[IMDB link] [Netflix link] [Wikipedia link] You really gotta watch the extended version of this film. Theatrical cuts tend to ruin movies, and it’s one more nail in the coffin of paying for movie tickets. I don’t know why they do it. BTW – the extended cut pushes the rating from PG-13 to a “soft” R. Ahh yes, the MPAA is involved. That’s why when you view a movie in the theaters it’s worse — they want to protect us from the vision of artists. Fuck them, and fuck giving them money. I encourage readers to pirate the extended cut, and a big fuck you to the MPAA. To omit/shorten the high roller scene in the theatrical cut is utterly-fucking-inexcusable.
PEOPLE: Directed by Zack Snyder, who I have mixed feelings about. Some of his stuff I don’t really like (300), some of it I like, but consider very flawed and unnecessarily hard to follow (Watchmen). But I thought he did a great job on Legend Of The Guardians:The Owls Of Ga’Hoole, which oddly is probably his least favorite to the public. This is his first movie not based on another work.
Major characters: Main character Baby Doll is played by the now-legal Emily Browning (the girl from Lemony Snicket’s A Series Of Unfortunate Events, also Ghost Ship), who somehow manages to pull off an almost-impossible combination of cute, hot, *and* sultry. They were going to use Amanda Seyfried first — who knows if she could have pulled it off as well. I have mixed feelings about that.
Sweet Pea is played by Abbie Cornish (Otulissa from Legend Of The Gardians). Her sister, Rocket, is played by Jena Malone (Gretchen Ross from Donnie Darko, Life As A House). Blue Jones (who may as well be Sleazy P. Martini from GWAR) is played by Oscar Isaac.
Supporting characters: The dance instructor is Carla Gugino (Silk Spectre from Watchmen, Spy Kids). The High Roller/Doctor is played by Jon Hamm — who was a doctor in 2 episodes of AdultSwim‘s Childrens Hospital, and was also in The A-Team, Shrek Forever After, and is a regular in Mad Men. The wise man is played by Scott Glenn (Sheriff Foster from Camille, Ezra Kramer from The Bourne Ultimatum, Roger from Training Day, Father Moody from The Virgin Suicides, Backdraft, The Hunt For Red October, Apocalypse Now.) Amber is played by Jamie Chung (Chi Chi from Dragonball:Evolution, The Hangover 2). Blondie is played by Vanessa Hudgens (Thirteen, High School Musical).
Minor characters: Asshole stepfather is Gerard Plunkett (2 eps of Smallville, Aaagh! It’s The Mr. Hell Show, Sabrina The Animated Series, Snakes On A Plane, 2012).
PLOT SUMMARY: Ultimately this is about trying to escape a mental institution, but it’s quite possible to watch most of the movie without every realizing this. Basically, a girl is committed to the looney bin by her asshole stepfather, and set up to get a lobotomy in 5 days. Between the mental hospital’s treatment of her, and her own guilt for what brought her there, her mind copes by splitting reality into multiple fantasy worlds. [Read the IMDB summaries HERE.]
UNCOMFORTABLE PLOT SUMMARY (inspired by this): [highlight for spoilers]→ Lobotomies are kinda awesome
BACKWARD PLOT SUMMARY: [highlight for spoilers]→ Girl enters insane asylum, performs reconstructive brain surgery on friend, resurrects dead friends, helps resurrected friend leave asylum and resurrect her sister.
QUIRKS: Considered an action/fantasy thriller musical. That’s a lot of genres to throw together. Sacrifice. Anachronism. Girl power. Girl [s]exploitation. Child abuse. Rape. Bad mental institutions. Lobotomies that should not be. A dream within a dream. Multiple levels of plot. Open to interpretation. A bit pretentious, but then it pays off and seems much less so.
VISUALS: Absolutely amazing visual style. VERY VERY VERY stylized. Zack Snyder stands out here; his gratuitous style works much better when related to a mental patient’s internal mind struggles than it did in the movie 300, where it just kind of got in the way of what was going on. 300 disappointed me. This did not.
