Hot chicks in fetish gear fight minigun-wielding giant samurai, steam-powered German zombies and a goddamn dragon. Can’t miss, right? Wrong. Hellishly, insanely wrong.
Tagline: You Will Be Unprepared
More Accurate Tagline: You Will Be Unprepared (As With Most Rape)
Guilty Party: There’s a fun call and response game you can play with Sucker Punch. In the end, when the narrator starts incessantly musing about who is torturing her for no reason, just shout “Zach Snyder” to her rhetorical questions. You’ll be right. Zach Snyder reigns over this film like some kind of rapetarded Zeus, his psyche dripping over every frame like semen on a crime scene. He co-wrote, produced and directed this film as revenge against the little blonde girl that mocked the size of his junk in the twelfth grade. Someone apparently asked Zach Snyder “What does your dick think about when you’re choking a girl scout?” and then gave him $50 million to answer.
Synopsis: A lot of summarizing Sucker Punch involves trying to figure out what “really” happened. Unfortunately, this is a bit like fact-checking the homeless guy that keeps screaming about the ghosts pooping in his medicine. Fortunately, I speak Crazy Person.
Oh, god. I keep hoping if I leave my computer, I’ll come back and find this thing already written, probably by the bleeding ghosts of the American Apparel models rotting in Zach Snyder’s rape dungeon.
Okay. Deep breath. I can do this.
We open on narration, because this movie thinks subtlety is the name of that look in a woman’s eyes when she realizes the doors are locked from the outside. The narration involves some blathering about angels watching over us. Apparently, these guardian angels won’t fight any battles for you; they’ll just wait until you’ve had the hope systematically raped out of you before… whispering or something. I don’t really know.
The guardian angels do a bang up job when they allow Babydoll (Emily Browning, and yes, this is seriously the character’s name) to kill her little sister. In a second dick move, they allow her evil stepdad (known hereafter as rapedad) to commit her to a mental institution, but only after rejecting Arkham Asylum for not being Dickensian enough. This is when the legality of the situation gets a little weird. One, rapedad commits her for the murder of little sis, but when he does this, he still has fresh scratches on his face from when he tried to hit that. This means that there hasn’t been a trial. And two, Snyder is very careful to show on the admittance forms that Babydoll is twenty, so, much like these proceedings, she is barely legal.
The asylum’s psychiatrist, former Bond Girl Dr. Gorski (Carla Gugino) treats the girls with some kind of radical drama therapy. There’s another montage in which Babydoll gets the grand tour of the asylum, a tour that culminates in a trip to the lobotomist. As he readies the orbitoclast to core her frontal lobe, the film cuts to the first layer of fantasy. Suddenly, the girls are in a burlesque/brothel owned by the head orderly Blue, now sporting a cheesy mustache and more eye makeup than Nestor Carbonell in a Revlon ad. So for those keeping track at home, to escape the horrible exploitative environment of the asylum, Babydoll dreams of being a whore. Ladies, do you feel empowered yet?
Because Babydoll is a new arrival, Blue is saving her for the High Roller who will be there in three days to claim his prize. This means that little Babydoll will have to learn some kind of song and dance routine, because otherwise it’s just prostitution. Gorski (now some kind of madam, and also hitting the eye makeup a little heavily) turns on the music, and Babydoll begins to sway… and suddenly she’s in another layer of fantasy. In this layer, Babydoll is a badass anime schoolgirl/pigtailed killing machine. She wanders into a nearby temple where she finds Scott Glenn, who briefs her on the five things she’ll need to escape: map, fire, a knife, a key and a fifth object that is a secret. Well, it’s a secret if you don’t know how shitty writing works. When Babydoll exits the fantasy, everyone expresses wonder at the way she was dancing. We never see exactly what she was doing; it’s only described as a lot of gyrating and moaning. So I’m guessing it was mostly popping and locking.
Babydoll recruits four other girls into her escape plan: brunette Blondie, Asian Amber, and sisters Sweet Pea and Rocket. This is really all the characterization we get on any of these characters. The girls use Babydoll’s incredible dancing to distract the brothel staff and steal a map, a lighter and a kitchen knife. These are shown in fantasy sequences that mash genre conventions like a blender set to “Comic-Con.” In each one, Scott Glenn gives them a briefing with all the gravitas of a veteran actor hoping that the check will clear before the massage parlor with the happiest endings closes.
Everything works fine until Rocket gets blown up, which somehow translates to being stabbed to death in the brothel reality (which still isn’t actual reality, so who knows if she’s even real). Blue is upset, but the High Roller (Jon Hamm, sullying his sterling reputation) has arrived and it’s time for Babydoll’s show. They somehow manage to find an even sluttier costume for her, possibly by discovering a gateway into the whore continuum. Right before Babydoll will take the stage and begin her lusty cabbage patch, Blue comes backstage and reveals that he knows everything. This is his big Oscar clip, which he punctuates by shooting Amber in the head. As it turns out, Blondie betrayed the girls and because the movie makes no sense, Blue kills Blondie. Hey, way to make sure no one ever snitches for you again.
