I don’t think Sucker Punch is a movie one should be dismissive of. Yes, an argument can be made that this is basically CGI porn and the story can be nonsensical but I think somewhere in here there is a compelling movie, it just gets lost in the CG and fantasy worlds.
Genre(s): Fantasy, Action, Adventure
Warner Bros. | PG13/R – 110 min./127 min. – $35.99 | June 28, 2011
Directed by: Zack Snyder
Writer(s): Zack Snyder & Steve Shibuya (screenplay), Zack Snyder (story)
Cast: Emily Browning, Abbie Cornish, Jena Malone, Vanessa Hudgens, Jamie Chung, Carla Gugino, Jon Hamm, Scott Glenn
Theatrical Release Date: March 25, 2011
Official Site: http://suckerpunchmovie.warnerbros.com
Features: Maximum Movie Mode, Featurette, Animated Shorts, DVD Copy, Digital Copy, BD-Live
Number of Discs: 3
Audio: English (DTS-HD MA 5.1), French (Dolby Digital 5.1), Spanish (Dolby Digital 5.1)
Video: 1080p/Widescreen 2.40
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Portuguese, Spanish
Codec: MPEG-4 AVC
Region(s): A, B, C
THE MOVIE – 3.0/5
Note: I chose to watch the “Extended Cut” so this review comes from that viewpoint rather than the theatrical release. From what I could discern, this cut, although it’s 17 minutes longer, doesn’t really help or hurt the film’s overall quality so don’t go in expecting to see an entirely different movie especially since the individual dance numbers are still missing awaiting an eventual “Director’s Cut”.
I’m not sure there’s been a movie that received so much negative attention in recent years as Zack Snyder’s Sucker Punch has. I almost saw it in theaters but decided against it opting for the home video release instead. After seeing it, even hours later, it still sits with me not because it has some in-depth message or some memorable sequence but instead I can’t get around exactly what I thought of it. Is it one of those clichéd style over substance films or is it a slam-bam thank you ‘mam fun action flick? Well, I’m more than leaning towards the former because while the action is at times great, it’s also accompanied with a nonsensical story which doesn’t quite carry the weight I’m sure Snyder was going for.
Sucker Punch begins with a long opening sequence set against a cover track of the Eurythmics’s song, “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of These)” sung by star Emily Browning who plays Babydoll, a sweet girl who has suffered abuse at the hands of her stepfather. Things only get worse for her and her younger sister when her mother dies leaving everything to the daughters which only angers the stepfather stepping up the abuse. This leads to an altercation where Babydoll accidentally shoots and kills her sister instead of the stepfather. Seeing a way to getting the estate and finances, the stepfather commits her to an insane asylum where a corrupt and sleazy doctor, for a couple grand, agrees to order a lobotomy on Babydoll.
After Babydoll receives a quick tour of the facility, we move into Fantasy Mode #1 where she is now in a brothel and is told in no uncertain terms that she will be used to command major bucks from high rollers. The business trains the girls to dance in a way to seduce their benefactors but when the teacher (CARLA GUGINO) requests her to dance; they all discover this quiet little girl has something going on. What that is exactly we don’t know, as designed of course, as each time she does we are pulled into Fantasy Mode #2. The first time she’s in Feudal Japan where she meets an old man credited only as “Wise Man” (SCOTT GLENN). She reveals to him what she wants most is freedom from her imprisonment he discloses 5 items she must obtain to achieve it: a map (of the facility), fire (from a lighter one of the nurses carries), a knife (from the cook) and a key (from the bordello manager). The fifth item he tells Babydoll is a mystery for which she’ll know what it when the time is right.
Babydoll realizes these items put together can help her escape but she cannot do it alone. She enlists the help of four fellow dancers/prisoners including Sweet Pea (ABBIE CORNISH), her sister Rocket (JENA MALONE), Blondie (VANESSA HUDGENS) and Amber (JAMIE CHUNG). They work together to gather these items by having Babydoll dance which puts the men who are watching into a trance state making it easier to get what they need. It is during Babydoll’s dances we get into three more Fantasy Modes, one where the girls fight a slew of zombie/undead Nazis, another against fire-breathing dragons and stunt men in costumes leftover from the Lord of the Rings movies and the last fighting robots on some distant planet.