SOUNDTRACK: It’s okay. They have some songs I know — Sweet Dreams (Eurhtymics), Where Is My Mind?? (Pixies), White Rabbit (Jefferson Airplane), Search & Destroy (The Stooges) — but they are ALL covers. The Pixies cover in particular really ruins the song. However, when normally confronted with covers, I scoff at the idea that they were used instead of originals in order to lower the royalty payment rate. But in this case, the movie is deliberately anachronistic. They mix time periods together like nothing else. Think: Reel-to-reel tape recorder playing industrial dance music. So using covers actually helps increase the anachronism a bit, by making the music EVEN MORE modern than if they had used the original. (Face it, those songs are all in the approximate 1975-1995 era, and this is a 2011 movie.) So I can understand why that choice was made.
MORALS: You can always fight. So do it. There’s also a big moral here about the value of making sacrifice.
POLITICS: Girls get the shit end of things. Mental hospitals aren’t so great for people.
GOOD STUFF: Some of the most incredible action sequences you’ve ever seen. And a movie that tricks you into thinking it’s a completely different kind of movie than it really is. “In order to impress your audience, you must betray their expectations.” It comes off like Charlie’s Angels but is really more like Pan’s Labyrinth or Brazil.
GOOD? OR BAD? STUFF: Good or bad — this movie is far, far, far, FAR, FAR, FAR darker than people would anticipate by the trailers or plot summaries. It’s actually one of the saddest movies I’ve seen in a long time, while coating the sadness with a sugar-coating of awesome nerdgasm mindless action scenes.
And as mentioned before, the soundtrack has issues.
It’s out of character for me to feel this way, but I think the mindless action were kind of a flaw. In a way, it’s almost like they said, “This is too depressing. Let’s put some mindless action scenes in it.” I was actually bored and unable to pay full attention to some of the action sequences. I will pay more attention next time, now that I understand they aren’t as utterly meaningless as I thought.
Considering that I love action — even animated superhero action — and my favorite action movie of all time is Crank — and I loved the A-Team movie — it’s kind of weird that the action here bored me a bit. Part of it is motivation. In Crank, we have a guy very much motivated to do what he is doing for the right reasons. This is also true in Sucker Punch, but the Inception-level dream-within-a-dream made the literal actions (killing orcs, steampunk nazis, baby dragons) almost utterly unrelated to what was going on in the movie. However, there was definitely symbolism I missed — I’m not good at symbolism. Some explanations online made me feel better about those sequences, and I will enjoy them more when I watch this again in the future. However, without knowing these explanations, I couldn’t help but think that at least with Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World, we were in the same reality, and understood his motivations. Here, when Baby Doll is fighting a 20 ft stone samurai, you just wonder what’s the point of it all? At least in Brazil (which also had fantasy samurai), the inner-hallucinations of a mind descending into insanity were still directly related to the main plots of the film.
I think I may have let my foot fall into the same trap that made many people hate this film — however, I pulled my foot out of the trap, cleaned my wounds, and realized that I still love the way it was done.
The movie also comes off as bit pretentious during the first 2/3rds. It comes off as trying to come off very poignant, yet basically giving the simple message of, “If you can fight, you should fight! … So let’s watch some fight scenes!”
And yet… By the very end, the movie truly is much more than it seems to be, so it might not be pretentious after all. It might even be the opposite of that. It gives me very mixed feelings, which makes me keep thinking and thinking about it. And that’s a good thing.
This movie was not well received in the US (22% positive via Rotten Tomatoes, 33/100 on Metacritic). It is sometimes compared to a video game — which I definitely agree with. I thought the action scenes were more like watching someone play a video game than watching a movie. Granted, it would be an amazing video game with better graphics and gameplay than anything that has ever existed on this planet, but still — it was like watching a big cut scene. If you ever played the videogame Heavy Rain — it is a video game that feels like a movie at times. Sucker Punch is a movie that feels like a video game at times. This will piss some people off. Other people are glad to see the lines between mediums slowly blurring. (Incidentally, the stepfather in this movie reminded us of the P.I. in Heavy Rain.)
Don’t listen to the feminist haters of the movie, who hate it for feminist reasons though. They’re full of shit. This movie is about rising against the exploitation. There is a metaphor made between burlesque dancers who prostitute on the side, and exploited female mental hospital patients. It’s a valid point. Yes, the action comes off over-the-top, like an exploitation film — but the ultimate message is that the girls should fight for their freedom rather than sit there and take it. The feminist haters of this movie need to shut the fuck up.
