Sucker Punch Review

Published 4 years ago by , Updated May 21st, 2011 at 10:44 pm,

Sucker Punch Review Sucker Punch Review

Screen Rant’s Ben Kendrick reviews Sucker Punch

For many moviegoers, Zack Snyder seemingly exploded onto the scene with his visually striking adaptation of Frank Miller’s 300 – with Snyder both penning the screenplay and directing the film. The combination of Miller’s imagination and what we now know as Snyder’s trademark slow-motion/action choreography, resulted in an exciting and brutal film that paved the way for the director to tackle other high-profile existing properties, including Watchmen and the upcoming Superman: Man of Steel.

Sucker Punch, however, is entirely Snyder’s invention – earning the director his first original story credit. With Superman reboot fervor (and fear) at an all time high, not to mention the response to Snyder’s middle-of-the-road Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole, many film fans are looking to Sucker Punch as a barometer for whether or not Snyder is still on his game – and subsequently, whether he’s going to deliver a respectable Man of Steel film.

Does Snyder’s latest effort offer an edge-of-your-seat visual spectacle with an engaging story? Or is the film just a confused mish-mash of fantasy set pieces retro-fitted with a convoluted narrative?

Read on…

Unfortunately, despite a few visually-striking action sequences, Sucker Punch is a soulless film which comes across as little more than an excuse for Snyder to showcase a series of vivid fantasy worlds in rapid succession.

If you’re unfamiliar with the basic Sucker Punch premise, here’s the official synopsis:

“Sucker Punch” is an epic action fantasy that takes us into the vivid imagination of a young girl whose dream world provides the ultimate escape from her darker reality.  Unrestrained by the boundaries of time and place, she is free to go where her mind takes her, and her incredible adventures blur the lines between what’s real and what is imaginary.

Despite the filmmaker’s attempt at an overarching story of self-empowerment – as well as imaginative dream-worlds – Sucker Punch is one of the most formulaic films to hit the screen in recent memory. The basic structure is spelled out in the most recent trailer: In order to be free of her captors, Babydoll (Emily Browning) must find five (symbolic) items – the majority of which are tied to one of the film’s fantasy set-pieces. Similarly, the premise/vehicle through which Babydoll repeatedly enters the dream world isn’t nearly as artistic as Snyder must have thought – and, with each successive performance, becomes increasingly awkward.

Sucker Punch Cast Sucker Punch Review

The film’s reliance on disassociation from reality – while fertile ground for over-the-top action scenes – strips most of the Sucker Punch characters from having anything but cliché and one-dimensional personalities. Two quick lines in the film’s synopsis layout about as much as the audience will get, in terms of character, from the film’s warriors:

She has been locked away against her will, but Babydoll has not lost her will to survive.  Determined to fight for her freedom, she urges four other young girls – the outspoken Rocket (Jena Malone), the street-smart Blondie (Vanessa Hudgens), the fiercely loyal Amber (Jamie Chung) and the reluctant Sweet Pea (Abbie Cornish) – to band together and try to escape their terrible fate at the hands of their captors, Blue (Oscar Isaac), Madam Gorski (Carla Gugino) and the High Roller (Jon Hamm).

All of the performances are extremely one-note – with only Oscar Isaac (Robin Hood), as the film’s main antagonist, successfully bringing anything more than surface-level emotion to the production. In the end, the film seems to violate the most basic storytelling principle – show, don’t tell. Throughout the movie, the audience is told, through dialogue, that each subsequent victory results in some significant impact on each character’s sense of self-worth – but the story never takes advantage of the promised momentum. As a result, even in the closing moments of Sucker Punch, it’s unclear whether anyone has actually been empowered – in spite of voice-over narration that preaches otherwise.

Similarly, when the fantasy elements of the film are later reconciled against the real-world events (which is an on-the-nose exposition dump), it’s hard to feel as though Babydoll’s imagination didn’t just protect her from the horrors of the surrounding environment – they also protected Snyder from having to truly grapple with the emotions and implications of the more important real-world story as well as the subsequent fallout. If Snyder had spent as much time developing a satisfying story arc for the real-world events as he did imagining backstories for the fantasy worlds, Sucker Punch might have actually succeeded in providing a competent narrative journey.

