Sucker Punch: A Review

There are two Asian Americans in this film! Aaaand that’s all that really ties this movie to my blog. Mwahaha.

I really looked forward to this film. I really really did. I’m an OK fan of “300” (I always watch it in parts, never fully) and I did like “Watchmen” (still prefer the graphic novel but it was a decent movie), so I was looking forward to “Sucker Punch.” Plus – I definitely like stylized films.

But again, as I said, I looked forward to the film. That doesn’t mean it was good.

This is purely my opinion, and you can say I’m really nitpicky and such, but at times when movie tickets cost $13 per ticket, I don’t think you can blame me for being a little more choosy about the films I watch.

Here’s a little summary (no spoilers!) of the movie. Babydoll (Emily Browning) is institutionalized in an all-girls mental hospital by her evil stepfather after her mother’s death. She knows she doesn’t belong there, and the place is corrupt as hell. The orderly Blue (an amazing Oscar Isaacs) is the one who really rules the place  thanks to some helpful bribes here and there. The psychiatrist is Dr. Gorski (an underused Carla Gugino) and she tries to help the girls tap into their problems through music and a little play acting. The other girls there are Sweet Pea (Abbie Cornish) and her sister Rocket (Jena Malone), Blondie (Vanessa Hudgens) and Amber (Jamie Chung). Babydoll enlists their help to escape the institution, and she only has 5 days; after that, the Doctor (Jon Hamm from Mad Men) will perform a lobotomy on her. To escape from the horrible conditions, Babydoll imagines herself in a fantastical war where all her enemies are monsters and she and the girls have to battle their way through each “level” to escape.

Style:

“Sucker Punch” delivered in style. You want a movie that looks and feels like a video game, like a graphic novel that leaped onto the screen, then yes – go watch it. The shots were beautiful, and the entire opening sequence was quite memorable and stunning. I particularly loved the close ups on tiny details while the main action was going on in the background.

The color palette was sepia/gray and metallic in sheen. Very futuristic, reminiscent of “300” and “Sin City.” Reality was more cool in color, but not that different from the fantasy world – and that’s what I wasn’t too pleased about. I understand that the cool undertones made the reality world much grittier than the fantasized word, but I would have preferred if the look and feel of Reality was more different from Fantasy. Highlighting the disparity would not only indicate to me that “yes, we’re back in the real world,” but it would also enhance just how awesome it is to escape into one’s own mind and become free. I think in this movie it’s more important to highlight the difference of what is real, compared to say “Inception” where the point of the movie was to question what is real. In this movie, the point is to show that true freedom exists in the mind.

Or that’s what I think it was supposed to be about.

Plot:

“Sucker Punch” was ambitious with its themes, and it didn’t really deliver. I don’t think it was meant to, but having read up on what the story was about and what each character was supposed to represent, I watched it with high expectations…and was sorely disappointed.

Babydoll is supposed to be someone who’s really fragile and yet finds inner strength; Sweet Pea is the leader but she feels threatened by Babydoll’s dreams of escape because Sweet Pea never thought of leaving; Rocket is impetuous and a troublemaker; Amber is supposed to be someone who thinks she can’t do anything and yet manages to find the courage to help during their missions; and Blondie is someone who…well, I don’t know what she is. Of all the characters, only Abbie Cornish and Jena Malone managed to pull off her respective character’s description. Emily Browning fell flat as Babydoll, and Amber never really got fleshed out for me. Blondie was immensely boring – she ended up serving very little purpose until the end, and even then I don’t know where her character growth was.

The gimmick of escaping into another reality also never really worked well. There were two levels of “dream world” and only one level of “reality.” The reality was rarely visited – we only see it in the beginning and at the end. It would have worked better if we saw more of it because then we could see all the characters in their real, depressed, psychotic (?) state. Instead, we only saw them being normal in the first “dream world” – which imagines the institution as a cabaret – and their superpowered self in the second “dream world” – which imagines them battling through the monsters to beat the level and get the missing piece that will help them escape. (The second dream world is what I will call the “Gaming World” since it plays out very much like a video game.) I would have liked to see how the cabaret-world was a hyperreality of their real selves to get a sense of what each character was really like. We get a sense of Babydoll, but not of the other characters.

Since the point of the film was about freedom, of breaking free from the confines that reality set for you, it might be why so much of the film was set in the “cabaret world.” Nevertheless, I think the cabaret world was just also an excuse to keep the gals in corsets for as long as possible.

The “Gaming World”:

The “missions” that the girls carried out played out like a video game, no lie. The first one took place in 15th Century Japan and it reminded me of Tekken. The second “mission” took place in World War II and looked like Wolfenstein. The third mission dealt with dragons and literally looked like the “Lord of the Rings” battle at Sauron’s tower. The fourth mission was in a futuristic city and looked like a battle against all those “I, Robot” robots.

Um, original much?

Plus, all of them were really long fight sequences that got to show off the stunts and action that the girls did. They were all pretty similar looking too, except for the fourth mission (which had more use of slo-mo and had a shot of an actual sucker punch). This world would be the real draw for all the boys to come watch. More so than the cabaret world (which does show them in slinky outfits but is not as titillating as it may be presented).

Music:

If anything, I loved the soundtrack. The opening sequence song was “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)” and it was a remake of the original. The version in the film was sung by Emily Browning, and it was slow, sensual, and effective. I definitely enjoyed the soundtrack, especially when the songs had lyrics (instead of instrumental) because they were almost always remade and done in a different style.

Verdict:

I will not spend $13 on it. BUT I can’t say that I DIDN’T enjoy it. I did – I just wished it were better.

Here’s something that helps make up for it though – dramafever and soompi are holding contests for goodies. T-shirts, caps, posters galore!

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