Zack Snyder’s Sucker Punch
presented me with quite the dilemma. Knowing full well that I am not the target audience for this film, I decided that I needed outside help, so I interviewed about 16 people, high school age through middle age, to try to get a consensus. What I found is that the film evokes strong reactions – and very mixed ones at that. Love it or hate it, everyone agreed on one thing: they loved the music. So did I, especially a contemporary re-working of Grace Slick’s White Rabbit
But first things first. Sucker Punch tells the story of Baby Doll (Emily Browning), surely the unluckiest girl in the world. After the death of her mother, her evil stepfather (Gerard Plunkett) tries to attack her, and when she fights back, he goes after her young sister. Baby Doll gets a gun, and when she tries to shoot him, the bullet ricochets and kills her sister. Evil stepdad has her committed to a hospital for the “mentally insane” (Snyder’s words, not mine), because he doesn’t want to answer questions about the defensive scratches on his face. He bribes the chief administrator, Blue (Oscar Isaac), to have Baby Doll lobotomized. The surgeon will arrive in five days, so this is Baby Doll’s time frame to plan an escape. She quickly discovers that the hospital is a front for a brothel run by Blue and Dr. Gorski (Carla Gugino) who also functions as the madam. The girls are trained to dance for the “clients” and then “entertain” them with whatever they desire. The other girls Baby Doll enlists for the escape plan include Sweet Pea (Abbie Cornish), Rocket (Jena Malone), Blondie (Vanessa Hudgins), and Amber (Jamie Chung). Sweet Pea, the informal leader of the group, rejects Baby Doll’s idea until she observes the power of Baby Doll’s dance. The audience never actually sees this dance because it’s during these that Baby Doll enters an alternate reality where she becomes a warrior seeking the five things that will free her: a map, fire, a knife, a key, and a mystery object that she must discover on her own.
Now the part the gamers and fanboys were awaiting begins. The alternate reality places Baby Doll in a CGI world where she is advised by an unnamed wise man played by Scott Glenn. The wise man tells her that she has all the weapons she needs, but he also gives her a samurai-type sword and a gun with apparently unlimited ammunition. In the first scenario, Baby Doll fights alone because the others have yet to be convinced. She must defeat three samurai-type giants wielding equally gigantic swords, lances, and guns. She quickly learns to dodge and leap up through the air in slo-mo to kill them. When she “comes to” from her alternate reality, the others are convinced, so they appear in all the scenarios that follow. They are all set up like video games with some prize or goal to reach by defeating all sorts of vicious baddies. The scenarios vary; one is a WWI setting, another appears to be medieval with castle and dragon, another is on a runaway train containing a massive bomb. The girls learn to work together and grow close emotionally. Indeed, there’s a lot of crying and runny eye make-up which, to me, kind of undermines the whole girl power thing. I’m all for girl power, but does it have to be done in skimpy, slutty clothing? Again, the whole power thing is undermined, and the characters become spank-bank fodder for what Snyder must have envisioned as a mostly male audience. That being said, you can surmise that my own personal opinion of the film was not favorable. That’s why I felt I must turn to my “consultants” to write a balanced review.
My primary “consultants” were the two college freshman gentlemen sitting by me who said that Zack Snyder was their favorite director. They had stood in line for two hours to get in and were expecting great things. As soon as the end credits started to roll, I could see that they were disappointed. They rated it at about D+, which was actually what I was thinking. Their two friends, also college freshmen, hated it and gave it a straight-up F. The other groups I approached in the lobby had varied reactions. One family, parents with two high-school age kids, liked it and gave it a B. One fanatic fanboy declared it the best film ever and gave it an A. He was the only one. He qualified his answer by saying that he was “totally into fantasy”. Two other families were thinking more along the D line, with the exception of one 27-year-old who would have given it a B+. One very nice, middle-aged African -American gentleman stated that the film was “for white males ages 14 through 28”. I would have to agree with him. If you fall into that category, you may like this film. If not, you might want to skip it.