Sucker Punch (12A)
Running Time: 110 mins
Reviewed by Matt Wavish: HCF Official Critic
So it’s finally here, Zack Snyder’s insane wet dream has finally made it out of his head and onto the big screen, and to get full pleasure out of this wild movie, you need to see it on the biggest screen possible. Please do not get put off by the 12A certificate either, as this film delivers enough violence to easliy warrant a 15 had there been more bad language or nudity in it. Yes, it’s all pretty safe, comic-book violence but the sheer scope and range of ideas on offer are enough to give even Michael Bay a headache. I guarantee at least once in this film you will want to punch the air, at at the very least scream out “Yes!!!”. Snyder’s gang of beauties fight, kill and blow up more bad guys than Stallone’s gang of Expendables, and while not as bloodthirsty as those old timers, there’s is a lot more style and ideas going on here. In fact, there just may be too many ideas, but hey, anyone who has seen 300 or Watchmen should know by now what Snyder is all about, visuals and incredible style and Sucker Punch delivers in spades on both counts.
Emily Browning playes ‘Babydoll’, sporting possibly the most famous pigtails of all time and seductively slithering around scenes as if trying to distract you from some deep, dark plan that only she knows about. Funny that, as that is pretty much her role as things hot up and we enter her ‘alternate world’ but we will get to that in just a second. Let’s explain how the poor girl ended up in the insane asylum and how her life spiralled out of control. In one of the finest opening scenes of the year we learn, in the space of about five minutes, her entire background. It’s all played out to a superb opening remix track of the Eurthymics Sweet Dreams and eye popping visuals and colours. Babydoll’s Dad clearly abuses her and her younger sister and after their Mother dies he expects to get a fortune. After the bitter funeral, in the rain, he learns that everything has been left to Babydoll and her sister and he hits the roof and decides to punish them in a way that is sinister and does make you question whether the BBFC got the certification right. To cut a short story even shorter, Babydoll tries to stop her Dad, firing a gun, missing and killing her sister. Her Dad then ships her off to the looney bin, and pays a small fortune to have her labotomised and abused by the vicious head guard Blue Jones (Oscar Isaac). On arrival, Babydoll learns the Asylum is a strange place where the head mistress, so to speak, likes to play music and get her patients to act out there thoughts in order to cure them. This woman is called Dr Vera Gorski( Karla Gugino) and we first meet her talking on stage to Sweet Pea (Abbie Cornish). Babydoll looks on in awe, possibly in love, and becomes obssessed with Sweet Pea’s feelings towards her.
Babydoll gets shown around by Sweet Pea’s sister Rocket (Jena Malone) and meets the rest of the gang Blondie (Vanessa Hudgens) and Amber (Jamie Chung) and its not too long before Babydoll heads off into her own little world to escape the abuse and failed friendships. Up to this point the film has been a non stop ride of striking visuals and powerful, strong versions of old songs re-invented for a new generation of MTV loving youngsters. The soundtrack is pumped up and full of energy, and on the loud speakers of a cinema screen, it works wonders, i just worry at home in the comfort of your own living room and on your home sound system, all this effect may be lost, it will most certainly be watered down. Anyway, Babydoll’s fantasy world really comes to life as we suddenly blend from reality to fantasty and the Asylum has become a sort of brothel where the girls dance to impress clients and the whole show is run by Blue Jones in a different form. The scenery is suddenly colourful and full of life and there is a new energy to the film, excitement. As all the girls practise their dance routines wearing next to nothing, Babydoll struggles and is suddenly put on the spot by the dance teacher, who is played in Babydoll’s mind by Dr Gorski. Told she must dance, Gorski plays Bjork’s fantastic Army of Me song, and orders Babydoll to dance, and eventually dance she does. In fact, she is so good, in her tiny outfit, that everyone watching is completly swept away and distracted as she seduces with those innocent, starring eyes. Once we are all under her spell, we enter a new world, one where Babydoll is in charge and pretty much invincible, now Sucker Punch really hots up!
In the new world, the outfits are even less than before, with Babydoll wearing a skirt so small its hardly worth having on. She appears in an ancient Chinese temple and is met by Scott Gelnn’s Wise Man, a character who appears and gives instructions each time we enter this second dream-world. Babydoll is told to defend herself and three giant Chinese swordsmen arrive to do battle. For me, this was probably the finest scene in the film with Snyder effortlessly blending courageous CGI effects with real action. You can feel every punch, kick , sword swipe and bullet and you are with Babydoll the entire way through it, cheering her on as these towering giants, three times her size, try to kill her. Sucker Punch has come alive and the adrenalin rush you get from watching this scene is breathtaking. Snyder has a skill of not following the rules and doing things in his films you were hoping for, but never epxected to actually happen. One giant brutally kicks Babydoll in a way that is both shocking and awe inspiring. Snyder’s sheer determination to create something which has never been experienced before is astounding. He clearly has influences, but turns those influences into his own creations of pure wonder and enjoyment. We enter this second dreamworld a number of times as the film goes on. Babydoll is ordered to find five things, a map, a knife, fire, a key and a fifth unknown item in order to escape. Her way of getting the items is to distract her targets by dancing, while one of her ‘crew’ collects the item, usually from the person being distracted.
The plot does not go any deeper than that really, in all honesty, the film is just an excuse for five girls to prance around in seductive ou
tfits while Snyder does what he does best, create great big action set pieces that look, sound and feel totally out of this world. A battle with a dragon is stunning to watch and is one of the finest dragons I have ever seen in a film. Nazi soldiers made up of steam gives Snyder another chance to show off his mighty visual skills and prove that nothing is left to chance. Everything he does, visually, is perfected and polished to the point of you just forgetting you are watching special effects and become completly entranced in his, or should I say Babydoll’s world. As I said before, the incredible score adds immense power to the visuals and even at almost two hours, the pace never really lets up. It’s a rollercoaster ride from start to finish and the whole thing is incredibly pleasing on the eyes. So, does this film actually do anything wrong? I suppose it’s main selling point is actually its biggest flaw, the visuals and sound are so well done you tend to foerget the plot and just find yourself waiting for the next time we go into Babydoll’s second dream state. You become almost impatient, and the story starts to falter and become, dare I say it, a bit boring really. The big scene where it all comes together in the final ten to fifteen minutes is a real uphill struggle to enjoy, you’ve come to a point where talk is boring and you don’t really care what happens. Babydoll may be nice to look at, but you never really care for her, or her gang. Shame really, but thats what you get with a big effects movie I guess. Some director’s can pull it off and blend a good, powerful story with impressive special effects. Snyder can do it, just see Watchmen, but here he looses his grip.
Ultimately, Sucker Punch is kind of like all your favourite music videos, or clips from your favourite films added together with a failed attempt at a plot. Yes, the plot drives the films and links the majority of the scenes together, but it is just not strong enough to carry the effects. Even a little twist in the tale come the end completly baffles and almost made me feel like I had been cheated out of something and missed the joke. The ‘missions’ in Babydolls alternate world make no sense and have no purpose, other than giving a reason to blast away thousands of Nazi steam people, fight dragons or batter metal guards. All in all, this is the ultimate fantasy movie, it has great effects, gorgeous girls, nasty villains and a pumping soundtrack, it makes very little sense, but then maybe it was never meant to make sense. Maybe this is Snyder just giving people what they want, without the need to go too deep or have to think too much, and if that is the reason, then he has made the perfect Friday night movie for all those looking for a bit of escapism. For that reason alone, Snyder, thanks!