Take the setting of One Flew Over the Coocoo’s Nest, add the underlying theme of Inception, and a bit of style from The Watchmen. Then combine with a cast that looks like that of Coyote Ugly and a Kill Bill level of female sword play, you should have a movie that any dude will love.
Now on the flip side for the ladies. Imagine a Moulin Rouge type of setting, a Buffy-like level of girl power, and wardrobe department that could make any girl look good. Sounds sweet right?
So why wasn’t Sucker Punch?
It had all the above elements, but was missing a key component. The story is what makes the movie. Director Zack Snyder nailed all the visuals, his pacing was good, and he inserted a really good soundtrack. Hell, even the story in its primal stages is promising, we just don’t see it develop fully.
Some Minor Spoilers Ahead, Tried Not to Ruin It…
We open the movie strong. The music is good, the slow motion is fitting, and despite the film speed the pacing is fast. Our principal character, Baby Doll is like the subject of a Fairy Tale – dead mother, evil Step-Father, tragedy strikes, and she is thrown into an extraordinary situation and forced to inspire others.
We are introduced to her new home, an asylum with the aesthetics obviously influenced by Arkham…
The cause of her incarceration there being the accidental killing of her sister, and we see the gears in her head start to turn. As soon as she enters the place she begins to plot her escape. We see clues about how she’ll make her eventual break, and we are hurriedly introduced to the rest of the cast. Her escape has a timer on it as her evil step-father plots to have her silenced. Then – Boom. Our setting changes. Now inside her head, the asylum has become a Nightclub/Brothel, and infinitely less interesting a setting than the actual one we just left.
This is the 2nd level of her mind and this setting gives Snyder excuse to dress all the girls as scantily as he wants, and this is also the point where the Inception comparisons start to pass through the heads of the audience, or at least those who can follow what’s happening. In this setting the girls are no longer inmates at the asylum, but instead sex slaves, forced to dance on stage and pull in cash for the boss, who in reality is the crooked orderly at the hospital who is conspiring with the step-dad.
Baby Doll, going deeper into her own mind, enters another plane of existence. This is the whole Inception ‘dream inside a dream’ scenario. In this plane she is a great warrior. She meets a totally unexplained Wise Man (who I assume is maybe her real father) and he tells her what to do. It was like that scene in Final Destination where the Candyman shows up, has no reason to know whats happening, and then proceeds to explain the entire plot of the movie to the main characters. So now, armed with a sword, a pistol, and an incredibly short skirt, we are given maybe the best action sequence of the film as Baby Doll fights 3 giant robot Samurai. This is all happening to her as she dances in the Nightclub level of her mind. Throughout the movie, each major action sequence in the 3rd level is triggered by her dancing in the 2nd level.
After returning from this fight with the Samurai, the 2nd level dance studio is amazed at her ability to move, but all she cares about is the escape plan she brought back from the deeper dream state. This plan however looked to me less like a plan, and more like a list. It was reminiscent of the Underpants Gnomes on South Park. She convinces 4 of the other girls to help her with her escape, and from there on, each time she dances, and enters that 3rd level in her mind, they are there with her. As the movie progresses we get several more action sequences as the girls try to accomplish the tasks that will make their escape possible.
From here, after the first sequence with all 5 girls fighting, it starts to get repetitive. The mysterious Wise Man is present in all of these delusions, but not in any of the other levels of her mind. In the end however, once Snyder has brought us back to reality (Oh there goes gravity…Sorry) and the movie is about to end, we meet the Wise Man. He is completely out-of-place and seems to somehow be in on all that was transpired earlier…which makes no sense whatsoever.
The we close the movie out with a voice over. Now I know some people don’t like voice overs, and it’s considered lazy storytelling and all, but I’m a sucker for them. Think The Sandlot, where Smalls tells us what happened to all the guys with a voice over at the end, gives me chills. When done right, it can really make for a strong ending. But the voice over writing here was atrocious. It ended the movie with a bad taste in your mouth.
Don’t get me wrong here though, I didn’t hate this movie (even if the people I saw it with did), I felt I got what I expected, and I was entertained. Overall it was actually really cool, but cool doesn’t always mean good. My biggest problem was really just the wasted potential here. They took would could’ve been a great movie, and gave us a mediocre one.
And for that I give Sucker Punch only 2.5 Bears.