Since the day it hit theaters, Sucker Punch has been ripped apart by critics. The biggest complaint: a poor story (well duh, Snyder wrote it – it was never going to be a grand narrative tale). Critics flamed the movie, many calling it the worst movie of the year. As more and more reviews poured in, so the aggregate score of the movie plummeted. However, as the majority opinion became evident, a smaller group began to rise from amongst the fan base to shout, scream and redeem the reputation of Snyder’s latest cinematic foray. Standing up against the majority vote of these uptight critics, a small fan base voiced how awesome the movie was. They even went so far as to break down the layers of Snyder’s tale and illustrate how there’s more than meets the eye; how, when looked at objectively, the movie is really a gem amongst some of the stale features we’ve seen this year. A tale of depth and female empowerment.
I’m here to tell you this: both groups are full of shit.
Sucker Punch tells the tale of a girl known only by the name of Babydoll (Emily Browning). After her mother’s death, Babydoll’s life begins crumbling apart as she and her sister are left at the mercy of their vile and abusive stepfather. Deciding to stand up to this villainous man one day, Babydoll is met with a worse fate as she accidentally kills her little sister when trying to save her from the evil stepfather. As a result, the stepfather lies to get Babydoll institutionalized. Bribing the caretaker, the stepfather ensures that Babydoll is set up to be lobotomized so that she may never testify against him.
In this cold and dirty mental institute, Babydoll, faced with a fate worse than death, finds an escape of her own: in the recesses of her mind. Here, she escapes reality by diving into a sub-reality that sees the institute transformed into a brothel where the girls are held captive and used for sexual toys as they’re pimped out by the head master of the place Blue (Oscar Isaac–the caretaker/orderly in reality). It’s up to Vera Gorski (Carla Gugino: the head psychiatrist in reality) to teach these girls the seductive arts and prepare them for their roles in the brothel. It is in this sub-reality that Babydoll meets a new set of friends who will aide her in her journey: Sweet Pea (Abbie Cornish), Rocket (Jena Malone), Blondie (Vanessa Hudgens) and Amber (Jamie Chung).
While trapped in this miserable sub-reality, Babydoll accidentally stumbles upon a means to escape her prison as her mind once again dives deeper into escape and enter a third realm: a fantasy world. It is here that she encounters a wise man (Scott Glenn) who shows her the way out and what her journey will entail. Recruiting her newfound friends, Babydoll sets out to find the five items which will be her saving grace and allow her her escape from this cruel imprisonment. But it’s all a race against time as the clock counts down to the time she’ll be lobotomized (rather, her virginity will be taken by the High Roller as it is portrayed in the brothel sub-reality).
All sounds confusing, yes? That was one of the biggest complaints amongst critics as well. Time and time again, I read how the story was so disjointed and confusing. However, they’re either really slow on the upkeep or they were trying way too hard to understand the story, only to confuse themselves. Get into it and the story is really rather simple. A simple “from point A to point B” type of story that only seems complex and/or confusing on the surface, until you just quit trying and sit back to enjoy the ride.
On the flip side, fans sought to illustrate how there were so many levels of narrative to the movie and how there really was this insightful, metaphorical moral that lie in the depths of this tale. They’re wrong, too. Maybe Snyder attempted to write a tale of depth, but really that feat was not accomplished. What you get here is just your basic tale of redemption that puts a female in the lead, enticing viewers (fans) to break out these diatribes about how the underlying meaning is all about female empowerment. On a shallow level it is, but as a moral tale: Sucker Punch is not some profound tale of empowerment.
I believe this is further illustrated by the fact that the characters are so generic. One of the other chief complaints was that the characters were poorly written. I believe this to actually be purposeful. Evidence of this is the generic impersonal names. The characters simply serve as eye-candy as a vehicle to propel the story forward so that we might get to the good part: the kick ass action. The characters aren’t given great depth because it doesn’t really matter. The story is never anything but a fun way to send viewers on a fun thrill ride.
This is where Sucker Punch excels. While the story is weak, it is pretty simply, just a means to an end. That end being: kick ass visuals with some fun action scenes. On that level, Snyder definitely prevails. Bringing a visual treat like only Snyder can, Sucker Punch has some of the most impressive visual style since 300. With his style and special effects, Snyder delivers some of the most adrenaline-filled action sequences seen in a while. On top of that, he creates such a cool fantasy world full of zombie Nazis and robotic splendors that it almost borders on genius with the things his mind can create and bring to the screen.
All in all, no Sucker Punch will not be winning any Best Screenplay awards (nor should it). It is not an intelligent story nor does it provide memorable characters. However, it does provide for a fun ride that will definitely dazzle the eyes as Snyder proves once again what a visionary he is. Though, in the same breath, he proves that he definitely needs to let other people write his movies and he just stick to directing. If you go in expecting a shallow visual treat with some fun action sequences, though, you won’t be disappointed. Sucker Punch is like a video on game on acid and provides one hell of a ride that shouldn’t be missed by fans of such things. Just don’t expect Film of the Year material (or even something as intelligent as Inception to which it does bare some resemblance).