Now Playing: ‘Sucker Punch’ Just Plain Sucks

During the marketing barrage for ‘300‘ and ‘Watchmen‘ director Zack Snyder’s new film, the good folks at Warner Bros. have never been able to illuminate one thing: What exactly is ‘Sucker Punch’? From the cobbled together teaser spots and posters, it looks like some kind of bold mishmash of genres. Is it a sci-fi epic? A medieval fantasy film? Or is it a dream world riff a la ‘Inception‘? To tell you the truth, even after seeing the movie, I’m still not entirely sure.

The film opens with red curtains parting to reveal the Warner Bros. logo, one of a number of left-field nods to Baz Luhrmann’s ‘Moulin Rouge!‘ (Yes, seriously.) We get a wordless tableau to set up our story – a young girl (Emily Browning) has lost her mother, and her abusive stepfather is coming after her. In the scuffle that follows, the girl accidentally murders her younger sister (“melodramatic” doesn’t quite cover it) and is sent away to a mental institution populated, apparently, by comely young lasses.

The girls band together and, for some reason, drift into a fantasy world that’s pretty much the same place/time as reality (mid-’50s), but the nut house is swapped out for a bordello/crime den. (Why there’s this extra layer of delusion is one of the things I’m still puzzling over, because it’s wholly unnecessary and only gums up the plot in profound ways.) So from the bordello universe, as we’ll call it, the girls slip into even more vividly realized worlds, where they’re an elite fighting force who battle things like dragons, mechanized WWI German soldiers, and killer robots. Just explaining this is exhausting; you can imagine what it’s like to watch it.

The fantasy sequences are structured around interpolated versions of pop songs (like The Stooges’ “Search and Destroy” and Bjork’s “Army of Me”), which is sort of cool. But like the action sequences themselves, this gets old and repetitive incredibly quickly. In fact, for all the millions of dollars spent on realizing these grandiose visions, there’s very little in the way of pop, pizzazz, or actual awe-shucks wonderment. The sequences feel labored and trite, with little in the way of imagination or excitement. It’s like watching someone else play a (not all that interesting) videogame.

And so it goes. The girls are tasked by a 1,000-year-old Scott Glenn to get a series of items, and have to periodically slip into these fantasy worlds. We get three layers of banal melodrama that Snyder artlessly cuts between. Yay. What’s even more infuriating is that the movie engages in some pretty questionable gender stuff. For instance, in their fantasy realms, the girls look like some pervert’s wet dream – all pushed-up breasts and knee socks. But the girls are supposedly playing inside a world of their own creation. Who, exactly, are they trying to titillate? (Lesbianism is totally off the table. This is a PG-13 rated movie. Lesbians don’t exist until you’re 17.) Additionally, they have to fetch and interact with objects that have strong phallic symbolism attached to them (missiles, swords, cigars), but there’s no indication, even in passing, that Snyder is aware of the connection. Or maybe he just doesn’t care.

Perhaps I’m looking too deeply into a movie that’s pretty easy to hate superficially. ‘Sucker Punch’ is one of the worst big budget movies I’ve seen in quite some time. It’s a hazy, glittery train wreck in which everything is positioned just so, but for all its manicured posing and cutting edge visual effects, it can’t elicit an emotion much stronger than “Huh, that was sort of neat.”


  1. The girls dress slutty because they’re trying to titillate the teenage boys in the audience, Drew. Ain’t nothin’ deeper to it than that. 🙂

  2. So…. You are saying that this is a movie of a bunch of girls in a nuthouse and the “adventures” they have inside of their own effed up minds, and one of the girls has poor self-image issues because of an abusive father, so generally dresses all slutty like?

    So the dress I get. The idea that there is any conflict, whatsoever, going on inside of a crazy person’s mind, or that I would care about it may be enough to keep me away….

    Or I may just go to watch three hot girls with body-image issues!

  3. Shame, I was looking forward to this one. I’ll still check it out but now I have to consider the netflix option. Also, speaking of phallic objects, banner image upper right? Is that why you picked that image?

  4. I’m pretty sure the phallic symbolism has everything to do with the impending ice-picking their brains are about to receive. The symbolism is even in the the character posters.

    It’s not that hard to figure out.

  5. I think this whole film was geared around “What will teenage boys see in the trailer that will make them go and pay lots of money to see.” – That’s pretty much it! 😉

    As for Zack Snyder… I couldn’t even make it through Watchmen. I managed about 45 mins before giving up in boredom (And I’ve sat through some really boring crap before now, so that’s saying a lot).

    Think I’ll give this one a miss, despite the attractive eye candy. 😉 The best bits are probably in the promo material anyway lol!

  6. Not understanding the hate this movie is recieving. Just got back from an IMAX screening with my girlfriend and we both enjoyed it quite a bit. Mysogynistic? Well, the men in the story sure are, but to level that criticism at the film itself is missing the mark I think. I felt the film had a fairly positive message that it delivered in slightly clunky fashion. The music was a fantastic touch I felt, but be warned, this movie is loud, almost painfully so. The visuals were some of the most impressive I’ve seen in a while. It’s maybe one fantasy sequence too long in my opinion, and it doesn’t quite stick the landing, rather wobbling a bit at the end, but all in all I’d recommend it.

  7. Well I loved it. This is actually closer to what I expected from the very disappointing Inception. It wasn’t as good as Watchmen or 300 but it was still pretty great 🙂

  8. joel

    I will concur,Sucker Punch is one of the worst movie i have seen.
    Well in fact not such a bad movie than a major disappointment after 300 & The WatchMen and i expected it to be great or just ok.
    Oh yes,maybe in the blu-ray version they will add& reinstate actual dancing scenes instead of the silly actions that become old quick.

  9. Finally got around to seeing this and loved every second of it, far from boring with a lot more going on story wise than you originally expect, Snyder is an amazing director and now I think he’s a pretty decent writer too, having done his first original film, IMO he hit it out of the park, everything related in the film to what was happening in the real world, it was really well done, Baby Dolls imagination mixing her dirty dancing with their individual “quests” to get their items was fantastic, every “world” had its own visual style, from colors to FX, to camera shots and the urgency was ramped up each time, you could tell it was getting harder to retrieve the items they needed to escape

    I felt this was much deeper than most people even bother to try and pick up on, the majority cant seem to see anything past the supposed cardboard acting and over the top nerdgasm visuals, sure those things are there (and its what Snyder is good at) but there is much more going on in that story

    Just like Inception, its a lot more involved and they are both more than meets than eye 🙂 Cant wait for his next one and I hope he does Superman some good, great flick here and easily a 9/10 from me