Stylized comic-book fantasy in a short skirt, if you like that kind of thing
OK, straight up? Sucker Punch is damn near indefensible.
Not that that’s a bad thing, necessarily. I have no problem with hot chicks in short skirts and fishnets being used as exclamation points between explosions. I’m still breathing, right?
The film doesn’t pretend (too much) to be high art. This is Zack Snyder (director of such epic cartoons as 300 and The Watchmen) being given millions of dollars to unleash his id on the screen. And apparently, Snyder’s id is influenced by a lot of cinematic genres that I happen to enjoy.
So let’s go back in time to a faux noir 1950s. What we have here is a sailor-suited Baby Doll (because what’s the point of unleashing your id if you’re just gonna try to disguise what makes it tick) who is committed to the Institution for Criminally Insane Girls in Short Skirts and Fishnets by her evil stepfather. He wants to get his grubbies on her inheritance and let her take the fall for the pervy deeds that led to the death of her naïf sister. All this setup is played out in an ambitious exercise in highly stylized melodrama. It plays it well.
And then …
Well, things happen. Under the threat of impending lobotomy, Baby Doll (Emily Browning) drops in on a part of her brain that allows her to set off on a video-game quest for freedom by scoring four items (and an ambiguous fifth) to accomplish her mission. This serves as an excuse to get Baby Doll and her leggy posse to jump around in all sorts of WTF set-pieces that span time and genre. So we’ve got some giant stone samurai. A dragon and a B-25 bomber engaged in a dogfight. A trainload of killer robots. Zombie Kraut steampunk soldiers. Exploding zeppelins. And ass-kicking girls high-wire dancing through fireballs and hails of bullets. And other stuff, lots of other stuff.
At the very least, it’s interesting to look at. Sucker Punch relies heavily on the neo-retro stylings of Sin City and Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow and the narrative affectations of Moulin Rouge, with some Caged Heat for spice. If this sounds like it’d make for a confusing stew, it does—if you give what’s happening onscreen too much thought. But if you came to think, you paid for the wrong movie.
It’s two hours of letting yourself be strapped to the theater seat, eyes pinned open as Herr Doctor Snyder pokes at your lizard brain with a sharp stick. If that sounds sexy, then you can get your money’s worth.