Before I start, I have to comment on the marketing. When the teaser trailer for the film came out of ComicCon 2010, I instantly knew I wanted to see it. The teaser marketed the movie as what it ended up being: an action adventure in mental fantasy worlds. The full trailer portrays too much of the “video game” quest many critics are complaining about and uses music in the trailer that isn’t in the movie nor sets the right tone (not to mention shows FAR too much). I can only guess that Warner Bros. got nervous and cut the full trailer to make it look more like some summer action film.
Sucker Punch is set in sort’ve a dark 60′s-ish setting where, after the accidental death of her sister, a girl is sent to insane asylum. To cope with the horrors within, she uses her imagination to escape to a world where she is a dancer / prostitute (think Moulin Rouge). While she dances, she further imagines herself into fantastical action sequences with a slight parallel to whats going on while she dances. This is actually where the film may lose some of the audience. Similar to how Inception’s dream within a dream within a dream, her imagination within imagination may be too much for the average film goer to grasp.
Leading the cast of this femme fetale force film is Emily Browning, who plays the lead as the new girl named “Babydoll”. Some may recognize her as Violet Baudelaire from Lemony Snicket’s A Series Of Unfortunate Events. The rest of her fellow inmates are played by Abbie Cornish (“Sweet Pea”), Jena Malone (“Rocket”), Vanessa Hudgens (“Blondie”) and Jamie Chung (“Amber”). Supported by Carla Gugino, Oscar Issac, Scott Glenn and Jon Hamm, overall the acting is adequate. If you pay close attention, you’ll notice the boy that played Young Rorschach in Watchmen, Eli Snyder (Zack Snyder’s son).
The thing about Zack Snyder films is that they tend to be very visually stunning. From the opening and brief asylum scenes, the colors are dank, pale and hopeless (which sets the mood perfectly). Within each of her mental escapes / action sequences, almost every frame could be frozen and placed into a graphic novel. In addition to the photography, the costumes are excellent as well. Each of the girls has her own style during each adventurous mental escapades Babydoll has. The visual effects, as one would expect in a Snyder film, are top notch. From dragons to robots, the visuals don’t look fake and are completely believable.
Now for the negative: Sucker Punch delivers just that in terms of story telling. While it may have been marketed like a summer action movie, it’s more of a dark drama with action sequence subplots. After letting the movie sink in, the complicated premise of the film is interesting and original, but common audiences don’t usually have that much patience. The director himself, who also produced and helped write the movie, called it “Alice in Wonderland with machine guns”. As someone that was looking forward to seeing the movie, thus giving it plenty of rope to hang itself with, the movie didn’t start to make sense until after the first action sequence. Because of this, average audience members will most likely find the ending to not be worth the payoff they waited 125 minutes for.
Unless you’re a fan of Zack Snyder, its unlikely you’ll enjoy it. Some are describing it as a “video game” or “the strangest dance musical of all time”. The only video game similarity is the list of stuff needed to escape the asylum, giving what some my see as a quest. With it’s rating of PG-13, the demographic is most likely the thin range of 14-20 year old. After 21, it really depends on the person. If it’s a half price matinee, you may like it. If you don’t know who Zack Snyder is, or haven’t seen (or liked) Watchmen or 300, you may not like Sucker Punch.
Sucker Punch, starring Emily Browning, opens in theaters March 25, 2011.