Now, if you’re feeling bold and continued past that initial assessment, what else I can tell you about ‘Sucker Punch’ is that the movie is clearly an exercise in imagination. There is no end to the amount of good ideas strewn about the film (steampunk Nazi zombies!) and incredible visuals (a young katana-and-gun-wielding lady against giant-sized stone samurai statues). The soundtrack is incredible, featuring interesting reinterpretations of some classics (“Sweet Dreams”, “White Rabbit”) that thematically fit right in.
So with Zack Snyder at the helm and all of these positives, what could be lacking?
A cohesive plot, for one. Not that the film lacks a plot, but it is so thin you wouldn’t dare bring it near any blunt objects. Emily Browning plays Baby Doll, the main character whose life falls apart in the aftermath of her mother’s death due to the machinations of the Evil Stepfather (TM).
Locked into a mental hospital and due for a lobotomy, Baby Doll retreats into the depths of her imagination to not only cope but also find a way out of the crooked hospital (thanks to the oft-used ‘quest’ model of storytelling: find these 5 objects and you will be able to escape, etc.).
Each object gives us a distinct action sequence that could, by itself, belong in its own film. Aside from the aforementioned Japanese combat sequence against the stone samurai and the steampunk World War II/zombie Nazis, there is a fantasy castle piece (complete with dragon) and a ‘bomb on the train’ set (complete with robots).
All of these scenes feature Baby Doll and her fellow inmates in outfits that show a fair amount of skin, totting assault rifles and other weaponry. In short, it all comes across as a male fantasy given life on film, and had this come from any other director below the Hollywood A-List, the entire attempt would have been laughed off and relegated to the cheap DVD bin.
Yet, Snyder raises the entire endeavor just enough to keep it from mediocrity. His slick style of direction and action choreography are what make the film. Sadly, there isn’t very much for Browning to do in the role of Baby Doll other than cry, look concerned, or kick teeth in. The rest of the cast is similarly given little else to do other than look pretty while firing guns.
And that’s pretty much ‘Sucker Punch’ in microcosm: it looks pretty, has a great coating of paint over the product, but after experiencing it, you’ll love the pieces better than the whole. ‘Sucker Punch’ is a flawed effort by Snyder that I suspect will gain a cult following over the years, but in the short term will be recognized as a wasted opportunity.