Tight, skimpy outfits, check. Chicks wielding weapons, check. Dragons and fire, check. Robots, samurai swordplay and zombies, triple check. Indeed, another ultimate fanboy fantasy flick had to be done. After all, it’s been awhile since Sin City was released, and what better way to make hot women appear hotter than by running them through director Zack Snyder’s (300, Watchmen, Legend of the Guardians) visual oven.
While 300 consisted primarily of bevies of bare-chested men, Sucker Punch boasts an all-female lead cast. Unlike his previous works which were mostly book adaptations, Snyder attempts to concoct an original screenplay this time with co-writer Steve Shibuya and describes it as “Alice in Wonderland with machine guns”. Oh boy.
Comparing Snyder’s latest CG overload fest to Tim Burton’s twisted, gothic trips is an insult to them both. So we won’t go there. But for all his green screen shenanigans, Snyder is a man who knows not to take himself too seriously. His films are made to throttle audiences with balls to the wall insanity, something which Sucker Punch so brazenly does.
It’s the 1950s, and we are introduced to Babydoll (Emily Browning) who’s just learned about the untimely demise of her parents. Enter thoroughly livid evil uncle/step-father figure, pissed over the fact that he’s now saddled with a pair of whiny girls without a cent to his name. Naturally, he decides to get rid of them but is saved the trouble when Babydoll accidentally shoots her sister during their heated altercation. Jumping on the opportunity to trash the other half of his baggage, her step father admits an orphaned Babydoll to a mental institution, where he bribes an orderly, Blue (Oscar Issac dripping with nastiness) to have her lobotomized. Though grief-stricken, she hasn’t lost the will to survive and begins to plot her escape with fellow inmates Sweet Pea (Abbie Cornish), Rocket (Jena Malone), Blondie (Vanessa Hudgens) and Amber (Jamie Chung). Their plan has to be executed within 5 days, where they need to collect 5 different items to aid their break out—as instructed by a random Wiseman (an embarrassingly stiff Scott Glenn). This leads Babydoll to conjure an alternate reality, a dreamworld which will allow them to find aforementioned items before The High Roller (Jon Hamm) deflowers her.
On top of being double dipped and soaked in crazy, the story itself takes a few more Inception-esque turns probably too complicated to wax rhetoric about. Snyder and Shibuya build an interesting premise around a trite genre, but eventually get carried away by their video game affections. Action sequence? Let’s simply make those creatures bigger, throw in some leather jumpsuits and amp up the sound effects! One half expects the word “K.O” to flash across the screen following Babydoll’s triumphs over her monsters. Ironically, the film expresses best at emotional angles; the opening establishment of Babydoll’s predicament with no dialogue accompanied by Snyder’s signature slow-mo effects are used to breathtaking results, and when all things finally draw to a close with moments of earnest interaction amongst the cast.
Despite being burdened with the worst call-girl-worthy names in movie history (Sweet Pea, really?), Sucker Punch’s young cast stretch their talents to accommodate a Spartan script. Ill-fitting Sailor Moon garb notwithstanding, Browning (Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events) injects compelling ingenuousness edged with guile as Babydoll, Cornish brandishes some appropriate action superstar flair and Marlone’s interpretation of raw vulnerability marks herself as a young actress to watch. Hudgens and Chung look like they’re just biding time between paychecks, yet contribute adequately to the girl gang’s winsome chemistry. Issac’s token baddie role may be one-dimensionally ruthless, nevertheless he manages to take Blue’s maniacal rants to convincing emotional heights.
Musically landscaped by a rousing assortment of sexy, classic rock tunes (listen out for Brownings haunting rendition of “Sweet Dreams”), Sucker Punch throws the right round house kicks, albeit in a messy fashion. All we can do now is hope that Snyder gets his act together in time for the new Superman reboot.
Beckii C is a former film production tyrant who also happens to be an insatiable movie addict. When not engaged in spirited debate, she can be found scouring the town for perfect vintage fashion and whispering at small animals. Her guilty pleasures include listening to bands who can't play their own instruments and devouring cream puffs.