warning Hi, we've moved to USCANNENBERGMEDIA.COM. Visit us there!

Neon Tommy - Annenberg digital news

“Sucker Punch”: At Least It’s Pretty

Lilian Min |
March 25, 2011 | 10:57 p.m. PDT

Associate Entertainment Editor

Sucker Punch (via Warner Bros)
Sucker Punch (via Warner Bros)
Zack Snyder’s past few films have been visual stunners, with the special effects and visual design overshadowing the shaky plot and acting.

In that sense, Snyder delivers with his latest effort, the fantasy escape film “Sucker Punch.”

The film begins with the story of Babydoll (Emily Browning), as she arrives at the mental asylum Lennox House through a series of unfortunate events.

At Lennox House, Babydoll and her companions— timid Amber (Jamie Chung), conflicted Blondie (Vanessa Hudgens), ferocious Rocket (Jena Malone), and cynical Sweet Pea (Abbie Cornish)—learn to deal with the bleakness of their existence through the coaching of the in-house psychiatrist (Carla Gugino).

The first and longest-enduring fantasy of the film begins abruptly, with Rocket explaining the asylum to Babydoll as a brothel-esque place. With no warning, the film switches from a severely washed out color palette to a rich, opulent one.

Within this environment, the girls dance for “club” owner Blue (Oscar Isaac). The absolutely cruel operator behind the asylum, Blue preys on the girls, especially Babydoll, who is aware that she is to be lobotomized soon.

With this future in mind, Babydoll decides to try to escape Lennox House with her friends. For at her disposal is her revelatory dancing, fueled by delirious fantasies involving everything from steampunk soldiers to train battles on other planets.

Guided by the Wise Man (an awesome Scott Glenn), Babydoll and her companions cling onto the hope of survival in their otherwise bleak existence, anticipating the day that the “High Roller” (Jon Hamm) arrives to lobotomize Babydoll.

The fantasy-within-a-fantasy construction of “Sucker Punch” is at first difficult to pick up, but as the film progresses, the three main alternating realities become easier to comprehend.

What remains inexplicable, however, is much of the rest of the film. The plot, while interesting in thought, seems mirrored off of that of “Inception,” with reality and fantasy mixing together more clumsily than in last year’s film.

Some of the characters’ choices seem ridiculous too, such as the fact that 20-year-old Babydoll couldn’t defend herself against her stepfather.

Additionally, the overarching fantasy’s premise—a club that’s actually a brothel—comes off as campy, especially through the costuming of the girls. Yes, they’re essentially glorified strippers, but that doesn’t justify how it looks like they’re straight off of “Showgirls” in every single shot.

In the fantasy dance/battle sequences, Snyder’s intense use of close-up shots and slow-mo capture (staples of his filmmaking) brings more of an uncomfortable male gaze onto the girls’ fights; is the audience supposed to be empathizing with and rooting for Babydoll or mindlessly ogling her?

All that said, the visuals for the film really are quite fantastic. The fantasy battle sequences look straight out of a video game in the best way, mixing fantasy-influenced gritty wartime images (orcs and jumbo flaming samurai, anyone?) with cutesy elements (e.g. the charms on Babydoll’s gun).

And while the costuming of the girls is very skimpy and provocative, the grittiness of the girls’ appearances and determination make it seem less like sexploitation (although it mostly is) and more like a play on the video game aspect surrounding the rest of the film.

Also notable: the soundtrack, which covers everything from the Pixies to Eurythmics-literally. Most of the songs are grittier covers of the originals, fitting the pugnacious, unsteady tone of the film.

Overall, “Sucker Punch” mostly makes up for its middling dialogue and acting with its incredible eye-candy elements, and those who are in the geek cult of Snyder will enjoy the film as pure entertainment.

But for those who aren’t, the film lacks any real draw. Snyder attempted to draw a larger audience for the film by garnering a PG-13 rating, but in all likelihood, the film’s content and execution will scare off more audience members than an R ever could.



Reach Lilian Min here; follow her on Twitter here.




Craig Gillespie directed this true story about "the most daring rescue mission in the history of the U.S. Coast Guard.”

Watch USC Annenberg Media's live State of the Union recap and analysis here.