Sucker Punch is mindless fun. Telling the story of a young girl planning to escape an asylum before her scheduled lobotomy, the narrative begins to fall apart pretty quickly. This girl, Baby Boll (played by Emily Browning), creates fantasy worlds to help cope with her situation and should you wonder why, or how, any of it is actually happening, the film is not going to bother to explain anything to you.
The film’s first act comprises several montages, which feel like a series of overly-stylized, slow-motion music videos, before breaking into a succession of action sequences which come off as short films inspired by video games. The formula is the same each time: characters appear in the fantasy world, are given a mission by an old wise man, take down a hoard of minions, and then face off with the “boss” of that “level.”
The cast is attractive and the action and visuals are both breathtaking. If the film was judged solely on aesthetics, it would get a raving review. The film’s biggest flaw is that it breaks a cardinal rule of storytelling –everything does not happen for a reason. The lengthy fantasy fight sequences sadly serve no real purpose within the story. They merely happen for the sake of including a handful of action scenes. Nearly half of the film could be cut and the story would still make just as much as sense as it does with them included. It’s a shame that these highly creative scenarios, set in vastly detailed fantasy environments, are deemed ultimately meaningless by the film’s end.
Character development is also nearly nonexistent. Three of the five girls are given minor background information. Baby Doll was institutionalized by her stepfather. Rocket (Jena Malone) ran away from home and her sister, Sweet Pea (Abbie Cornish), intends to protect her at all costs. Blondie and Amber (Vanessa Hudgens and Jamie Chung, respectively) are given no back-stories whatsoever and, like the fight scenes, are pretty much there for the sake of being there. This is not to discredit any of their acting abilities, as all five girls prove to be more than competent in their roles. It’s just that at no time does it feel they couldn’t have handled the quest as well with three, better developed characters.
Music is integral in the story, sending the girls in and out of their fantasies, and the soundtrack is a pleasant surprise. Comprised of covers and remixes of hit songs by The Pixies, The Smiths, The Eurythmics, Bjork, and Queen, the tracks – some of which performed by Browning herself – are better than you might expect and leave a lasting impression within the context of the film.
Complaints aside, the film manages to be a lot of fun. Sucker Punch was neither as great as I’d hoped nor as bad as I’d feared. As it stands, Sucker Punch is worth checking out if you’re looking for over-the-top action from a beautiful cast. It will no doubt appeal to die-hard video gamers and fans of its anime influence. However, for the rest of us, the film is nothing more than a recommended rental.