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. I think it’s funny how the last paragraph implies that if you disagree with the review, that overall the movie movie missed the mark, it’s because you were duped by how much fun it was to watch. I think reviewers who put forward the sentiment that a movie is no good despite the fact that you may have enjoyed it have lost touch with a very important part of the experience of going to the movies. Not to mention that the sentiment condescends to the movie goer implying that they’d enjoy any pile of crap with flashing lights and some cleavage.

    Would i give it the oscar. No. But i enjoyed the hell out of it. It totally satisfied my inner geek/gamer/tech junkie/nerd.

  2. Have to say, what a movie! :)

    I liked the message of the movie. I liked how it got you thinking exactly whose story it really was. And how true for us. Perhaps we are just one part of someone else’s bigger story?

    I liked the way the combat scenes had so many wrong mixes of time that at one point I just said “You know, what if reality is wrong?” That was a fun moment to suspend reality for a bit.

    And this movie does that in a great way. It gave me a chance to look beyond the grit and grime of reality and look at it from another way. When the movie was not doing that, it was just sheer fun. :)

    Oh, and one more thing… the guide in the movie was my favorite character.

  3. -Hot girls

    -Steampunk undead Nazis

    -Samurai warriors made of STONE wielding MACHINE GUNS

    -Matrix Reloaded

    -A brothel

    Leave it to Zack Snyder to go wrong with ingredients that sound infallible.

    How does a movie showing a group of sl*ts promote female empowerment at all?

    Hell even the actions scenes were forced onto the viewer. In fact the amount of cliche in the scenes will blow you away. In the end the girls simply come across as common whores and I didn’t feel sorry for any of them at the end.

  4. I don’t understand the hate, and I can’t believe that movie critics have so unanimously missed the concepts and themes that were being put forth in the movie. Shallow characters that you don’t evoke any feeling? So the reviewers are saying that when the Cook attempted to rape one of the girls that they could not care either way? The acting was fine and at the very least ‘sincere’ to their rolls.

    And I also don’t understand why reviewers are harping on the over the top action sequences. The point of the action sequences is to evoke the amazement and awe that the movie audience has watching the fantasy sequences as the characters in the movie have while watching Baby Doll dance. Also, to show a little bit how each girl had their role in the current task of recovering the objects.

    And I don’t know why the reviewers are calling these objects ‘symbolic’? They are real items. It is in the action sequences that the item is symbolized by something else (example: the golden lighter with the dragon logo on it represented as the baby dragon that they had to kill to steal the crystals that is used to make fire). These objects in the fantasies represented the actual items in the real world that the girls had to obtain. The obstacles in the fantasy represented real world obstacles that they had to overcome (such as one of the girls having to cuddle up to the High Roller).

    Finally, the music. At least the reviewers gave some nod to the music. It was very well done, and the covers were really altered to fit the scene in which it was overlaid really well. But more than that, music was the CORE to the story. Baby Doll couldn’t do her dance (thus entering the fantasy episode) without it. Music wasn’t just an afterthought, it was core.

    Anyways, it’s too bad that this movie was so unanimously panned by critics, i think it’s actually worth seeing in a movie. I wish the movie had a better sound system, but still, a good watch.

  5. mhm

  6. I can’t see what there isn’t to like about this film I went to see this film yesterday and it had almost everything a film needs cool characters, great settings, an awesome soundtrack and some the greatest action sequences in any film ever. If you going to see this film don’t expect to see a normal film or a film that you’ll fully understand just expect to see some more brilliantly stylish and lubriciously over the top action made brilliant once again by Zack Snyder’s original direction. I mean what isn’t there to like about a giant robot flying in to a Biplane piloted by steam punk Nazi’s whilst playing Jefferson aeroplane’s White Rabbit. Definitely my film of the year.

    • Frank D.(Lennox,Mass.),
      Agree with Ethob121 completely!!…I am 73 years old and while the movie was two hours long, it went bye like it was 50 minutes…Bottom Line- I enjoyed it completely…Then, I read some of the critics and they sounded like old people who should go back to their high school musicals, mysteries, or even take another look at the “African Queen”. Take a look at the LATIMES review. It quotes Rick Parker(Producktion Design Head on the film),saying, “I think he’s(Snyder) the real deal when it comes to directors and I’ve been up close and personal with a few now”( Cameron,Spielberg, and Zemeckis for 15+ years)….
      Again, If you didn’t like this movie, you should take your pulse!!!