That’s the basic premise and on its face, it could’ve been good. Instead, Sucker Punch doesn’t quite get off the ground. I never once felt anything for these characters, the plot itself was disorganized and the acting was at best mundane and forgettable. I can see that this was a pet project for Zack Snyder but much like his previous endeavors, yes that includes the highly Internet praised Watchmen, it’s high on style but short on substance or overcomplicating an otherwise simple concept. I’m all for his type of filmmaking even 300 which I disliked when it first was released and still do, with his slow-motion shots and over sexualization from both genders.
On the acting front, let’s begin with the star, Emily Browning. She’s cute for sure, has the right innocence for the part and certainly has some acting chops because she did a fine job in The Uninvited, but here it doesn’t go beyond looking cute or, as in Fantasy Mode #2, sexy as she kicks ass. Then there’s Vanessa Hudgens who, after I watched her stink up the small screen in Beastly, doesn’t have a heck of a lot to do and in fact doesn’t have many lines. Having seen what she is capable of in Bandslam, I know she has what it takes except choosing the right script apparently. The others kind of meld together: Cornish plays up the tough as nails with a heart girl protecting her young sis, Malone plays up that role with innocence and Jamie Chung gets the most action out of the bunch flying planes or taking control of a machine carving out Nazis.
On the whole, Sucker Punch was not nearly as bad as I was led to believe from professional critics, general Internet users and even friends. Is it good? No, and I’m unsure what Snyder could have changed, removed or added to make it any better, it’s the definition of a niche film along the lines of Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. Basically, go in with no expectations and find for yourself if it strikes a chord, for me though it doesn’t hit the mark but I definitely could see something interesting hidden within the highly stylized visuals.
SPECIAL FEATURES – 3.0/5
Like with the other Warner combo releases, this one comes with a glossy semi-embossed slip cover.
Note: Discs are listed in order they were in the case as I received it.
DISC 1 – THEATRICAL VERSION (BLU-RAY):
Sucker Punch: Animated Shorts (TRT 11:23; HD) are four motion comics that reveal the legend and lore behind each of the fantasy worlds. These aren’t particularly interesting especially since these were created to promote the film. But if you’re a diehard fan of the movie, you might get something out of them. ** Blu-ray Exclusive **
Sucker Punch: Behind the Soundtrack (2:41; HD) – This short featurette takes a look at how the soundtrack was put together and how integral they are to the film itself. ** Blu-ray Exclusive **
BD-Live portal is available to check out different Warner features and trailers. ** Blu-ray Exclusive **
Previews – Lord of the Rings Trilogy and Crazy Stupid Love
DISC 2 – EXTENDED CUT (BLU-RAY):
Maximum Movie Mode (2:08:11; HD) – Co-Writer/Director Zack Snyder pops up every so often to talk about the film. There’s also picture-in-picture footage from behind-the-scenes, still galleries, storyboards and interviews with the cast and crew. As with what he did for Watchmen, Snyder offers up a fair amount of information on the story and other elements like the direction and characters. ** Blu-ray Exclusive **
BD-Live portal is once again available to check out various Warner features. ** Blu-ray Exclusive **
The third disc contains a DVD Copy and Digital Copy (** Blu-ray Exclusive **). The DVD itself does not have any features or even a scene selection.
VIDEO – 4.5/5
Sucker Punch struts and dances its way onto Blu-ray high-def in its original 2.40 aspect ratio. The picture – albeit dark most of the time even during the fantasy modes – looks fantastic as the detail levels are great throughout and I did not see any flaws like dust and/or scratch marks. I did, however, notice some banding during the end credits which of course doesn’t matter a whole lot but I felt it was worth mentioning. In any case, the video transfer as a whole is smooth yet still has a finite amount of natural noise. Colors also look great and the black levels are consistent.
AUDIO – 5.0/5
This DTS-HD MA lossless track certainly packs a nice punch from clear dialogue, the excellent soundtrack (I for one liked some of the cover songs) and finally the numerous action sequences which provide the most depth to the HD track. It is during the action scenes where the track shines from the gunfire to the explosions which flip on the bass to pack on an extra wallop.
OVERALL – 3.5/5
Overall, I don’t think Sucker Punch is a movie one should be dismissive of. Yes, an argument can be made that this is basically CGI porn and the story can be nonsensical but I think somewhere in here there is a compelling movie, it just gets lost in the CG and fantasy worlds. The cast also isn’t anything special even though each of the young ladies gives it their all and make the most out of what they were given. The Blu-ray itself has decent features and solid audio and video transfers making this a good purchase for fans, though be forewarned, I’m certain a director’s cut will be released at some point down the line.