• Sucker Punch

    Released by: Warner Brothers
    Released on: 6/28/2011
    Director: Zack Snyder
    Cast: Emily Browning, Carla Gugino, Abbie Cornish, Jena Malone
    Year: 2011
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    The Movie:

    One of those movies that should have been super rad, given that it’s about a bunch of hot chicks in skimpy outfits with big guns and martial arts skills out to stick it to ‘the man,’ Zack Snyder’s 2011 CGI opus Sucker Punch hardly set the world on fire – in fact, it fizzled at the box office and generally took in negative reviews. The film isn’t a total waste of time, however – it’s just really freakin’ uneven.

    The story revolves around a girl named Baby Doll (Emily Browning) who accidently shoots her sister when defending herself from her lecherous step-father, a creepy dude intent on having his way with her now that her mother has died. This mistake lands her a sweet spot inside a mental hospital run by a Polish dance instructor/doctor named Vera Gorski (Carla Gugino) who sees in Baby Doll some serious potential once she lets herself go and dances to the music she makes her patients listen to. Baby Doll isn’t one to play by the rules – and she’s also not really happy about the fact that she’s been scheduled for a lobotomy - but soon enough she’s convinced a few of the other girls - Sweet Pea (Abbie Cornish), Rocket (Jena Malone), Blondie (Vanessa Hudgens) and Amber (Jamie Chung) - that all the need are a few simple items like a map, a lighter, a key and a knife to escape, with some help from a mysterious wise old man (Scott Glenn).

    What we don’t really know, however, is just where exactly Baby Doll is at upstairs – when she dances she throws everyone else into an almost hypnotic trance but what she sees (in her mind?) as she struts her stuff is her and her friends completing various video game style quests – obliterating giant Daimajin style samurai golems, defeating steam punk zombie German soldiers or riding a train armed with a bomb deep into the heard of a city they must blow up. If this weren’t odd enough, all of the girls may or may not be imagining themselves working at a thirties style brothel run by one of the male interns, Blue (Oscar Isaac).

    A really bizarre big studio exercise in style over substance, Sucker Punch is a weird film. On one hand it tells an interesting and at times rather sad tale of a young woman basically sold off to deviants and doomed to lose her mind regardless of her mental stability, but on the other hand the whole thing is designed like some sort of nerdy teenage boy wank fantasy. The girls all look great in their stockings and festishy schoolgirl outfits, but how is this furthering the story? Snyder was very obviously meaning to tell a fairly deep story with this film but it all gets very lost in the lengthy CGI fantasy battles, which, while impressive on a technical level and from a design standpoint, don’t do much except pad the film. They’re neat to look at, but they go on much longer than they needed to and don’t actually offer up much substance.

    As far as the performances go, Browning is really good at looking sad, tortured, innocent and at times even determined. She doesn’t have a whole lot of dialogue here but uses body language and facial expressions well to convey her character’s emotions. She and the rest of the girls all handle themselves rather well in the fight scenes and they all look flashy and interesting as they wage their various wars against their various imagined enemies, but they’re so ridiculously sexualized that it’s hard to see the female empowerment angle that the director has said he was going for. All of this provides plenty of eye candy but comes at the expense of a strong narrative, the end result is an interesting looking movie with a bunch of hot chicks that doesn’t really go anywhere. The female characters in the film are not empowered, they are sexualized to the point where we don’t even know their real names. We’re given very little background information on any of them and they all look like they walked out of a strip club. There aren’t really any strong female characters here, we can even go so far as to look at the Doctor who blindly allows her male employees to have way their with the female patients as proof.

    The basics of the story, however, are interesting, despite their rather massive flaws and the design work is creative and eye pleasing. If you go into this one expecting no more than flash and graphics and big explosions and dragons and hot chicks and crap, you’ll get what you want out of it. Any sort of cohesive storyline or discernible reason for it, though? No dice.