Not finished with being a total idiot, Blue decides he might like to rape Babydoll. She stabs him instead, escaping with the four items. With only Sweet Pea in tow, Babydoll gets all the way out, only to find a group of men by the gate. She suddenly realizes that she was the fifth object (you know, in case you ever doubted the film’s view of women) and this isn’t her story. So she distracts the guys while Sweet Pea escapes.
There’s a smash cut… and we’re back to the lobotomy. So the bulk of the film took place between the moment the lobotomist (also Jon Hamm) brings back the orbitoclast and when he jams it into Babydoll’s brain. Gorski comes in to find that the lobotomy order was forged, and she has Blue arrested for it. Apparently, in her short tenure at the asylum, Babydoll started a fire, stabbed an orderly and helped a patient escape. So Babydoll is the guardian angel from the open narration. Excuse me, I’m gong to jump in front of a bus now.
The film mercifully ends with that escaped patient, Sweet Pea, boarding a bus to freedom driven by Scott Glenn.
So what actually happened? The only sane answer is, “I don’t give an oyster’s shit.”
Life-Changing Subtext: If it’s not rape, what’s the point?
Defining Quote: Sweet Pea, onstage, objecting to the newest show in the brothel reality: “This is a joke, right? Don’t you get the point of this? It’s to turn people on. I get the sexy little schoolgirl. I even get the helpless mental patient too. That can be hot.” No, Sweet Pea. No, it can’t. She’s basically telling us what’s going on in Zach Snyder’s head. Women who are imprisoned unjustly, tortured and abused with no possibility of escape are hot. I’m convinced early drafts carried a couple other bylines, like Dennis Rader, Paul Bernardo and Dick Cheney.
Standout Performance: Scott Glenn as the wise man. Saying his character has nothing to do misses the point, since no one has anything to do. Even the action girls aren’t actually doing anything in the real world, whatever that might be. So we’re left with Scott Glenn’s wooden line readings. He really only exists to spray exposition all over the heroines, but all things considered, that’s probably the best thing they’ve had to wash out of their hair in a long while.
What’s Wrong: Sucker Punch was intended to be empowering, but it goes wrong in one specific area: the first fantasy layer. The brothel reality. There is literally no reason this should be in the movie. It doesn’t even serve the purpose of making the girls look good: the crew apparently only cared about dressing and lighting Babydoll, and left the others to look like Homer Simpson got to them with that makeup gun. Removing the brothel from the equation wouldn’t solve the pacing problems, the lack of characterization, the horrid dialogue or the fact that the entire thing appears to happen in slow motion, but it would at least make the whole thing have something resembling a point. Well, a point other than, “Guess what I have stuffed in the abandoned well on my property!”
Flash of Competence: The second layer of the fantasy has some cool visuals, unfortunately marred by Snyder’s firm conviction that everything is better when it’s slow, probably because once his third grade teacher described him this way, he decided to take it as a compliment.
Best Scenes: Okay, so rapedad needs to come up with a plan to get that sweet, sweet inheritance. He thinks to himself, hey, my name is rapedad! Maybe I can rape the money out of the girls! It’s so rapey it just might work! Flush with success, he first tries Babydoll. She fights him off, so he moves on to her tween sister. Babydoll isn’t about to take that level of shit, so she gets rapedad’s gun and gets ready to put a bullet in the old man. Despite the fact that rapedad is a large, heavyset sex criminal looming over a girl who weighs about sixty pounds soaking wet, Babydoll manages to kill little sis with the first shot. Babydoll had to violate the laws of physics to prove what a turd she is. She also refuses to shoot rapedad, just in case anyone doubted how much she sucks.
Any scene in which the other characters express wonder over Babydoll’s dancing is just comedy gold. Because we never see the actual dancing. Leaving me to picture this:
Transcendent Moment: It seems like I rail against sexism in every other Yakmala write up. Misogyny is a pretty common feature of terrible cinema, but Sucker Punch takes it to a disturbing degree. The entire film is an Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge riff, ending when the lobotomist penetrates Babydoll’s brain. Afterwards, the lobotomist is clearly shaken, and says to Gorski in obvious horror: “It was like she wanted it.” Man, I hate it when women want it. If they’re not crying, how do you know you’re doing it right? The director’s cut draws the parallel even more directly, including a long seduction scene between the High Roller (who is also the lobotomist) and Babydoll. It plays as an extended seduction, getting her first to acquiesce, then performing an unspeakable violation of her body and mind. I don’t know about you, but if Babydoll gets any more empowered, she’ll turn into Wonder Woman!
Who keeps making shitty movies? Zach Snyder! Whose success is entirely out of proportion to his meager talents? Zach Snyder! Who needs his slomo confiscated! Zach Snyder! I could do this all day.