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Marina Antunes [Celluloid 03.24.11] movie review news action fantasy

Year: 2011
Director: Zack Snyder
Writers: Zack Snyder, Steve Shibuya
IMDB: link
Trailer: link
Review by: Marina Antunes
Rating: 5.5 out of 10

In theory, Sucker Punch should have worked for me. I love movies that geek out on the visuals and Zack Snyder is a director that never goes cheap when it comes to making things look good (at least not with his last few outings). I’ll even admit to giving him a pass on story because he gets bonus marks for visuals (he gets 5 bonus poins here for a great looking movie) but there aren’t enough bonus points in the universe to forgive all of the failures, of which there are many, in this particular movie.

It doesn’t start off badly. If anything, the opening scene of Sucker Punch is a brilliantly realized short film which is more akin to a music video than anything else. To a soundtrack of “Sweet Dreams,” we see how Baby Doll (Emily Browning) lands at Brattleboro Asylum where her step-father is paying for a high-priced lobotomy so that she won’t remember the events leading up to her incarceration. The next time we see the young woman, she is being tied to a chair with the doctor readying to perform the procedure when the scene suddenly changes: we’re back in the theatre room and Baby Doll’s father is now a priest, the creepy hospital administrator is now a sleazy club owner, the shrink is a madam and the girls are exotic dancers who often take clients into the back room for added service.

In this new “reality,” Baby Doll meets some of the other dancers and convinces them to be her accomplices in an escape plan she conjures in a fantasy/dream world which she enters while she dances. Oh yes, when she dances she puts everyone under a spell and enters a world where her guide is a shrivelled old man (the great Scott Glenn) who talks like he just stepped out of some bad TV show complete with moronic catch phrase. (She must have some moves!) The plan includes tracking down four items and so the crack team of dancer/super human women set off to steal them while Baby Doll transfixes those around her with entrancing dance moves. With each dance, we enter another fantasy where the team completes tasks, much like levels in a video game, that end with acquiring a specific item.

The levels start off swell with a search for a map through WWI looking, hyper stylized trench warfare complete with Nazi-like zombie soldiers reminiscent of Kroenen except rather than filled with sand they seem to be filled with air. The problem is that by the second sequence, I was starting to get bored. Sure, the fight against a dragon in Mordor complete with an Orc army looked cool but I was already trying to figure out how many more of these sequences were left. And I wasn’t alone because as this particular sequence came to an end, a number of people in the packed theatre took a peek at the time on their cell phones.

There’s little dialogue here, likely because the actresses are flat. Carla Gugino’s accent is painfully laughable and even the usually great Jena Malone seems to be drowning in the crummy dialogue. The best of the bunch is Abbie Cornish who manages not only to deliver her lines with feeling but squeezes in a few moments of emotion between running around fantasies and “reality” in little more than tights and bustieres.

And what’s with the outfits? Even comic books have the sense to attire their heroines in proper superhero clothing but this is like the Pussycat Dolls took hold of the costuming. No better way to undermine the fact that you’ve created a world full of women who go around kicking butt than by stuffing them into costumes that make them look like either innocent little girls or hookers (with nothing in between). I’m sure I’m not the only one who has dreams of saving the universe but my dreams never included heels, fishnets and caked on make-up.

I’m sure some will argue that Snyder is getting at some deeper, underlying message. Maybe it’s even one about women being just as capable of partaking in the action as men. I’ll give him an ounce of credit for that since the majority of his films, even 300 which is nearly devoid of women, have featured strong female characters. Even here there’s an inkling of it but it’s all jumbled up in a teen boy’s wet dream. I want to give him credit for the stab at empowerment, especially since the film ends with a woman taking charge of the situation and righting the wrongs of “the man,” but there isn’t enough here to cheer for. I don’t need a message in my movies but when you make it so startlingly obvious and then fail to deliver, I’m going to take you to task.

