Fantasy movie is a palpable hit only for extreme boys
By Mark Jenkins
Friday, March 25, 2011
An extremely boyish ode to girl power, "Sucker Punch'' features dragons, cyborgs, German soldiers, giant zombie samurai and five scantily clad women warriors. Director Zack Snyder and his production crew clearly had great fun envisioning this swords-and-corsets fantasy. Few others are likely to approach their level of enjoyment.
This is the first film that Snyder, whose credits include "300'' and "Watchmen,'' didn't adapt from a book, comic or previous movie. That doesn't mean it's original. "Sucker Punch'' is a mash-up of action-flick, music-video and video-game commonplaces, delivered at a speed that makes it sometimes invigorating, yet never surprising.
The central character is Babydoll (plush-lipped Emily Browning), whose attempt to protect her little sister from their hateful stepfather goes wrong. She's dispatched to a Dickensian asylum, where a small bribe is required to have her scheduled for a lobotomy.
But then the hospital is somehow transformed into a nightclub/brothel, and the Polish-accented psychiatrist (Carla Gugino) becomes the dance instructor. Babydoll is outfitted in a sexy-schoolgirl outfit that exposes her midriff and thighs, and she meets the similarly underdressed Sweet Pea (Abbie Cornish), Rocket (Jena Malone), Blondie (Vanessa Hudgens) and Amber (Jamie Chung). They, too, are inmates, dancers and/or prostitutes.
This doesn't sound like the dream world into which the troubled Babydoll would choose to escape. Could it have been selected for her by, say, a bunch of guys?
Before she can settle into bordello life, Babydoll finds herself in yet another world. She lands in a medieval Japanese temple, where she's greeted by a monk (Scott Glenn, probably chosen for his resemblance to David "Kung Fu'' Carradine). He gives her a few weapons and some Zen-like wisdom, and leaves her to battle those giant zombie samurai.
Babydoll then returns to the "real'' world, and recruits her new friends for three more fantasy quests, in which they can win the tools they need to escape the asylum (or whatever it is).
All this hopping between alternate unrealities allows the filmmakers to employ various color schemes and visual styles, which are more entertaining than the story.
"Sucker Punch'' also relies heavily on a conceptual soundtrack, which features older rock songs performed by contemporary female vocalists (including Browning).
The movie is packed with carnage and destruction, but at the video game level of authenticity. Then, in the final act, our heroines feel the sting of death. This seems wrong.
Just because the filmmakers forgot until the last minute to give "Sucker Punch'' any emotional heft, that doesn't mean Babydoll and her pals should suffer more than they have. Fighting undead World War I soldiers while wearing fishnet stockings is punishment enough.
Contains violence, sexuality and profanity.