Twenty-four hours ago I saw Sucker Punch and it’s taken me this long to even approach writing a review. Immediately after seeing it I was only capable of inhuman sounds, accompanied by facial expressions distorted by distress. I remember I said aarrgh quite a bit, as well as ‘I need a drink and I need it now’. The surprising thing is that I sat through the entire film. If it hadn’t have been a free preview, and if I hadn’t have been with my good friends Rob and Ruby, there is every chance that Sucker Punch would have been the first film I’d walked out of since Police Academy 3 or 4. One thing’s for sure, I’ve never seen a theatre empty of people so fast during the closing credits.
Sucker Punch is not an easy film to describe – its plot is so unbelievably unbelievable that it’s hard to do justice to it in a few lines. However, I will attempt it. To the completely inappropriate sounds of the Eurythmics’ Sweet Dreams, Baby Doll (Emily Browning) finds herself in a home for the insane, committed by her monster of a stepfather who murdered her mother and abused her sister. He bribes the guard Blue (Oscar Isaac) to have her lobotomised in five days. Faced with this terror, Baby Doll’s imagination seeks refuge in an alternate world of a whore house. Here, she and her fellow inmates dance for the punters, dressed in school girl, sailor girl outfits, complete with pig tails and gym skirts, while under threat from rape and even worse at the hands of the fat and evil men that control their fate. As mentioned, THIS is the fantasy alternate reality that Baby Doll seeks.
Helped by her gang of similarly (un)dressed girls, all known by their hooker names – Sweet Pea (Abbie Cornish), Rocket (Jena Malone), Blondie (Vanessa Hudgens) and Amber (Jamie Chung), Baby Doll discovers a plan that will lead to freedom. All they have to do is steal a number of items, such as a key, a map and a knife. All Baby Doll has to do is dance. The men are hypnotised by the seductive power of her movements, allowing the other girls to steal the necessary item. We never see this dance. Instead, it transports the girls to another universe, populated by steam punk robots and First World War German zombie soldiers, samurai giants and dragons.
This doesn’t just happened the once – it happens four times. And nothing changes. We are taken to the same brown-washed war scene time after time and while it might have looked interesting the first time, by the second it has become deathly dull and by the end it is tedious in the extreme. The end of the film is so misconstructed, it’s a mystery to know what is going on and you won’t care in the least.
It’s difficult to know where to start with Sucker Punch‘s faults. I’m a fan of Zack Snyder’s 300 – I enjoyed its reinterpretation of ancient warriors, as if seen through the eyes of ancient superstitious Greeks. The whole film had the feeling of a Greek vase to me – beautiful and magically distorted despite its faults. Sucker Punch is nothing like 300.
The idea that a group of young girls finds an escape from their danger in a world of prostitution and constantly threatened rape is an abhorrent one. I find it hard to get past this monumental stumbling block. But if I could get past it, I would see a film that doesn’t even succeed on the action level. The fights are repetitive and tedious. Baby Doll dances men to distraction but there’s not a sign of that in the acting. Emily Browning mopes through the whole thing, under sullen eyelids. The other girls are interchangeable and expendable, which is a huge shame considering that Abbie Cornish and Jenna Malone are among their number. Why, oh why, are they in this film? I can’t count the number of times I said this while looking at my watch, wishing time gone.
Sucker Punch is not a film about empowering women. Empowered women do not envisage an escape through prostitution, erotic dance, violence and threatened rape. This film is a PG-13 by certificate only and it thrusts its misogyny in the face of families and young adults – and is it what they want? There is a strong video game element to this film, with levels completed and talismans collected, but it has nothing of the strong female message given by games such as the Tombraider series. Nothing of that at all. And there isn’t a slither of humour to be found.
Which all begs the question of what does Zack Snyder intend? What is his intention? You could be forgiven for thinking that all he’s interested in is baby doll girls with big guns, swords, knickers and pouts. As a result, any potential beauty in the sets and photography is negated. Just as the wonderful original songs in the soundtrack are all distorted and corrupted.
Having enjoyed 300, I had hopes that there would be something in Sucker Punch I would like. However, if I see another film as bad in 2011, I will be most surprised.
I want to end by saying that this is my personal opinion and I have no problem at all with you disagreeing with it!