First of all, I refuse to use this review to make obvious jokes at the movie's title (Sucker Punch) or tag line ("You will be unprepared"). What I will say though is that I have seen every Zack Snyder movie (with the exception of The Legend of the Guardians), and Sucker Punch is everything that is good – and bad – about a Zack Snyder film.
Sucker Punch opens with an amazingly cut sequence that sets up the main action of the movie. Baby Doll's (Emily Browning) mother dies, and while trying to fend off her stepfather from attacking her younger sister, Baby Doll accidentally kills her sister. To get her out of his way, the stepfather works a deal with a corrupt orderly named Blue (Oscar Isaac) to lock Baby Doll in a mental institute. It was this opening sequence, no matter how good it was, that made it almost impossible for this movie to "sucker punch" me because knowing the ultimate backdrop of the film is a mental institute really lessens the impact for all the fantastical elements of the movie. While it wouldn't make up for the flat acting and mundane plot, I could have done without knowing about the mental institute until the final reveal. It would have made the movie a bit more unpredictable.
While in the mental institute Baby Doll befriends a group of other girls: Sweet Pea (Abbie Cornish), Rocket (Jena Malone), Blondie (Vanessa Hudgens), and Amber (Jamie Chung). After getting over their initial jealousy of Baby Doll, the four girls team up with her to attempt an escape. During treatment, Dr. Gorski (Carla Gugino) tells Baby Doll that she controls the world within her imagination. It is in this world where Baby Doll meets the Wise Man (Scott Glenn in a part that would have been perfect for the late David Carradine). He sends Baby Doll and her group of "orphans" on a quest through just about every major genre in the science-fiction/fantasy world to find five items that will set them free.
Watching Sucker Punch is like watching two different movies (the "normal" world and the world within Baby Doll's head). You know there's a fundamental problem with the movie when you keep hoping for them to speed one part along to get to the other. Clearly, the best parts of Sucker Punch are the action sequences – even with the intense overuse of slow motion by the director. The action scenes feel like a mixture of a video game and a loud music video, which makes sense given Snyder's previous experience in the music video world. It was like watching candy – all sweet and no substance. I guess that makes sense considering Snyder's best movies have all been remakes or adaptations of books. Snyder co-wrote the script for Sucker Punch and instead of a cohesive movie, it plays like a bunch of vignettes that were haphazardly thrown together. Believe it or not, the casting was pretty inspired. It's just a shame the actors didn't have a better script to work with.
Fanboys will love the movie because of the girls Snyder cast and the outfits he put them in, but overall it's not a very good movie. It feels like one of those movies that is just bad enough to become a cult classic though, so I guess only time will tell. My one request for Zack Snyder as he begins work on the Superman reboot – please stop using slow motion and prove you're not a one-trick pony.
Rating: ONE AND A HALF BONES
Release Date: March 25th, 2011
Starring: Emily Browning, Abbie Cornish, Jena Malone, Vanessa Hudgens, Jamie Chung, Carla Gugino, Scott Glenn, and Oscar Isaac
Director: Zack Snyder
Writers: Zack Snyder and Steve Shibuya