    • haha, I’m sure it’s a great movie and all. I’m just not going to see it because, as an average looking girl, looking at drop dead gorgeous, sexy, hot chicks kick ass for about 2 hours, just won’t help me with my self esteem. :D

      • I was surprised my wife went with me to see this, but like I expected she wasn’t too happy when it was over. Its not like I was drooling over the girls, I’m old and mature enough to not have a one track mind. I liked the movie, but it lacked a lot of what I was expecting from it. Could have been better, I have a list of things I would have liked to have seen differently, although some of the scenes were visually stunning.

        • Little things like when they fought the Orks, would have been much cooler if they used medieval weaponry, swords, bows, axes, that kind of thing, rather than pumping them full of lead.

  7. Wanted to chime in on this again after seeing the film and I did pick up the soundtrack because I was thinking back the best thing about it was the remix to the Bjork song Army Of Me just for Sucker Punch. I’m glad I at least have that. :>)

  8. Sombrero, are you a male?

  9. Okay, whether you liked the movie or not there is one thing I think we can all agree on and that is that having three levels (one real and two levels of fantasy) was completely unnecessary and lazy story telling. I mean, in reality how did Baby Doll get her friends to help her? How did she convince them that her plan was a good one? In her fantasy, most of her friends went along with it but, really, the whole plan was crazy. Oh, wait, this was an asylum so maybe her and her friends really were crazy. I think I would have liked to have met the real Blondie, Amber and Rocket. We never did.

    It seemed as though Zach brought in the first layer of fantasy so he could have the girls constantly walking around in skimpy outfits (because it was a brothel). I wish the fantasy elements had been drug induced because I left the movie thinking that Baby Doll really was crazy and that the asylum was where she belonged and that it was wrong for me to rout for her to escape. If she had such vivid fantasies and was so detached from reality then was the abuse by her step father real at all? Was her sister really dead? And if so who’s to say she didn’t kill her sister thinking she was a samurai warrior, undead Nazi, dragon or robot?

    In short, Zach could have started from scratch and done a female version of The Secret Life of Walter Mitty and left the viewer to decide what was real and what was fantasy. Samurais, Nazis, dragons and robots? Fantasy. Abusive men and dead friends and relatives? Maybe not. We really don’t know what is real and what is fantasy because Baby Doll was, let’s be frank about this, crazy. Zach Snyder should have played to this rather than sidestepped it completely.

    I gave the movie 4/5 mainly because I think Jamie Chung is gorgeous. If it had been a good movie I would have given it 5/5.

    • I’m not sure a single person i’ve read a review from yet actually understood the concept of the film. Especially those who gave it a bad review. Just so you know, if you are gonna take a job as a film critic (voluntary or for pay) you should be open to the idea that a film will make you think about what you’re seeing. If it’s plain as day, it was probably a poor movie. Here’s how it lays out so you understand what’s at play. This movie is about Baby Doll’s “imagination.” The moment she straps up for a lobotomy all reality ends. Whether the lobotomy is successful or not, she’s in “paradise.” My interpretation? It was unsuccessful and she dies. If she doesnt it doesnt matter because the lobotomy killed everything but her body. If you notice, just as he does it you’re immediately taken into the first level of her fantasy, the brothel. The rest of the film plays out just like a dream. Just like in your dreams, she had a very traumatic experience and her mind played out a story with all of the characters involved. What actually happened while she was at the asylum is inconsequential. The concept is all based on what her mind experienced after her “death” or while she is in “paradise.” The only tie she really had to any of those girls, sweet pea espcially, is when she saw them in the asylum. They were all that remained for her. The girls you know are all products of her imagination. Sweet pea caught her eye when she first entered the asylum and for that reason she was Baby Doll’s focus in fantasy. This is all further backed when baby doll is telling the girls of her plan, Rocket tells Sweet Pea “we’re already dead.” She didn’t say it like it was inevitable. She didn’t say it with sarcasm. She stated a fact. Plain and simple, “we’re already dead.” I loved the concept of dancing and the fact that the soundtrack played into her routine. We all have the ability to close our eyes and imagine a new world. Or imagine our world in a new way. Don’t be ashamed of your imagination and the places it might take you. Don’t be afraid of what you might find in your dreams. You have the power to create your own fantasy. You have the power to create your own reality. You. The concept of this movie is beautiful. The visuals were crazy fun. Her imaginary worlds were interesting. The soundtrack rocked. Please, for the love of intelligent thought, and the desire to see movies continue to evolve, start opening your minds to your own imagination. Stop waiting on someone else to tell you what it all means and figure it out yourself. Remember, a painter transforms the sun into a yellow spot, the view turns a yellow spot into the sun. Oh, and one more thing. Tonight, when youre all by yourself, close your eyes and learn to dance.