Sucker Punch Fantasy Scenes Sucker Punch Review

It shouldn’t come as a surprise then, in a film where visuals take precedent over character development and engaging story progression, that the Sucker Punch action scenes are fast-paced, exciting, and epic in scale. However, the film’s five-item formula wears on the proceedings, making it hard to appreciate each successive entry – especially considering the first two sequences are far superior to the latter ones. The final set-piece is especially lackluster – since it’s much more confined than the prior entries (not to mention it comes across as a mash-up between The Matrix Reloaded and Dru Hill’s music video for “You are Everything [Remix]”).

Given the film’s reliance on music (both in terms of story and execution), it’s a relief that the Sucker Punch soundtrack is one of the better aspects of the production – especially considering the recordings feature vocals from star Emily Browning. Each action set-piece is framed within a single song – modernized covers ranging from Bjork to The Beatles – and while the on-screen execution can be stiff, there’s no doubt that the music is successful in pumping more adrenaline into the already intense action set-pieces. The opening prologue, set to a remix of Eurythmics’ “Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This)” is especially persuasive. In general, the inclusion of Browning’s vocals in a number of the songs add an additional, and especially intriguing, layer to the fantasy versus reality conflict in the film. If only the rest of filmmaking choices in Sucker Punch were as playful and interesting…

Sucker Punch Emily Browning Sucker Punch Review

In an increasingly tech-savvy world, it’s hard to ignore the feeling that a feature film may not have been the best medium for the Sucker Punch concept. Had Snyder presented a less-expensive version of the story in the form of a high-profile short-film/web-series event, the overarching narrative might be easier to appreciate – and would have allowed the director to add more room for character development as well as the fantasy worlds he spent so much time developing. As it is, the film is at odds with itself – with each fantasy setting competing against the others while, altogether, overshadowing the larger themes and story beats.

There’s no doubt that a lot of audience members will walk out of Sucker Punch in awe of the fight scenes and, as a result, might enjoy the film. That said, given the movie’s emphasis on self-empowerment (as presented through dialogue and voice-over), it’s obvious that Snyder was aiming for more than just an action-packed popcorn flick – making it hard to ignore that, much like Babydoll, the filmmaker may have temporarily lost his footing in reality.

If you’re still on the fence about Sucker Punch, check out the trailer below:

[poll id="139"]

Follow us on Twitter @benkendrick and @screenrant and let us know what you thought of the film.

Still have questions about the film or just want to talk about it without worrying about spoiling it for others?Please head on over to our Sucker Punch Spoilers Discussion for our full analysis of the ending and other story details.

If you want to hear the ladies of the film discussing their love of gunpowder and swordplay, head over to our Sucker Punch cast interview.

Our Rating:

2.5 out of 5
(Fairly Good)

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  1. Sucker Punch has flaws but shows Snyder has talent and a willingness to experiment. He just has to develop his scripts more and better develop his ideas.

  2. Anyone else notice the whole scenes of animation clipped from other movies?

    Your Sucker’d cliff notes section was missing from the credits….they took an entire scene from another WWI movie and used it in this movie. The scene with the steam punk Nazis and fighter planes was clipped from The Red Baron starring Tomas Koutnik.

    While I was watching the movie I kept thinking I had seen parts of it before but every time I just about placed it… a hot, teenage-looking, stocking-clad, in dollhouse makeup, pouty-lipped, nothing but heels and panties vixen wiped all my higher cognitive functions out….?

  3. This is the most weird movie iv ever seen but…..i sooooo loved this movie….the sound tracks…the amazing animation and effects! Its just so fun watching it!! it fills the gap for a fun night out at the cinamas :)

  4. I have to say i am appalled, if only slightly surprised that Sucker Punch received the negative reviews it did. This movie not only was the first movie Ive seen in recent years with completely original ideas, its messages are more profound and groundbreaking then hollywood cares to dish out… ever. Sure, during the movie they present a point of view of the purest evil with much grace, i might add, and if the movie had stuck to that, there wouldn’t be anything original about that at all.

    Then it gets to the point where they’re in the fantasy of the bomb on the train, and the movie takes a drastic turn towards biting the hand that feeds them. Before, the movies action sequences had shown very… well a lot of people believe these things, but referring to the hand from earlier, I focus on how it is considered a masonic virtue to revel in the “glories” of war and battle, and how baby doll was fit to survive because she proved herself against the samurai giants, nazis, and whatnot, and that this was all an honorable struggle for life, which is needed. Of course, the struggle of a girl kidnapped by a priest or stripped of her humanity by her step-father nags at the mind of anyone believing these things to be glorious, but they are presented in such a light that support could go either way, depending how rotten your heart has become.