I didn’t hate Sucker Punch, the visuals are impressive and I did enjoy some of the action sequences which are rendered to perfectly selected music, but I really didn’t like it either. The various sequences, on their own, are interesting but tied together with a ham fisted, Inception-like dream within a dream within a dream story - it’s overkill. Too much of anything can be bad for you and now we have proof that the adage is also true for action.

It might look like $85 million dollars but you’ll never get back your two hour investment.

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John (11 years ago) Reply

To summarize:
"The opening scene of Sucker Punch is a brilliantly realized ultra short film which is more akin to a teen boy’s wet dream of a Pussycat dolls music video".
There fix'd.
"look like either innocent little girls or hookers (with bimbos in between)".
Fix'd again.

"SUCKER PUNCH disappoints"
News at 11.
No way, how did that happen.


agentorange (11 years ago) Reply

My biggest fear about this film was that it's plot would be just a flimsy link between three or four action set pieces that go nowhere. Like watching someone play through video game levels. And it sounds like that's what it is. Too bad.


Diggler (11 years ago) Reply

The wife refuses to see this, because it looked like nothing more than titillation for young boys. She just may have been right.


Tensen01 (11 years ago) Reply

So... basically it delivered everything it promised in the trailers? To me that's all I hope for, and if it goes beyond; Awesome.


Anonymous (11 years ago) Reply

you guys are either to boring or to old to understand now that "Girls just want to have fun"


zenseeker (11 years ago) Reply

It's only disappointing if you were one of the poor, misguided souls who seriously believed that this would be any good.


Michael Allen (11 years ago) Reply

I liked Snyder in the remake of the Dawn of the Dead and 300 was okay, but this film is getting s&^* on! I think I will skip it for Hobo with a Shotgun.


RalphLockwood (11 years ago) Reply

I'm kinda amazed how how hard the "community" (geek, PA and others) have come down on this visually stunning film. haters always gonna hate, but I don't know what people expected. This wasn't going to be the Citizen kane of the genre, was it?


Jacob (11 years ago) Reply

"It might look like $85 million dollars but you’ll never get back your two hour investment"

Reading this was a waste of time and I will remember to skip your reviews. You are not proper person to have a public voice on this kind of site, sorry.


Marina (11 years ago) Reply

@Anonymous: Last time I looked, I was still a girl who likes to have fun. There was nothing fun in this piece of trash which I now think I went too easy on with my review. Blame my easy mark on the headgeek666.

@Ralph - it was never supposed to be more than the trailer said it would be. I went in looking for mindless, good looking fun but SUCKER PUNCH is so blatantly hitting at a message that it sucks the fun out of it. It's the only explanation I have for why great looking fight sequences nearly put me to sleep.

@Michael had it right. At least HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN was entertaining.


Default (11 years ago) Reply

Okay so I haven't seen the whole movie so I don't know if there's any adventure or action later on in the movie but all I saw in the theatres was the opening scene was amazing if it was like that through the whole movie it would've been one damn awesome movie but all of a sudden the amazing opening scene ends and the movies just about young dancing to entertain men (ew) but I had to leave after 25 minutes of the movie so that's all I I got to see, but if it doesn't get anybetter it's almost a bad movie :/


uncleB (11 years ago) Reply

I'm not suprised a female thought this movie sucked.


Anonymous (11 years ago) Reply

You guys are gay all of you this movie wasn't that bad and why the hell would you sit here and let someone tell you what's good or not it's what you think not a retarded critic who doesn't know a good movie if it bit them in the ass


Newt Clements (11 years ago) Reply

Iwas disappointed that it wasn't in 3D.


islipaway (11 years ago) Reply

Pretty much agree with everything in the review other than the bit on the costumes, which didn't cause as much as an eyebrow raise, much worse on MTV.

I didn't go in expecting it to be solid but I expected it to hold my attention in the action sequences, but once they spell out how the film's going to play out and then follow exactly that pattern it's difficult to remain involved.

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