      • One small note about all that which completely throws everything what you said about the story-line out the window is one line just after she’s had the lobbotomy done, I won’t quote directly as can’t remember word for word but something alone the lines of:

        She’s been here for 1 week and cause havoc. She stabbed an ordely, set fire to a room and helped a girl escape.

        So obviously she must have got to know the girls seeing as she’d been there a week, it’s NOT that she’d simply seen those girls and were the last thing on her mind.

        My thoughts on this film:

        If you want to see some cool effects then fine, it’s a nice movie. But as a story-line and a movie it was completely dis-jointed constantly jumping forwards and backwards leaving very little information to the viewer as to what is actually going on and which world/fantasy we were witnesssing. The only things that really stood out for me (cool choreography asside) was the Blue’s (Oscar Isaac) performance, which was the only character which showed true emotion and acting ability; and the awesome soundtrack (which let’s face it you could just buy seperatetly and just listen to without the disapointment of having to sit there for 2hrs in front of a screen trying to work-out what the hell is actually going on).
        Personally I give this movie a 2 out of 5, one point each for Oscar Isaac’s performance and the soundtrack)

      • That’s the problem – the movie didn’t make me think. I understood the theme quite well; I just wasn’t as impressed by it as you were. I’ve seen it before, read it before, written about it before, all in ways better than Snyder did in this film.

        It made me try to figure out what the hell was happening, but that’s not the same as making me think.

    • Martin,

      It’s not hard to believe that Baby Doll was crazy, She lost her mom, She killed her sister and her Step Father got what he wanted. Sweet Pea and Rocket (from what the story said) seem to be the only ones who are sane. Although I, too, was disappointed that we didnt get to meet the real characters in the asylum, I was still amazed at the visuals and how snyder came up with the concept. a fantasy inside a fantasy. I amazed at how the story was pieced together and also the movie left me wish it didnt end that way. All good movies with tragic endings leave me sad. This movie was epic.

      As the action scenes started to decline, the storyline started to pick up, so there was good compensation there.

      All in all. I loved the movie.

      and for some reason my favourite character aside from Baby Doll and Rocket, was Blondie haha.

  10. I had heard all the bad reviews and it didnt matter, i went and enjoyed the movie. I agree, the visuals were great, the soundtrack was great, the girls didnt get to round out their characters all the way but hey, this is more action than drama. I thought the opening sequence was stylistically great but the ending was SO corny and over the top, it sorta ruined it for me. I knew from the moment right at the start where the lobotomy was just about to happen that Babydoll was doomed but it sorta pissed me off that abbe cornish’s sweet pea got the ending.

  11. Worst movie ever! Sucker punch is the feeling u receive after the movie finally ends

  12. i love it!!! an eye candy, and a movie to make u think something i see you áre not get used to…

  13. the movie was decent. i hated the action parts though and was much more interested in what was going on in the story the action scenes felt so out of place.. With that said its not the worst way to waste your money, im genuinely satisfied. 2.5/5 is a good rating.

    • I agree totally on that point. I was interested in the story itself, if you could say that, and wanted to skip right over the action parts.

  14. I enjoyed Sucker Punch.

    To me, the film read as if all the events of the of the main story arc (brothel onwards) had occurred before Babydolls lobotomy. This was why she was smiling afterwards, because Blue(?) wasnt able to have ‘her’ the way he wanted to take advantage of her, as he had told her in the dressing room before being stabbed in the neck with scissors lol.

    Babydolls ‘dream’ sequences were a more interesting way of telling the story of misdirection. Especially in the kitchen when the music cuts, and we can see that the girls are actually stealing a knife. Music cuts back in, *spoiler* and Rocket is left dead after being stabbed. The dream sequences are visually exciting and more action orientated than a real world sequence. They dont seem much like dreams to me at all. Just because Babydoll closes her eyes doesnt mean she is dreaming.

    Espcially especially loved the soundtrack, and the opening title sequence, more so than anything else in the movie, had the best visuals and was so powerful!

