‘Sucker Punch’ Review: “You Control This World”

Posted in The Screening Room by - April 24, 2015

This week for Reader Submission month I got to review the film Sucker Punch, a movie I saw in theaters in 2011 and hadn’t given much thought since. That was a mistake. I liked it then, and I like it now. Zack Snyder tells a compelling story of sacrifice and struggle through the lens of intense action. It’s a visually stunning film that uses color almost excessively to depict the various worlds in which the film is set. It also helps that attractive women murdering steam punk German zombies is always entertaining. This film has action and special effects, interesting creatures, and the most rare of cinema elements, powerful female characters.

The biggest portion of the film that needs to be explained is that the story has multiple different worlds with similar story lines that run parallel to each other, involving the same characters. Each world uses it’s differences to show the audience another part of the main characters’ personalities. Each world also functions as a more entertaining depiction of the steps the characters must take to escape the mental institution that exists in the real world.

Babydoll, played by Emily Browning, is the main character of the story, not the narrator however. She is a young woman sent to the mental hospital after attacking her step-father, who killed her younger sister to claim her dead mother’s fortune. He tells the police that she went mad, then bribes the head orderly Blue, portrayed by Oscar Isaac, to have her lobotomized when a doctor arrives at the hospital in five days time. Babydoll tries to escape along with a cast of other troubled women including Sweet Pea (Abbie Cornish), Rocket (Jena Malone), Blondie (Vanessa Hudgens), and Amber (Jamie Chung). Scott Glenn, Carla Gugino, and John Hamm also take part in the film, going through the same transformations between worlds as the primary group of girls do. The second world in the film is that of a night club front to a whore house in which the girls work. The five day time-limit is carried over as Babydoll is scheduled to be sold by a man only known as the high roller. At this club the girls dance for the patrons, and Babydoll’s dances transport her to different places where she and the other girls fight against a myriad of creatures and monsters. The ending of the film takes place in what is the most boring world of the film, and yet manages to provide a story and twist that makes even an insane asylum in to an engaging environment.

The action in the film is astounding. One of the first sequences features  Babydoll fighting three giant stone samurai, one of whom carries a Gatling cannon. At another point they fight in steam-punk version of the trench warfare prevalent in world war 1. Amber gets to ride in a giant robot suit, Blondie uses a hatchet to kill her enemies, and Rocket gets separated and stands alone. In another scene they jump out of a B-52 bomber to fight a castle full of orcs and knights before fighting a dragon. These and other insane, beautifully crafted, over the top action sequences make up the majority of the film.

The cinematic choices made for this film are equally exciting. Hard color hues differentiate the worlds from one another, with bold blues and yellows, hard dark lines, and earthen tones that provide a feeling of grit. The camera movement is extreme during the action and subtle during the more dialogue driven portions of the script, but if you watch closely you can spot the surprisingly complex motions and set design that must have gone in to some of the shots. The narrative structure manages to turn what would be a rather boring, short story of troubled girls trying to escape a mental institution and make it an entertaining, fast paced, action packed thrill ride. The soundtrack is made up of modernized covers from songs most people have heard and know, and these cover songs add to the quick rhythm of the film’s pacing.

Sucker Punch is an amazing piece of art that appeals to both the serious film makers and artists, as well as the casual viewer simply looking to be entertained. Strong female characters, disjointed but parallel story arcs, intense action scenes, bold color scheme, and its visceral soundtrack all combine to create a film that’s not only fun to watch, but warrants multiple viewings to get all the subtle links between worlds.

Final Say: Watch It

This post was written by

Born in Arizona, he currently resides in Denton, Texas. When he isn’t watching movies he’s playing board games and drinking whatever he can get his hands on. John watches Djimon Honsou movies because he likes Spawn, which had Michael Jai White.

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