    This set from Warner Brothers offers up the PG-13 version of the film and the R-rated director’s cut which was trimmed to get the film into theaters to reach a larger audience. The R-rated version runs a good bit longer and includes longer fantasy/fight scenes than the theatrical version and some cabaret style scenes also excised from the theatrical cut.


    The film is presented in a nice looking AVC encoded 2.40.1 1080p high definition widescreen transfer that offers up striking amounts of detail and gorgeous color reproduction throughout. There are some scenes where the blacks swallow up fine detail into the background shadows but this looks like an intentional decision rather than an authoring flaw. A little bit of banding is present here and there, but otherwise the visuals are really nicely reproduced here without any compression artifacts or heavy edge enhancement to note. Skin tones look good, texture is very impressive even on the CGI creations and the picture quality is more or less top notch.

    Sucker Punch’s DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio track, in English, is a good one though alternate language tracks are available in French, Spanish and Portuguese Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound if you’d rather go that route, while subs are offered up in English SDH, French, Spanish and Portuguese. Bass response is excellent, offering a very powerful low end to the movie that highlights the action and the score without burying the performers. The mix is a consistently aggressive one with loads of surround and rear channel use to keep you on your toes and properly balanced levels. Overall this is a very impressive and fully immersive mix, demo-worthy material, really.

    The best of the extras is the Maximum Movie Mode that is offered up on the second disc containing the director’s cut of the movie. If you’ve sat through Warner’s Maximum Movie Mode before you know how cool this can be as the film’s director takes us through pretty much every aspect of putting this picture together through the magic of what is essentially a picture-in-picture commentary track with periodic snippets of behind the scenes footage worked in. It’s very well put together and quite informative and Snyder’s enthusiasm for the material can be almost infectious at times.

    Aside from that, we get three minute segment that takes us behind the scenes of putting the film’s soundtrack together and eleven minutes worth of Sucker Punch animated short films, motion comics really, that were made to promote the film online before it hit theaters. Animated menus and chapter stops are provided for both discs and all of the extras are in high definition. A third disc is included which contains a digital copy of the film, which both Blu-ray discs are Blu-ray Live enabled if you want to dig around online and look for more goodies.

    The Final Word:

    A real mixed bag of a movie, Sucker Punch does look and sound pretty damn impressive on an aural and visual level, it fails to back up its style with much substance and while its entertaining enough in its own trashy way, that doesn’t appear to have been Snyder’s intentions, making this film a big, expensive misfire. The Blu-ray, however, is of excellent quality and the Maximum Movie Mode feature is pretty interesting.

    Click on the images below for full size Blu-ray screen caps!

    Comments 9 Comments
    1. Todd Jordan's Avatar
      Todd Jordan -
      Does Carla get naked?
    1. Ian Jane's Avatar
      Ian Jane -
    1. Todd Jordan's Avatar
      Todd Jordan -

      This director is 1 for 3 with me. I dug Watchmen, will probably never watch it again though. Probably will pass on this one too, based on your review.
    1. Nolando's Avatar
      Nolando -
      Hackhackhackhackhackhackhackhackhackhackhackhackha ckhackhackhack
    1. Mike T's Avatar
      Mike T -
      Apart from the dumb-arse zombie baby, I still like Snyder's Dawn of the Dead more than the original!
    1. Todd Jordan's Avatar
      Todd Jordan -
      Mike, in some circles that comment may get you sprayed with cat urine.
    1. Mike T's Avatar
      Mike T -
      I love cats...so that's cool.
    1. Nolando's Avatar
      Nolando -
      Oh, Mike - things were going so well, too...

      Personally, I'd like to pull Snyder's nails out one-by-one for his "filmmaking" approach.
    1. Paul L's Avatar
      Paul L -
      Just watched this. Loud, brash and irritating, but with some interesting (half-formed) ideas bubbling under the surface; but like Ian says, it's little more than an adolescent boy's fantasy wrapped up in some cod-feminist dressing. The film deserves bonus points for the steampunk zombies though, I reckon.