Similarly, a lot of people want to gender-type this as a bunch of “fanboys’ wet dreams”. After all, why the hell would a girl fantasize about nazis, orcs, samurai, and mechas? God people are close-minded. I guess she should have fantasized about a rich prince saving her? C’mon now!
It definitely has a polarized response — people tend to love it or hate it. Not much middle ground.
CONCLUSION: This movie tricks you into thinking it’s a different kind of movie than it really is. It’s absolutely not mindless, like many people (including myself as I was watching it) claim. I actually think this may be Zack Snyder’s best work yet (though my 2nd favorite of his is the Owls Of Ga’Hoole movie, so take what I say with a grain of salt [as usual]). 300 kinda sucked, and Watchmen was awesome but flawed and convoluted. This, too, is awesome but flawed and convoluted. However, it was much more poignant than Watchman, even if it came off as pretentious while watching it. This movie is actually some of the saddest, darkest stuff I’ve ever seen, sugar-coated with nerdfetish action scenes the likes of which I’ve never seen before. Two great tastes that don’t normally go together make this movie an incredibly unique offering.
Carolyn: Netflix: 5/5 stars. IMDB: 9/10. “Dark and sad, with a lighthearted feel to it.”
Clint: Netflix: 4.4/5 stars. IMDB: 8.2/10. I very well may upgrade that to 5/5 stars, 8.4-8.8/10 next time I watch it.
The native public rating for this movie is: IMDB: 6.4/10, Netflix: 3.7/5 stars (Netflix‘s predicted rating for us was 4.1/5 stars).
RECOMMENDATION: Check it out — but beware that it’s a bit deeper than it seems. It will come off a pretentious and pointless, but it ties together by the end — at least, if you watch the Extended Version. If you watch the theatrical version, you’re fucked.
SIMILAR MOVIES: This movie had visual aspects similar to Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World, Avalon (2001), and even Charlie’s Angels. It has cerebral aspects similar to Inception, Brazil, Pan’s Labyrinth, and One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest. The level of darkness — blacker than the blackest black times infinity — contrasted with the sugar-coating of feelgood action to make the darkness go down easier — actually reminded me of the feel of Kick-Ass.
A smidge of Pan’s Labyrinth (which even has the main character needing to retrieve a knife and key, as well as self-sacrifice).
Sweet Pea: “It’s you. You have all the weapons you need. Now fight!”
Wiseman: “For those who fight for it, life has a flavor the sheltered will never know.”
FRIENDS’ RATINGS: McGani listed this as the worst movie she’s ever seen. Xister added it to his “list of very few movies I can’t watch”, said he felt like he was watching MTV half the time, a video game the other half of the time. Jesse actually walked out of the theater.
OTHER REVIEWS: Outlaw Vern’s review is a good one, highlighting some of the strengths and many of the weaknesses of this movie. Specifically he helps capture what it is that I didn’t quite like about the way the action sequences fit in. He made a 2nd “Mystery Solved” post about it too.
CONCLUSION 2: MANY MONTHS LATER (A FACEBOOK COMMENT I LEFT ABOUT SUCKER PUNCH THAT I DECIDED TO COPY HERE):
I would have liked those scenes much less if they weren’t so anachronistic, but for godssake i hope you didn’t watch the theatrical cut, because they totally fucked that up and eliminated the climax scene thanks to the MPAA.
In the end, what we have is something almost as profound and dark as One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, but deliberately wrapped in a package so trite as to appear like the next episode of “So You Think You Can Fight Anachronistic Enemies Unrelated To The Plot”. But it turns out their actions in all those scenes were symbolic of what was happening in real life, and I just wasn’t observant enough to notice this because I don’t deal with symbolism as well as most (find it pretentious and obfuscating all too often).
I was bored as hell during those parts, thinking it was going to end up being something I’d rate a low-3 or high-2 stars (which is like bottom 10th percentile for me) …
… Then the end happened. (And unlike the people who paid, I actually got to see it all without being censored.)
…And my opinion shot up a lot. To 4-stars at a minimum, this-is-in-the-top-half-[or-third]-of-movies-and-i-should-see-it-again-some-day-knowing-it-all status.
The absolute worst response to this film, however, are the people mad that they didn’t get to see Baby Doll’s dance. It was a McGuffin of sorts, and it kinda worked better if you didn’t see it, like what’s in the suitcase in Pulp Fiction.