    But the train set the tone for upheaval of these values, because, even though they tried, the city was destroyed, and their friend lost. Was it that she was not good enough? One of those people in the entire city might have been able to succeed where she failed, but they were never given a chance, and they all died without reason.

    In comes the snitch, and the “virtue” is questioned again; should they have killed their friend to save themselves earlier? How would they have known, and does it make them lesser to have “failed” in such a way and deserving of death?

    Then sacrifice, one of the purest imaginable, is how this movie delivers a coup-de-grace to centuries long beliefs held by others before for an inconceivably long period of time. She gives up her shot at freedom, so that her friend has a single chance. She did everything right, and was the best nature could put out, making her “worthy” in many eyes, yet she would give it all up for a recent acquaintance. All of it was waste, all the testing, all the pain (supposed to make you… one of many alleged things) because in the end she still probably dies, and in doing so, shows that it doesn’t matter if you’ve conquered the mightiest dragon or killed an army, what truly matters is that were all in this together, and all these “virtues”, which were the thing of the past, miss the most important part, when there is corruption, it must be fought; winning or losing are not clearly defined, and regardless we loose because it is there, and in the fighting of it. However baby doll was well the winner in the situation, because she fought. She saved a life that would have had to endure inhuman conditions, likely until her looks faded, and in the moment before her sense of self was taken though the lobotomist’s hammer her burning will wrenched his heart to force him to question the procedure, leading to the end of the corrupt institution’s owner.

    The girl was a true hero, worthy of making a strong next generation as some would believe, yet she was wasted for nothing, a struggle with no winner, everyone went down in the end, or would have, should the old bus driver not have shown us what true humanity is, and that is extending your hand to your fellow man regardless of what rules have been set in place to test and see who will emerge the “winner”. Simply extending love to an undeserving (you know…) stranger by saving her from what he might image to be an inconvenience, saves her life and likely that of every girl remaining in that place.

    Based on who the movie (and if you know masonic beliefs, you can watch the movie in that light and see them everywhere) rags on, of course it’ll be rated bad by “respected” critics, but think for yourself when watching this movie, and you will find a masterpiece that delivers the plight of man unexpectedly and in such a way that not only is the evil evident, which virtually and semi-informed person can vomit all over you these days, the truth of what it right and what it means to be human is there secretly waiting under every stone of pure evil, and as such I rate this movie 5/5 in every aspect, originality, storyline, (I’ll have to re-watch to rate acting, it was hard to focus on their delivery and poise with everything going on, considering i didn’t notice any real kicks, max .5 deduction if it was truly terrible, which i doubt), morals and heart, a rare element (recently) that makes this harrowing and heart wrenching tale a serene view of what i called the plight of man, which is the true struggle for survival, a struggle for uniting us without leadership or rules; love as king.

    • and it was an interesting movie as well!

    • can i have some of teh drugz you on?

    • But!!! and its a BIG But!!!,

      Where the heck do the reapers come into the story??


      Were they supposed to be some form of Mass Defect??

    • If you aren’t a fifteen year old boy or a fifty year old man who loves teen kiddie porn, then I suggest getting your head shrunk. Or were you all coked up when you wrote this? Either way seek help and look up the definition of misogyny because this is the ideal example of it.
      Since when did pairing wrinkled old men and creepy pimping jailors with murderous hardcore little girls become acceptable film fare? What are we illustrating for young women and boys here????
      YUK! I had to take a shower after seeing this disgusting film.

      • The brothel was one of her alternate worlds, and her fighting scenes were all in her second alternate world. She creates both of these to cope, just before being lobotomized.
        And the brothel.. that all happens in real life. Old men using and abusing young prostitutes. Welcome to the ugly world we live in, dear.
        The movie was not designed for teenaged boys or for pornographic excitement, the movie requires a lot of thinking, guessing and analyzing in order to fully understand it, which obviously you didnt.
        I loved this movie, it had stunning screen shots, and interesting and different plot and scenario. This movie isnt all rainbows and butterflies which most people expect. It has a dark ending, but with light shining through. Many people were list in the process, but at least SweetPea got out, which is a glimmer of hope.
        Sorry if you didnt find the movie to be appealing to you, but it resonated with me.
        Despite what people say about the degrading nature of the clothing and stuff, this movie does have empowerment messages. It tell you to never give up, no matter how dim the future seems. Most people would just give up, but she fights for herself and for others. I am not saying that the action gives her power.. but she gives HERSELF the power. It was obviously far too complex for you, and you didnt see anything deeper or more symbolic than the costumes.

