Featured Creature(s): Dragons, Orcs, Steampunk Nazi Zombies, Sword/Bazooka/Machine-Gun wielding Ten-Foot-Tall Samurai, Robots, Lobotomist's, Scott Glenn




THEATRICAL REVIEW (Rated PG-13)



Ah, the joys of an IMAX screen: everything is louder, crisper, and better. The screen is bigger, the sound is surround, and the volume is pumped up to the point where any movie longer than Avatar and your ears would start to bleed. Having watch it on an IMAX screen, it is safe to say that watching an action/fantasy movie like SUCKER PUNCH in IMAX is quite the experience it promises. Director Zack Synder makes his movies ultra-stylish and filled to the brim with crazy slo-mo scenes, and on that front SUCKER PUNCH is his most Synder-ish film to date--making it a perfect fit for IMAX. (If you are watching this film solely for the visuals, watch it in the format!)

Alright, shameless advertising moment over: basically taking everything he has perfected in past movies (slo-mo: check, long takes: check, unbelievably off-the-wall action: check) and ramping everything up to the next level, SUCKER PUNCH features some of the neatest visuals this reviewer has ever seen in a movie. Though knowing 99% of it is all CGI does somewhat hinder the effect, SUCKER PUNCH deserves the title of a visual masterpiece. Yet besides the awesome scenery, what else does the movie have to offer?

The honest answer: not much else. SUCKER PUNCH is Synder's first movie that is not based on previous material, (300 and Watchmen were both based on graphic novels, Dawn of the Dead a remake, and Legend of the Guardians based on a series of children's novels) and it is obvious that without something to work up from, Synder's stories suffer. While the script's originality may let Synder roam unchained visually, SUCKER PUNCH's story and characters are pretty much left out in the cold.

The story chronicles Babydoll's (a *great* sign of characterization is when all of your main characters have stripper's names instead of real ones, right??) plot to escape both the insane asylum she is literally trapped in and the brothel she imagines she is trapped in. Her descent into the madness of her mind (sort of like Black Swan, except without all of the, you know, GOOD WRITING) has three levels: the "real" circa-1960's era world where she is to be lobotomized in five days, the glamorous brothel world she retreats into, and the insane action set-pieces she goes further into every time she dances in the brothel. You see, Babydoll's dancing is so beautiful and hypnotic that when she dances, the viewer's eyes are instead privy to some random action scene, unrelated to the story and only there because the trailers promised something cool. Every dance brings her and her hot friends (cleverly named Blondie, Sweet Pea, Rocket...you get the idea) into a different "world", whether that be a WWI setting where Nazi zombies roam the trenches or an Orc-infested castle guarded by a huge Mama dragon. These worlds are home to some absolutely mind-blowing cinematography, sound mixing/design and CGI...but they have nothing to really do with the true story, which doesn't even really bother to kick in until the final thirty minutes. By then, most of the audience just does not care to see anything but the visuals anymore...and by then, they're all over.


The actors do try their best to keep it manageable, (Abbie Cornish brings an exceptional range of emotions to Rocket, and stands out among the girls) but some of the dialogue they are given is truly cringe-worthy. Hearing Scott Glenn say one-too-many painfully vapid and cliched one-liners can only go on for so long. Vanessa Hudgens should be noted for trying out a much different kind of role after the High School Musical films, but she feels underused here, as does Sorority Row's Jamie Chung. Carla Gugino stood out in Watchmen, but the Polish accent she's forced to talk with here is almost laughable. Oscar Isaac almost succeeds at being truly villainous, but the audience in my theater giggled more at his lines then anything else. (Are you starting to get the point?)

The dialogue is not the only foe here either: all back-story is told dialogue-free in the film's opening scene. Playing out just like a music video, the scene, set to a cover of "Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This)" and describing Babydoll's plight, is haunting and beautiful--until you realize that it's all the characterization you are going to get for her. It is a shame, because Synder does show a lot of promise in the opening. (Actually, the film gets one more star simply for that opening...in retrospect, it really does shine compared to other aspects of the film.)

Still, I can't help but think the real reason SUCKER PUNCH feels so...off is due to its rating. The story obviously calls for a lot more explicitness and explanation, but numerous cuts and edits were made to the film in order to obtain the disappointing PG-13 rating. When one of your film's main settings is a brothel for crying out loud, a PG-13 doesn't quite cut it. Cuts to the film include the removal of musical numbers, (three of them can be seen in glimpses during the colorful end credits, but they play out like teasers of what we could be seeing instead of the final product), Babydoll's dancing, (which we never actually see in the film, only the very beginning/end of each dance) a Babydoll/High Roller love scene, (well...that's understandably cut) a rape scene between Babydoll and Bleu, (hinted at in the movie, but drastically toned down in the final edit) and almost twenty more minutes of action scenes alone. For a film with so many exploitative roots, seeing SUCKER PUNCH with an R-Rating as it was meant to be should be a real treat--a true "sucker punch" to the viewer.

As beautiful as the visuals may be, the film just feels watered-down, a ghost of what it could be. (Guess we'll have to wait for the Director's Cut.) Definitely go see SUCKER PUNCH for the ride--but for now, don't expect anything more than a quick thrill.


GRADE: C

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