Sucker Punch. Ah, yes. It’s what you’d expect from every Zack Snyder movie. Awesome music, awesome special effects, awesome over the top action scenes and… a horrible story. The title speaks for itself. Suckers.
The plot for Sucker Punch unfolds with no dialogue whatsoever, save for a voiceover about how sometimes angels come to Earth to save us. Protagonist and putative angel Babydoll is a twenty-year-old woman with blonde pigtails who looks like a child. When her mother dies, Babydoll’s evil stepfather kills her sister and frames her for it so he can send her to an insane asylum and inherit her mother’s money. Just to make sure she’ll be no trouble to him, stepdad bribes an abusive orderly named Blue to forge a doctor’s signature on a lobotomy authorization form. Babydoll has five days to escape before she’ll be lobotomized. That’s the just of it. After that, everything else just feels like something out of a video game.
So, how does she do this? First, Babydoll transforms the entire mental asylum into a whorehouse where she and the other inmates become strippers and sex workers who wear tiny outfits and dance for Blue’s clientele. Before anyone (everyone) starts asking questions, this transformation is actually going on in Babydoll’s head. Yes, it’s a figment of her imagination. You’ll only find that out at the end of the damn movie.
So she is forced to dance by the whorehouse’s madame. This is actually the first time the audience actually “knows” that Babydoll is going into her imaginary world. When I said it felt right it was something out of a game, I meant it. Babydoll stands outside of what looks like an old temple. She walks in and is greeted by an elderly monk that looks like Spock, uh- I mean Leonard Nimoy-ish. He gives her a katana and tells her that she needs to find 5 things to escape: a map, fire, a knife, a key and a final piece of the puzzle that he refuses to tell her. As she exits the temple, three huge terracotta-like samurais appear and as you guess it, a fight ensures. I was telling my friend who was sitting next to me that If I was holding a controller in my hand at that very moment, it felt like I was playing God of War with quick-time buttons flashing all across the screen as Babydoll was fighting them huge samurais. We’ll call this Act I.
Act II of her dream-sequence drops her and her friends in the middle of a World War II battle with steampunk zombie Nazis that freakin’ look like the Helghast from Killzone. The battle involves trench warfare, hiding behind rubble and bombs and Hindenburgs. Let’s just say I just got thrown into a Company of Heroes game. The trench warfare comes much later. Oh, did I forget to say that there was a mecha involved in this act? I guess I did. They find the map they needed.
Act III starts off with the girls in a plane circling a ruined Notre Dame looking ruined castle. “Ah, reminds me of Hellgate: London,” I told myself. Wrong. The camera zooms in on the little specs below. Knights were rushing the castle gates. Orcs were defending the keep like their lives depended on it. The girls halo drop right into the middle of the castle courtyard. Think Crysis but without the damn nanosuits. When I say Crysis, I do mean Crysis. The girls keep their guns from the previous World War II act. Guns versus a bunch of brutes with swords and axes. Anyway, they run deep into the keep kill the dragon hatchling for two crystals that will make fire, wakes the momma and well… You can guess where this is going. It’s good to note that the knights that were trying to breach the castle attack our girls as well. Yeah, I was baffled as well.
Act IV is where our girls get the knife. Here’s where I really start to facepalm. The girls appear on a helipad on this pseudo-scifi futuristic world and is told by Spock, uh– our Leonard Nimoy-ish looking guy, that there’s a train carrying a bomb headed for the city. The bomb is codenamed KITCHEN KNIFE. Yes, facepalm moment. Anyway, the girls head on the chopper and go after the train which very much resembles the train intro scene of Final Fantasy XIII just minus the fancy looking buildings. Here our girls storm the train fighting off Cocoon soldiers, uh– I mean enemies that look like that came out of I, Robot in the style of Lightning ala Final Fantasy XIII. Anyway, they fail to disarm the bomb and Rocket dies. But yeah, they do get the kitchen knife in the end.
Apparently there isn’t an Act V dream sequence for getting the key. Blue shoots and kills off Amber and Blondie and Babydoll stabs him on the shoulder with the kitchen knife they got earlier and gets the key. And if you’re wondering, yes in that order. She then rescues Sweet Pea from a closet and they make their escape from this whorehouse. They use the fire (a golden lighter) they found earlier to burn a molotov cocktail and set one of the rooms on fire, triggering the fire alarm. Outside, they spot people at the gate preventing their escape and Babydoll tells Sweet Pea that she’s finally found out the last piece of the puzzle which is herself. She asks Sweet Pea to escape while she herself becomes a decoy saying to her that “this is your story”. Sound familiar? Yeah, it kinda reminds me of Tidus’ “This is my story” line from Final Fantasy X.
The story ends with Babydoll getting lobotomized, and Sweet Pea escaping on a bus driven by Spock. The ending monologue is then narrated by Sweet Pea mirroring earlier words said by the madame to Babydoll during her first dance: “Your fight for survival starts right now.” or something along that line. It also ended with me looking at the screen with a dumbfounded look going “WTF?!”
So what have I learned from this movie?
- Mental patients and sex workers are interchangeable.
- Always bring a gun to a sword fight.
- A lighter with a dragon symbol can transform into a real dragon.
- Kitchen knives are bombs.
- Getting stabbed by a knife in the gut feels like getting blown up by a bomb that destroys an entire city.
- Never stab a guy in the shoulder. It doesn’t kill them.
- If Spock drives a bus, he won’t ask for your ticket.
The following section is taken from Annalee Newitz‘s review of Sucker Punch:
Is this movie Zack Snyder’s masturbatory fantasy?
A lot of people have been asking this question, and I think the answer has to be no, unless Snyder has incredibly unsexy fantasies. Though this movie has women in tiny outfits, you’re going to see less skin here than you would in an average episode of Baywatch. And unlike Baywatch, there’s nothing fun to jack off to in Sucker Punch, unless you’re into the sounds of an offscreen rape. There’s no flirty winking at the audience, as you might expect in such a film, nor is there anything alluringly kinky. There’s not even any stripping, though Babydoll’s special power in whorehouse world is that she’s such an amazing dancer that she can mesmerize anyone who watches her.
I’m sure Snyder thought he was incredibly clever for coming up with the idea that we’d never see Babydoll do one of her sexy dances. Instead, every time she starts to strip, she dives into one of the handful of ultra-fantasy action movie snippets that punctuate the film. We’re not watching Babydoll strip – we’re watching her slitting the throats of dragons and shooting enemy soldiers! I believe this is why Snyder has been telling interviewers (including io9’s Alasdair Wilkins) that Sucker Punch is empowering to women.
But it’s not empowering. Nor is it particularly degrading, either. It’s just two empty stereotypes, the sexy whore and the action hero, hurled together to make a mess. Watching Babydoll transition from stripper to fighter feels like watching somebody hog a videogame. Sure it looks kind of cool, but if you can’t ever grab the controller and get invested in the avatars bouncing all over the screen, it’s just boring and pointless after a few minutes.
Zack Snyder can very well be the best damn visionary in the movie business but damn, it wouldn’t hurt to hire a writer for a script. And here’s the question (I think) everyone’s been waiting for:
Should you go watch the movie?
Let me ask you: Are you an effects junkie? Do you like awesomely choreographed action sequences? Do you care not about cheesy dialogues? Do you not bother to give two shits about movie plots? If you answered everything a yes, then by all means go watch the damn movie.
Here’s my tip to you if you do intend to watch it: Go watch it in digital 2D. It’s worth all that money.
Aside from that, I think I just got sucker punched by Zack Snyder. Thanks.
Images from various sources via Google Image Search.