Sucker Punch is an action-fantasy hybrid that tells the story of a young woman known only as "Baby Doll" (Emily Browning). In an engrossing prologue, we're introduced to Baby Doll's plight; when her mother dies, she and her sister become the targets of their sadistic stepfather. In a tragic twist, Baby Doll is involved in an accident that lands her in a dilapidated mental institution. Unable to accept her new reality, Baby Doll escapes into a fantasy world in which she imagines that she and the other female patients (Vanessa Hudgens, Abbie Cornish, Jena Malone, and Jamie Chung) are beautiful dancers in a burlesque theater.
Even in Baby Doll's parallel world where she and the others are gorgeous seductresses, there's still danger from the evil club owner. Fixated on escaping from the theater, Baby Doll learns from a mysterious mentor that she needs five tools to earn her freedom. The other girls are willing to help, and each time they retrieve one of the tools, they all disappear into a second fantasy world in which they're gun-toting, sword-wielding warriors tasked with defeating a variety of faceless enemies. Does that sound confusing? It is. Though director Zach Snyder tries very hard to make Sucker Punch something of an instant classic for the gamer set, all he creates is a messy illustration of female eye candy atop a half-baked story.
To find out why Sucker Punch left a bad taste in my mouth, just
I'm solidly behind any movie with a roster of strong female characters, which is what Sucker Punch presents itself as. But Snyder's characterization of the women is vapid and weak. Their sexuality is exaggerated from their names (Baby Doll, Sweet Pea, Rocket, Blondie, and Amber) to their revealing costumes, while their personalities are minimized. Besides Baby Doll, we get virtually no backstory or insight into who these women really are (and even our knowledge of Baby Doll is limited). When you factor in the inane dialogue, the female cast goes from generic to downright pathetic.
That's really the problem with the whole movie; there's so much style, it's as if Snyder hopes that all the visual noise will distract you from actually thinking. That's not always a terrible thing, if Sucker Punch could keep up the mindless entertainment that it has in the first act. But it doesn't. The extended battle scenes wear on, and with the complete disconnect to the characters, you don't feel any real sympathy for Baby Doll and her cohorts as they struggle to complete their escape mission.
Sucker Punch lets so much go to waste in its quest to be epic. Jon Hamm's part is hardly more than a glorified cameo, the soundtrack is more exciting than the action, and the empowerment that could be present with five sexy, tough ladies is instead just an exploitation of nubile young women.