  5. this movie was awersome i really enjoyed it i would look forward to part 2 if they would make one as the cliffhanger got to me really bad and made me think for a while im still wonderin what happened to baby? wondering if she let out of the assylum? x

    • Um, she got lobotomised. You should probably look up the effects of a lobotomy.

      • Yes,a lobotomy can be a real headache although I have been told its something politicians go through when they join a political party but that maybe an urban legend! I will have to ask Keith about it.

  6. The movie was awesome. well blended with a game-like theme.

    i hope there would be a 2nd part. baby doll was still so young and her future is still a long way to go. and his evil step dad (very similar to my dad step wife), needs some lesson

  7. i really enjoyed this movie but i will admit the story does have flaws, what i loved is that the combination of music with the striking visuals was AMAZING Zack Snyder knows how to add emotion with just images, however the story was a bit convoluted to be honest i feel like they actually did the opposite of what i complain about in movies alot, hand holding, this is the first movie where i felt hey didnt actually explain enough of what was going on as it pertains to the brothel fantasy world, so for like 10 minutes after that starts you are like wait what is going on but once (or if ) you figure that out its actually kinda cool, again i really enjoyed it it does have some problems but its NOWHERE near as bad as the critics are claiming it to be i think they were just wanting to rip on Snyder from the beginning so the first one that was actually his idea people were quick to rip it apart more than it deserves

  8. I don’t know about other women, but I feel empowered everytime I imagine myself as a stripper, imagining myself as sailor moon.

    • mmmmm…..donuts

    • Ahh finally a sane person! When I heard the premise for Sucker Punch I thought “Yay, finally a cool looking feature film with strong female protagonists!” Boy was I wrong. I keep hearing this theme of “self-empowerment” in the reviews but I definitely did not see it on screen. After watching the film I couldn’t have felt less empowered. Since when did a one-dimensional female protagonist, who’s reaction to getting raped many times over is to imagine a fantasy brothel, equal self-empowerment? And the fact that the male antagonist, Blue, managed to hold all the power over Babydoll both in the fantasy and reality worlds for the entire film says patriarchy and misogyny more than it says self-empowerment. To compound this further not even the strong female character of Gorsky could stop Blue from having Babydoll lobotimised even though in the reality of the film her position is supposed to be above his. Perhaps if Babydoll was built on as a character and managed to triumph over Blue it would have been somewhat empowering. If anything Sucker Punch says to me that the only way women can be empowered is in their own fantasies. Ick.

    • How on earth did this get made? The mind that made this is just sick. I feel astonished to hear these morons talking about how much they enjoyed it.
      All it was about is violence toward helpless young girls. That is enjoyable, really. Only the lowest weakest freaks could possibly get off on this.
      Any girl who likes this really must question what she thinks of herself.
      I feel sorry that any kids have see this demented trash.

      • The world isn’t all butterflies and rainbows.. SO i feel sorry for you for thinking that there can only be happy movies. There are injustices, darkness and saddness every where.. so yeh, they made a movie that isn’t happy.

  9. The movie was advertised as action/ adventure, sci-fi/ fantasy and that it was. My imagination and eyes were stimulated without the use of legal or illegal stimulants. I enjoyed the movie for what it was and I look forward to seeing more from Z. Snyder

    • a bagocrack is mo cheap & mo fun

  10. This movie was just interesting.The script and the whole idea behind it was 100% original and that made it worth watching.

    Of course the built-up was not that good.Generally the film felt a little abstract.The story seemed to unfolge too fast for the characters to develop.
    As for the action scenes,they were sometimes too fancy.All those slow motions from some point on were boring and useless.

    Finally i want to say that the acting of “baby doll” was extremely poor.She gave out no emotion.

    P.S My rating was 2 stars.

  11. While the concept is interesting it really came up short. The acting is horrible. The cgi blasted me away but I didnt feel the connection with the levels of the narrative voice. I think it would be awesome if they stuck with the movie being substantial rather than visual.

