Been hyped about it for months.


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