Hello out there all you internet people. Slick Dungeon here, back with a movie review for ya. This time I am reviewing the Zack Snyder directed glossy action photo come to life known as Sucker Punch.
Heads up that there will be spoilers in this review so if you want to watch it before reading the review, you have been forewarned.
The movie stars Emily Browning as Babydoll, a young woman who is locked up in a mental institution and copes by envisioning it as a brothel. It’s actually both more complicated and more simple than that. There are basically three layers to the film and I will talk a little bit about all of them.
One of the things you can say without question is that the film looks great. It’s highly stylized and there are tons of interesting shots and camera movements happening, along with some pretty impressive CGI.
But that’s about all there is. It’s full of amazing style and pretty close to zero substance.
At the beginning of the movie, we are treated to a wordless opening where through action and lots of slow motion shots, we find out that Babydoll has an abusive stepfather. We also see an incident in which the stepfather tries to abuse Babydoll’s sister, and through Babydoll’s actions, her sister accidentally ends up dead. The stepfather is apparently able to frame it that Babydoll is insane and should be locked up in a mental institution and be lobotomized. Blue, one of the orderlies in the institution, played by Oscar Isaac, knows that Babydoll is not at fault but accepts payment from the stepfather to allow the lobotomy to happen. The day finally comes where the procedure is going to happen and right before we see the spike go into Babydoll’s eye, the movie shifts focus into a sort of dream realm where Babydoll is in a brothel. And then within this dream realm, when Babydoll dances, she enters a third realm in which she is a skilled warrior with a ragtag team of women with her. These women are in the brothel and exist in the mental institution as well. For the purposes of this review I am going to call these realms, the warrior realm, the brothel realm, and reality.
In reality, Babydoll has spotted a few things that might help her to escape the mental institution. When she goes into the brothel realm, these items exist as well. In the warrior realm, Babydoll is told what she needs to get in order to be free. She has to get a map, fire, a key, a knife and solve a mystery. In the warrior realm, she learns to be a fighter and how to get these items. Then she shifts back into the brothel realm and one of the women on her team has gotten the item. I don’t want to give everything away so I won’t go too much into how that’s all accomplished.
Most of the movie plays out in what you might call a, “collect the coupons” style. They have to get a thing, they get a thing, then that leads to another thing. Only after they have all the things, can the story continue. In this case, obviously, the point is for Babydoll to get all the stuff and escape the mental institution in real life. It seems like she’s able to accomplish it all in the brothel realm, with some sacrifice occurring, but it’s less clear whether or not she can do this in reality.
I’m not going to let you know if she escapes or what happens in the end, you’ll have to watch for yourself to find out. But I did have a few questions and comments about the movie.
- I’m really tired of the trope of evil mental institutions. So many movies and television shows do this. If a mental institution of the type depicted in these movies existed in reality, they would be shut down in a heartbeat. I’m not saying abuses don’t occur in existing institutions, that obviously happens, but the vast majority of people who work in this field, are legitimately trying to help people overcome their illness. Now, I know this is a really stylized movie and you can say that this is just fictional and makes for a good story. I understand that argument but I find it hard to believe that any current institution would do a lobotomy. It’s not a procedure, if you can even call it that, that makes any sense. And the institution looks grimy and run down and it’s just obvious there are abuses everywhere. This type of institution occurred in the early days of mental health but we are long past all that. This is just a pet peeve of mine but why do so many filmmakers take the lazy way out and use a mental institution to portray menace? It’s old, it’s boring, and it’s inaccurate if you put it in the modern era.
- Leaving all that aside, the things that Babydoll has to get in order to escape the institution make no sense from a logical point of view. She has to get a map. The map is a blueprint of the institution that Blue keeps in his office. Why in the world, would that map be framed in his office? If it’s a plan in case of fire escape, that would be posted everywhere for anyone in the institution to see. If it’s a blueprint of the actual building, there is no logic to keeping that in your office. It would be an obvious way for someone to figure out an escape.
- The key doesn’t make any sense either. Blue wears a master key to all doors around his neck. While this might make sense in the Brothel realm, it makes no sense in the institution. Weirdly, the key is not on Blue in the Brothel realm, but is on his neck in reality. If you work in a mental institution, especially one that might have residents who could reasonably attack you, jewelry would not be allowed for the staff for obvious reasons. So why in the hell would you wear a freaking master key around your neck where anyone could grab it? That makes no sense.
- The fire also makes no sense. In reality an orderly has a Zippo lighter that he fiddles with. Babydoll wants it to start a fire with so that the doors would be unlocked. No way this item is allowed in a mental institution, again for extremely obvious reasons. If a staff member is a smoker, it would be expected that they go outside to do that and have their lighters, cigars, cigarettes or whatever out there. Now you might think that the orderly could still have sneaked it in, and you would have a point. But then it makes no sense that he is playing with it. Why would you allow a lighter in this place?
- The one item that does make sense is the knife. They get that from the kitchen staff and clearly you need knives to cook. What doesn’t make sense is that the chef wears a knife belt around himself. It’s not like having the knife holstered at your back is logical for a chef. Why didn’t the chef us a knife block or something similar?
- Despite all that, if you can get past these things, and enjoy the movie, it’s not a bad time. I’ve certainly seen worse movies but I do wish Zack Snyder had done like, twenty minutes of googling on mental institutions and thought about the logic of some of these things.
- When Babydoll starts dancing in the Brothel realm, all the men seem to get hypnotized, and can’t look away from here. What kind of incredible dance moves does she have? No idea because they always cut away to the Warrior realm when she starts dancing. From what I can tell, her dance mostly involves her slowly moving her shoulders and walking slightly forward. Couldn’t they have shown the dance once? I mean come on.
- I think the most enjoyable part of this was the whole Warrior realm where there is lots of action and cool effects. Babydoll and her team seem to exist in a kind of steampunk world where there are zombie soldiers, giant robots, orcs, dragons, bombs, and samurai. I want to see that movie. Could we just have that movie start to end? We could forget all the other stuff and maybe get some actual character development and then this wouldn’t just look good but might also be good. Can we get that please?
- Like a lot of other movies that choose style over substance, (I am thinking of Suicide Squad in particular) the soundtrack is phenomenal. There is really good music here and it pairs well with the visuals. It makes me feel frustrated that it wasn’t a better movie because of that.
- I understand a lot of what the movie was trying to convey. The men in the movie were all horrible people, with one single exception. The women are abused in reality and in the Brothel realm but get to be amazing fighters in the warrior realm. I respect the intent, but it comes off as pretty much cartoonish. Look, there is a man, he is evil with a capital E. There is nothing more there. The women are good with a capital G. I’m not saying this type of characterization never works, but this film didn’t spend enough time building it up so it doesn’t work. Snyder should have spent his time thinking less about how things look and more about what the characters are about for this movie to make sense.
Now, it might sound like I just utterly hated this movie. I didn’t. I really think the visuals are interesting. None of the actors put in poor performances. The soundtrack is amazing. But, it never comes together. There’s just not enough story here. All style, no substance. If you are looking for a movie that you don’t need to think too much about, that has plenty of interesting action, and is for the most part predictable, it’s a decent time.
This page contains affiliate links. If you purchase a product through one of them, I will receive a commission (at no additional cost to you). I only ever endorse products I have personally used. Thank you for your support!