The best way to describe a movie like Sucker Punch is as a full throttle male teen hormone driven fantasy with a sick twist. The story essentially revolves around the female protagonist Babydoll. Her mother is murdered by her priest stepfather that proceeds to kill Babydoll’s sister. In order to keep Babydoll from speaking, her stepfather drops her off at a mental institution, making an arrangement with the owner to have Babydoll lobotomized. However, there is more to this institution than was initially apparent. As it turns out, it is a place where wealthy businessmen come and watch the girls perform various dance routines with the option of having a “private performance”. The girls are abused, afraid, and treated as nothing more than property. When Babydoll is asked to dance, her mind escapes to another world where she is empowered, striking down the phantoms of her subconscious. However, at the end of each dance, she must come back to her reality. She concocts a plan to escape the institution and is joined by four other girls. As they fight for freedom, their escapades are translated into the fantastical world inside Babydoll’s head.
This movie definitely has strong points. The obvious strength is the visual representation of Babydoll’s fantasy world. The environments are breathtaking and powerfully rendered. In addition, the scenes are masterfully choreographed and well acted. Supporting each of these scenes is a music score that adds a chilling and unique twist on classics like White Rabbit.
The problem is that, like an anchor, the shortcomings of this film drag down its quality. Despite the power of the scenes depicting the mental fantasies, it seems that Zack Snyder forgot that there is an overarching storyline. The scenes taking place in the real world were very weak and disjoined. Apparently the rallying call for freedom is a list of four random items; a map, fire, a knife, and a key. Their entire plan is focused on Babydoll’s mesmerizing dance routines during her jumps into her subconscious during which the people watching lose their grip on reality. Unfortunately, the audience does not get a single glimpse of these moves, but apparently the guys in the movie love it. None of the girls save one seem to have a problem neither with the obscurity of the items nor with the difficulty in acquiring them. Furthermore, it seems as though the items are hard enough to memorize that it is necessary to write them down in large print in plain view. Let me break the suspense, the plan is eventually discovered. Lastly, there is essentially no character development. The audience never learns why each of the girls makes it into the house. The only way to describe the characters is with the cookie cutter metaphor; we have the protagonist, the antagonist, the Russian dance instructor, the caring older sister, the impulsive younger sister, the fat chef, and other such varieties.
At the end of the day, it just seems like the movie’s intent was to distract the audience with some eye candy long enough for them to forget that there really isn’t too much value in this film. Furthermore, the fact that Zack Snyder set the bar so high for himself with films like 300 and Watchmen cements the expectation for future films. The sad fact is that Sucker Punch just falls short of audience expectations.