    Start rating – 4 out of 5.
    I think everyone will experience this different, with many different interpretations of events (like Inception), so just spend $15 and go and see it :)

  15. Well, I know now that the world is coming to an end because I completely agree with this review. In all honesty, I kept thinking how Scott Glen would have made a better Sarek than the actor who played him in Trek 2009. SP had great visuals and soundtrack but that’s it. The story was lacking cohesiveness and the slo-mo was just annoying. I completely agree with 2.5/5.

  16. One of the worst movies I have ever seen. Please don’t go to watch. Its an awful waste of time and money. The only thing which okay about the movie was the soundtrack. I waited the entire movie for something to happen that would change my opinion. I highly regretted not leaving like the other 90% of the theatre.

  17. I’m surprised people didn’t get the film, it really wasn’t that complicated. The asylum was ‘real’. Babydoll’s ‘dances’ always act as a distraction so that the other girls can obtain the items needed for escape, and so the ‘dances’ are symbolic of whatever method she uses (who knows what the real distractions were…;) ) Now, all the girls in the asylum are not necessarily clinically insane, no doubt disturbed, but Blue is paid to keep them in there, and in some cases (like Babydolls) have them lobotomised. The dream like realities are, 1, Babydoll’s way of coping with the reality of the asylum, and 2, purely to make the film more interesting…Seriously, would it have been better if it was purely a thriller based in the asylum reality…I think not…

    I also get the feeling that the mentor in the dream states is Babydolls real father, but that is neither here nor there.

    The movie, I thought was excellent, not worthy of 5 stars but excellent all the same.

  18. Saw the movie last night and was blown away, it was like Alice in Wonderland meets Pans Labyrinth meets Kill Bill. In a time where everything is a remake this was welcome.

  19. people r saying that sucker punch got bad reviews so i read the revew and it way too confusing so I’m not sure if the movie did get a bad review or not all I no is that i loved the movie

  20. You and me are on the same page!
    You nailed it man… Or girl…. People just didn’t get it. “It’s a work of art.” It’s better than 300! 300 was visually stimulating but everything else was corney… But I couldn’t of explained it better myself valinos.
    Like I said in my long drawn out comment…”movies are like subjective art they can be anything and everything.” You need to recognize the qualities in a movie or book or art whatever it maybe. I would never say something is terrible just because I didn’t like it, that’s immature and ignorant. Let em know! Read my sucker punch comment/review if u have the time. Its way long, But explain why people don’t understand Sucker punch, And inspiration behind it. Theres a specific style and an entire culture that shaped this movie. That only certain people follow and understand, japan anime martial arts characture rendering brought to life and done right for the first time. With quality production design and budget. To most people its just a scifi action movie. it’s much more than that. so stop hating on it people! All you Close minded half wits, saying the storyline was lacking when in reality u missed the whole point. Don’t you feel stupid.

  21. I think its because people are starting to move away from CGI, this film is sort of like the Star Wars prequels. Everyone knows that CGI is good and can accomplish great things, but I feel audiences want a subtle touch when it comes to this kind of work (maybe we think its too lazy, getting computers to do everything for us, but then we havent got a robot that feeds us cake while in bed yet so its not too bad)

  22. Yeah you could debate whether the movie actually participated in the crime of objectifying, controlling and limiting women that it professed to reject etc etc yada yada but personally I just viewed it as a collection of stunning music videos featuring hot girls. Enjoyable if you appreciate good music, good videos and hot girls/ women. Having said that, I thought the bad guy had depth…


  24. The movie was very tedious. The action scenes were wrapped in packs of slowmotion stuff for the sake of more effects.

    It wasnt conclusive, even in its concept, and theres was on me a huge sensation of “something is lost here”.

    Acting isnt good… baby doll, hah… no comments, sorry for that actress, better luck next time.

    the rest of the cast is completely a bit below average, and the movie just throws out a pre-producted “headless-footless” world with characters without any resemblance to what “should” be a representation of something real.

    the ending, the SO CALLED ENDING that everybody is talking about is merely a confusion on purpose, followed by some catchy quotes that would fit better in a motivational lecture.

    if there´s a sense of empowerment, that is about the 2 last phrases, and that PLUS the scenes PLUS the special effects = very EPIC HAPPILY “average joe” screaming for more.

    everything is epic today, isnt? i turned my computer on…. epic.
    this blog, epic….. my old cell phone, epic, the old Faith no More album…. hey, that one was really titled EPIC, at least.

  25. Sucker Punch is what it is an interesting,not complete story with interesting visuals though the script could have been worked more but all in all not a waste of time and shows Snyder has talent and a willingness to experiment with ideas.