Retrospective: Sucker Punch (2011)

Over what has been three years worth of reviewing, I have dealt with various movies: good, so bad it’s good, iconic and so on, but what I haven’t done is a straightforward bad movie on every conceivable level, which could have been brilliant with a few changes. This is this movie. DO NOT SEE IT. This is a first a non-recommendation.

For those who don’t know, Sucker Punch is what Zack Snyder did after the surprisingly good and successful 300. He was given a lot of creative space with a couple of significant limits. These limits are important as they are partly responsible for the absolute tragedy of a film which could have been such a great B-movie. It had the potential to be as good as Sin City, or Total Recall but it wasn’t for many reasons. You can see so clearly why this film isn’t any good and you can even understand why some people like it and enjoy the idea of the movie and defend it. But it’s bad, it’s crap and it’s a lesson on how not to plot or script a movie and give too much control to those who do the CGI.

There is a school of history called counterfactual and it works on the idea of what would happen if something small changed and this movie is a perfect example of ‘what if one small thing changed?’ I have to ask, what if this was an 18 rated movie? How much better would this be? It’s obvious. The first thing which would change would be to make the ambiguous themes very much more clear which for a start would make this much more compelling. The themes are curious. Mentally ill girls are prostituted out by their doctors and nurses, or abused in what seems to be a dour mid-20th century asylum in some god forsaken place in New England. We have the primary view of the propitiously named ‘Baby Doll’ (Emily Browning) and her gang of sexy broken girls in their attempt to escape the asylum both mentally and in reality while having a magic man give her advice and some sort of help (it’s not too clear on that). After some adventures and sexy dancing and some over the top combat, only two are left and she sacrifices herself so the other one can escape.  The plot is horribly thin but adding what is sometimes known as ‘Grim Dark’ into the movie, it would have added risk and threat that a 12 does not offer. There are some
unpleasant characters but no truly unpleasant acts occur. Sadly, there is more threat in St Trinian’s and with an 18 you could have ramped up the unpleasant factor significantly to add to the risk. You could have increased the sex appeal of the dream sequences and make it less of a computer game and more of a movie, while still keeping all the central ideas intact.

The CGI isn’t particularly good despite having some wonderfully mad ideas like giant samurai, WWI/Vietnam with monsters and a steampunk aesthetic. The ideas have a lot going for them but not the execution. Yes, we know this bit is a dream but does it have to be crap and lifeless? The action has such little impact and physicality that you can practicality see the green screen behind them and the actors clearly have no visual reference for their actions. To be fair to the CGI artists, the acting is pretty abysmal (you will spot Oscar Isaacs however and a few other names or names to be). Their ability seems closer to student filming or pornography. Their range is limited and the CGI and acting feels so flat despite the flair within the idea and the visual imagery which is so busy with stuff on screen. If it were an 18 then these issues might have been mitigated or even removed due to the ability to have more environmental detail such as gore rather than it
being censored for the audience. Sucker Punch smells of creative meddling from the studio, pushing for a lower rating fairly late in the day in order to get the maximum audience when it was really meant for a smaller niche. As much as I would enjoy doing it, I can’t blame Zack Synder entirely for this disaster.

It’s a horribly flawed movie but interesting as its got a lot of fun ideas around the film but there is such a poor execution. Sucker Punch suffered from an extremely flawed marketing process largely because of the decision to edit it as a 12 rather than a 18, stopping it from being a rather entertaining popcorn movie with some surprising depth. On one last note, the 12 year olds might want to see it even more if was an 18 as it would then have the illicit thrill of underage viewing!

Review by Harry Riedl


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