Mania Review: Sucker Punch -

Mania Grade: D

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  • Starring: Emily Browning, Abbie Cornish, Jena Malone, Jamie Chung, Vanessa Hudgens, Oscar Isaac, Carla Gugino, Scott Glenn
  • Written by: Zack Snyder
  • Directed by: Zack Snyder
  • Studio: Warner Bros.
  • Rating: PG-13
  • Run Time: 120 minutes
  • Series:

Mania Review: Sucker Punch

The title is true in more ways than one.

By Rob Vaux     March 25, 2011

Sucker Punch
© Warner Bros/Robert Trate

 If you saw any ten minutes of Sucker Punch disconnected from the rest of the film, you’d swear it was a masterpiece. Director Zack Snyder unleashes his visual imagination to stunning effect, creating a swirling canvas of unbridled chaos on which to paint. It taps into the adrenaline-producing lizard brain of our inner twelve-year-olds: the kind that falls in love with pulse-pounding video games and embraces kinetic action for its own sake. On that level, Sucker Punch does exactly what it’s intended to do, and with genuinely original content to boot.

Only when you take the film as a whole does its flimsy nature begin to devour itself and – what’s worse – reveal the underlying narrative for a sadly misguided flop. The flashy visuals run out of gas when their meaningless nature becomes apparent, and while the story at the center of it all holds great potential, Snyder moves it in truly disastrous directions.

He starts with a girl named Baby Doll (Emily Browning), sent to a lunatic asylum by a wicked stepfather eager to silence her for good. A corrupt orderly (Oscar Isaac) arranges for her to be lobotomized in a few days. Within that time frame, she needs to find a way to escape by plunging deep within her internal landscape. There, she imagines herself as the prisoner of a bordello, whose dancing drives men wild. Each dance helps her and her colleagues find an object vital to their break-out attempt – a map of the grounds, a key and so on – delivered via another series of fantasies in which she and her fellow inmates become ass-kicking special operatives in a series of fantasy war zones.

Sucker Punch keeps the varying levels of unreality clear, but that’s not really the problem. The bordello sequences feel utterly extraneous – a variation on the “real” asylum that facilitates skimpy costumes instead of drab hospital frocks – while the combat scenes eventually grow more oppressive than exhilarating. The structure smacks of elaboration for its own sake, an attempt to emulate films like Inception without the same sense of narrative daring. Snyder’s vision fills this world with all manner of awesome images, but their grab-bag randomness gets by more on novelty value than dramatic power.

More importantly – and the key to Sucker Punch’s ultimate failure – the heroines’ would-be empowerment rings as hollow as a gong. Snyder posits the narrative as a form of feminism, reveling in the girls’ mutual strength and ability to face down impossible odds. But he never truly empowers them. They remain fearful victims for most of the narrative, filching items from monstrous men who make their lives a constant horror show. Baby Doll doesn’t want to defeat these men; she wants to run away from them. “The freedom of escape” becomes the girls’ overarching mission, as they scurry through the story like mice afraid of the cat and plot in the dark rather than confront the Bad Men head-on. There’s no defiance a la One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest: no challenging the Powers That Be anywhere but in Baby Doll’s head. Even her ass-kicking combat scenes become foregone conclusions, emphasizing their lack of connection to the real dangers surrounding her, and playing like the wishful fantasies of a bullied child.

Coupled with the skimpy outfits, implied prostitution and general skeeziness, it paints a far different picture than the Girl Power fist-pumping for which it was clearly intended. We get to leer at the young flesh and watch them gun down hordes of bad guys without feeling threatened by their abilities, and Sucker Punch makes sure they suffer all manner of humiliations in the interim.  The film clearly thinks it’s championing feminist values while systematically destroying those values with every shot: an inadvertent piece of drooling misogyny cloaked in Xbox trappings.  On more superficial levels, the relentless visual assault becomes too numbing to appreciate Snyder’s design, turning an initially energizing kick into a kaleidoscopic mess.  Snyder spoke about the relief he felt at being able to explore his own vision rather than meeting the expectations of someone else’s. It’s still a vision worth pursuing. But not here and never with such unpleasant, troubling and ultimately self-destructive results. 


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raa2001 3/25/2011 12:14:22 AM

 The visuals remind me of the Asian film, Casshern, but better.  Story lacks a bit but it was all about the visuals. 

Chopsaki 3/25/2011 12:31:34 AM

Rut ro raggy...

redslayer 3/25/2011 1:31:15 AM

I went to see hot chicks with guns in tight leather. . . I was not dissapointed.

kennynine 3/25/2011 2:50:45 AM

I just saw the midnight IMAX screening. I agree with this "D" review. I think Synder had alot of cool visuals, but he conjured up a truly terrible story to bring them all to life. Of course not all of the visions were origional, he borrowed from many other movies. Some of the action was decent, however it was all meaningless. The only reason I don't  think this is an "F" is because the girls are gorgeous and were candy for the eyes the entire movie (especially Baby Doll and Amber). The soundtrack was cool too.

Overall, the biggest disappointment I have felt at the movies in a long time.

I hope this mess is Synder's way of getting all of his crazy ideas on film. Some people are just good directors and should keep it that way.


DaForce1 3/25/2011 3:47:52 AM

 For once the Mania review is accurate. The fight scenes (or video game cut scenes) would have been better off if Synder had done them as webisodes instead of a full-blown movie. The brothel reality didn't make sense except to serve as a vehicle for the way Baby Doll gets to the fight scenes. 

Just a messy narrative with the follow through of a pre-pubscent with ADHD. 

Johnnyathm1 3/25/2011 4:16:30 AM

Sounds like it would have been a fantastic porn flick...that is, if it actually had some porn. (=

Darkknight2280 3/25/2011 4:26:25 AM

I think Rob missed the WHOLE point of what this movie is. Its a live action HEAVY METAL. And we all know that a grave yard hard more plot then that. This movie was an excuse to just go crazy! Its a visual orgasm in a sense. I just think people (mostly on thsi site) expect everything to be oscar nominated or a poetic masterpeice. He has even said in interviews that he was looking to visually wow people! I think the visuals in this movie are classic Snyder and this is what he does, and he does it well! And i like that he is unapologetic too! Some directors make these kind of movie and others make movies that are more deep there is a place for both styles in the cinematic world. Its like a bunch of Leonard Maltons walking Its funny and sad at the same point that people dont get it.

Darkknight2280 3/25/2011 4:27:48 AM

I would say this movie is a B- as a whole. Not the most ground breaking but very fun to watch and it did exactly what it went out to do; visually excite you!

spiderhero 3/25/2011 4:30:02 AM

Makes me worried about what he will do with Superman. Great action but crappy story perhaps?

BunyonSnipe 3/25/2011 4:49:56 AM

Well he stated a while back that it was a homage of sorts to fantasy art in general and Heavy Metal magazine in particular,of which I am also a fan, but some of the stories over the years have been really dire, but always worth a look...

Maybe it would have been better as an anthology, like the Heavy Metal movie...

And of course, Snuyder is going to be one of the directors of the new HM movie, too...


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