  12. What had me amazed about the movie was the way in which Snyder actually managed to disguise deeper meaning in society and a grip of how society is viewed, through action scenes and fantasy. It’s called Sucker Punch because when you suddenly stop to think about the movie and its themes it punches you across the face, punishing you for not thinking about the movie earlier and getting too caught up in it’s action scenes and music (both of which were extremely well implemented)

    The movie is criticizing the role of women in society… They were highly sexualised and seen as merely sex objects, however, throughout the movie Snyder manages to give them great power throughout it (if a group of girls manage to defeat Samurais, the Imperial German Army and orcs and dragons, what can’t they do?) and show the true strength of women. It shows the sisterly bond, through both blood and friendship relations and how it can survive anything (Babydoll sacrifices herself for another fellow woman she hardly knew, because they knew each other’s plight in society.) And it showed how in the end the women managed to overthrow the evil in society, when they managed to get Blue arrested over corruption and forgery.

    Sucker Punch is a movie that can easily be appreciated, not only through its nonstop action but also by how it managed to show a greater understanding of society. The problem is, it’s one of the few movies of today that require the viewer to actually think about it, rather than just spoon feeding them by making the plot blatantly obvious, rather than subtle. But sometimes it’s those subtle plots that are hard to understand that provide the viewer with a much higher level of satisfaction, should they succeed to find the themes hidden within.

  13. This film had awesomeness written all over it,pity someone didn’t clarify the plot before it was filmed. The CGI was good although it cannot substitute for plot short comings which should be addressed in script draft rewrites not as you film the script. Was this film interesting YES,was this film well made,POSSIBLY,Could it have been better?,Most Definitely but so could just about every film ever made! Did I enjoy watching it,YES,would I watch it again? NO, why? Once was enough,its tricks revealed so first view of this film is the best view!

  14. Just caught this on HBO. The trailers and synopsis made me doubt that it would be worth watching. I discovered that the these did not show the true worth of the movie

  15. I am the only one that realized that Babydoll killed her sister with the gun ? She murdered her sister, albeit by mistake. How can you empower women when the first thing she does is incompetently shoot her sister and miss the man standing not 2 feet from her.

    • Maybe she just needs to channel Charlton Heston in the Omega Man!
      He was handy with a machine gun,sniper rifle etc so his spirit could guide her to success with weapons!
      The Lobotomy?
      Might need Dr Oz on that one!

      I believe shock treatment should be available for everyone.

    • She didn’t kill sister with the gun. She hit the light bulb and then the bullet penetrated the steam pipe. She rushed into the closet and found her sister lying dead where her step father had bashed in her head lying in a pool of her blood.

  16. This is girl power? Are you people CRAZY.
    Wow, I really never saw such a load of s*** in my life. Apparently every man in the world want to screw, sell, abuse and kill young girls these days.

  17. To those who say they watched it once and once was enough. Watch it again it is amazing how much you miss the first time.

  18. Gee wiz, the action was intense, and everything was well played. However, that story line had me SOO confused. In the end, it was nothing more than a little girl’s imagination? Come now, awesome scenes deserve awesome plots. Hope his

  19. Guys, I genuinely don’t care what people think, this film was brilliant! I understand that out there, everyone has different ideas, and different ways of interpreting stories they hear and see, and that’s perfectly fine. If you don’t like Suckerpunch, then that’s okay, it just wasn’t to your liking.
    However, and this is my opinion, what Zack wanted to do was portray the world we live in and contrast it with a sort-of ideal fantasy we all have. Everyone dreams about saving the day at one point or another, and sometimes we wonder if we are good enough to stand up and fight for what WE believe in.
    There are bad people in the world, obviously. No such thing as sparkling butterflies and angels who help you when you need help. This is the gritty world we live in, and that sparked the world Babydoll lives in, most especially when she is dragged into Lennox House. This is as real as it gets, guys. Everyone knows and understands that in the world we live in, cruel and malicious things are done to people everyday. We live in a world where we cannot walk out our own door without the dread that something will happen. So, this is the setting for the film. This is what Babydoll and her friends face. And yes, maybe it’s not Hollywood material, and yes, maybe its not the happy ending you wanted to see, but in terms of real life, if this were to happen in today’s world, none of those girls would have made it out of there alive. Be honest with yourselves. If something like that were to happen in real life, and we were placed in Babydoll’s shoes, I don’t think we’d live to see the light of day without getting ourselves killed.
    I suppose the ending was sweetened, in a sense. One of the girls was given the chance to go home, and the otehr was given the chance to be “set free”. Maybe she was given the chance to live in her own Paradis, the world she created.
    So yeah, I apologise if no-one agrees with me, and thinks I’m a weirdo. And okay, Suckerpunch may not be pitch-perfect, but even with all it’s flaws, I still think Suckerpunch is perfect for what it is, and for who it stands for. As to WHO it stands for, well, you guys tell me.