THIS IS SPARTA! That line is maybe one of the most popular and memorable lines, ever to hit the internet during the 21st century. What does this line have to do with this movie then? Well nothing really, only that Zack Snyder that directed and partly wrote 300, where the line is from, also wrote and directed this movie, Sucker Punch. With a cast of not so well known actors, such as Emily Browning (Plays the lead actress Baby Doll), and more well known, such as Vanessa Hudgens (Plays a side character by the name of Blondie) that most remember from the High School Musical series. This action movie has a lot of the moments from 300, the direction from Zack Snyder really shines through. But is this a 300 part: 2 or can this movie through its own punches?
The movie starts with a grim and dark tone, seeing our protagonist for the story, Baby Doll, as she witnesses her mother’s death from illness. Also we are presented to her stepfather, a shady character that wants nothing more than the fortune that his dead wife left behind. But he finds out that she left everything to Baby Doll and her sister. The stepfather is outraged and just as he is to kill the sister; Baby Doll manages to get a hold of a gun. Demanding him to leave her and the sister alone. She fires the pistol and manages to wound him, but not before she accidently kills her own sister. This makes up for a perfect excuse for the stepfather to get rid of Baby Doll, now that her sister is already dead. Giving him rights to the fortune and the estate that the wife left behind. He sends her to a mental institution restricted just for girls, and here the story takes a strange yet a bit interesting turn. She is told that she will be going through a lobotomy, a sort of brain surgery to cure mental illness. When she arrives to this institution she starts to fall into her own fantasy world. A world where the institution turns into a brothel and all the girls are strippers and entertainers. Everything that has a purpose in the real world gets a new purpose in her fantasy. This also leads to Baby Dolls purpose, escaping. Whenever she dances in her own fantasy she is transported into another fantasy, another world. One that is above everything normal and logical in the real world. Here she is introduced to the helper to the protagonist, the Wise man (Scott Glenn) he tells her that she needs to find five items to be free. One is a map, the second is fire, the third is a sword, and the fourth is a key. And the last thing is a mystery, one thing that Baby Doll has to find out herself. During these quests she is accompanied by four other girls that also want to escape. Sweet Pea (Abbie Cornish), Rocket (Jena Malone), Blondie (Vanessa Hudgens) and Amber (Jamie Chung). They embark on an adventure that moves them through several fantasy worlds that is filled with dragons, steam powered zombies and six meter tall samurais with machineguns. The locations ranges from world war one trenches with large scale battles to futuristic trains with advanced humanoid robots. And one after another they get the items and one step closer to freedom.
The one aspect that strikes the hardest when it comes to this movie is the visuals, the work on the effects, the environments and the characters. It’s all done with care and passion. Every time Baby Doll travels to her fantasy world there are always new locations and events happening, both interesting and enjoyable to watch. This makes the movie fell fresh and not going through the same locations over and over again. Also the effects are very crisp and well done, both in how fire, explosions and guns should react to their environments and the specific world. It is the fighting scenes and the creative environments that is the most memorable and gives the biggest impact on a viewer. One scene, which is relative early, is when Baby Doll is fighting against several giant samurais with a lot of speed and amazing movements, both from the samurais and Baby Doll. It’s a joy just to watch everything in motion. Creativity isn’t something that the scriptwriters lacked, what they did lack however is to make the characters engaging and the story emotional charged so that we as a viewer gives a damn about what’s happening, visuals will only get you so far in a movie.
As far as the story and acting goes, it’s a complete mess. It seems as an afterthought just to try to connect the different environments and the different fantasy worlds. And even that is done in a bad way. For starters the scriptwriters and director probably wanted a thoughtful and psychologically engaging story with the power of the mind as tool. But they failed miserable in this regard. It starts out good with its dark tone and promise of a psychological thriller, but it all changes as small petit girls strut around in tiny skirts and high heels. And it’s really hard to take the movie seriously. The movie also hints at a hidden story that is evolving during the movie but by the end one doesn’t care. One event that really strikes the viewer is when Baby Doll is dancing and travelling to her fantasy world for the first time. There she meets the Wise Man, and he explains everything that needs to be done and where she is. But during this entire time not a single emotion is shown from Baby Dolls face and at times it is as she isn’t even present in the scene. Daydreaming, in her own fantasy. The story itself isn’t even very well presented to the audience. As there isn’t a quiet moment, the viewer won’t have time to breathe in and reflect on the situation. One entire week is transpiring in the film, which is a lot of information going through and events transpiring. The story and script could need a bit more time on the drawing board.
So what are my overall reactions of this film? Well for starters I could say that I enjoyed most of the scenes from her inner fantasy world. Showing a lot of creativity and talent in art style. But that is the only good thing I could say about this movie. A lot of characters, mostly forgettable and uninspiring, the only one I do remember the most is the Wise Man, and he is only in the movie for 15 minutes at the most. As this is a movie that starts out on the psychological plane and does a complete 180 on the entire thing, one should maybe expect a lot of different aspects to the mind. But no, in the end it’s just a stupid and over complicated film with a lot of good effects. I wouldn’t recommend anyone that looks for good character development or an engaging narrative to watch this movie. It would mostly make you mad; I know I was when the movie was over. So skip through every scene that isn’t in Baby Dolls fantasy, at least that’s pretty to look at and with a lot of effort to be seen. It certainly isn’t the worst movie but not anywhere near good enough to be worthy to watch.