I'll admit that when I first saw the trailer for Sucker Punch, I was excited. The movie appeared to be a comic book-inspired adventure about ass-kicking young ladies finding justice in an oppressive world! But the tough world we live in pales in comparison to the oppressive, sexist and offensive world Zac Snyder created in this terrible movie.
Snyder describes Sucker Punch as an "epic fantasy that takes us into the vivid imagination of a young girl whose dream world provides the ultimate escape from her darker reality." But the movie, directed by Zack Snyder and based on a story he wrote, is decidedly not the fantasy of a young girl. It does, however, seem to be the fantasy of a man who likes to see young girls fight in skimpy outfits.
Sucker Punch is set in Vermont in the '60s, and the plot revolves around Babydoll (Emily Browning), a 20-year-old woman who is locked away in a mental institution by her creepy stepfather. As terrible events unfold inside the facility, Babydoll learns to close her eyes and escape into another world. In that world, she is locked in a whorehouse, not a looney bin. Isn't that what every young woman dreams of? In this reverie, Babydoll and her fellow mental patients wear bustiers, fishnets and glitter instead of asylum uniforms. But! Horrible things are happening in the cathouse, too, so Babydoll also escapes from that world by "dancing" — closing her eyes and daydreaming that she is at war. Yes, folks, much like a Britney Spears tour, we're dealing with A Dream Within A Dream. (My friend Matt turned to me during the screening and said, "It's like Burlesque meets Inception!")
Though her name and her pigtails infantilize Babydoll, inside her dreamworld, everything is sexually charged; her skirts get shorter and her hair gets longer. Just one of the many clues that we are not actually inside the mind of a young girl, but inside Zack Snyder's spank bank! Babydoll's first "fantasy" sequence involves fighting warrior monsters in the snow wearing high heels and a skimpy sailor suit. She's battling using weapons and advice given to her by a character credited only as Wise Man — because, as we all know, women can't do anything for themselves, and need a wiser, older man to help. It's especially ridiculous that Babydoll's Fairy Godmother figure, Wise Man, is male, since the story is set up to establish that she mistrusts men, namely her stepfather and her captor at the mental institution, a guy known as Blue. According to production notes, the director says, "The Wise man really represents the voice inside your head, the one you wish you listened to more often." So the voice of this 20-year-old woman's conscience is a David Carradine-esuqe dude. Got it. By the way, during this first fantasy-within-a-fantasy scene, Bjork's "Army Of Me" is playing. We're supposed to believe that Babydoll is empowered, but it takes more than a huge set of false eyelashes and a samurai sword to create a heroine.
As the movie progresses, Babydoll's battles become more intense, more violent and more bizarre, and she uses her "dancing" to save herself and her friends. Seriously, that's what makes her special: She can lapdance better than the rest of the gals, and that's how they're all going to escape the brothel! It's completely absurd, and between a dragon, a zeppelin air ship and the planet Saturn appearing on the screen, it wasn't long before I, like Babydoll, tried to check out, mentally. While highly stylized, the film is unbelievably noisy and chaotic, choking on explosions and gunfire — and since it's all a hallucination inside of a delusion, you never feel as though there's any risk. Action is only exciting when there's something at stake; after hours of watching a Paris Hilton doppelgänger destroy faceless drones, I seriously didn't care if anyone lived or died and I was only half-heartedly waiting to see if Jon Hamm would show up again. (He did, but it wasn't worth it, and he is on the screen for about 90 seconds total, so don't be fooled.) In the end, though the metaphor of mental institution as battleground is an interesting one to explore, that is not the analysis at the heart of this movie. Nope, Sucker Punch is a two-hour $82 million fetish film examining how hot sad schoolgirls look when holding weapons. Snyder should have just made a porn movie — it might have been better, and it definitely would have been cheaper and more honest.