I recently had the pleasure of watching Zack Snyder’s Sucker Punch. I don’t think Snyder always pulls it off but I was gleefully repulsed by Dawn of the Dead and exhilarated by 300. I think that 300 is his best film and while Suckerpunch is not in any danger of stealing that crown, it still had much to recommend it to a science fiction junkie like myself.
It’s the 1960s and a teenager (known to us as ‘Babydoll’) accidentally shoots her younger sister while trying to defend them both from the abusive stepfather with which they live. In order to silence Babydoll about the abuse and claim the family estate for himself, the stepfather has her committed to a brutal mental hospital – Lennox House. In the asylum Babydoll withdraws into a fantasy world and soon it is difficult to tell what is reality and what is not. The other girls in the asylum begin to feature in Babydoll’s epic and anachronistic fantasies. Each fantasy demonstrates an impossible task or mission that serves as a metaphor for different stages in the girls’ attempt (led by Babydoll) to escape their grim surroundings – both mentally and physically.
Sucker Punch is visually stunning. The crowning achievements of the film are four killer set pieces. These pit the Manga-esque Babydoll and ninja sword – supported by her squad of femme fatales - against computer-game style oriental bosses, clockwork Nazis (undead, of course), WWII bomber-eating dragons and an army of robots intent on delivering a doomsday weapon to a city on a far off alien world. All the while Scott Glenn delivers advice like a training-level mentor on a first-person shooter. Sucker Punch certainly shares some material and ambitions with The Matrix and Inception but unfortunately isn’t as good as either. Its narrative doesn’t hang together as effectively as it might and instead is only memorable in so much as the music-video visuals and action are impressive. An honourable mention should also go to the soundtrack which is pretty good. I had fun watching it but couldn’t escape the feeling that the same CGI budget, actresses and even elements like visual style and outline concept might have been turned into something truly spectacular.