by Matt Brunson
By Matt Brunson
DIRECTED BY Zack Snyder
STARS Emily Browning, Abbie Cornish
It wouldn't be quite accurate to call Sucker Punch the ultimate fan-boy film, but it's a designation that nevertheless offers a near-perfect fit. It only fails the fan-boy test in that its protagonists aren't chiseled macho men but rather five women, and as everyone knows, fan boys are too scared of modes of feminine expression, individuality and sexuality to accept ladies as anything more than arm-accessories for the taciturn heroes (it's no coincidence that the fan boy's favorite female character is probably Kick-Ass's Hit Girl, a young child still years away from true womanhood). In virtually every other regard, though, Sucker Punch is a (wet) dream come true, an orgy full of Dolby sound and CGI fury. To finish the paraphrase by stating that it signifies nothing would be to drag Shakespeare into a world and a conversation that would baffle him. He wouldn't be the only one: As another critic noted after attempting to explain the plot, "What the fuck am I talking about?"
Front and center for most of the picture is Baby Doll (Emily Browning), who's thrown into an insane asylum by her despicable stepdad (Gerard Plunkett) and prepped for a lobotomy. She mentally escapes that reality by imagining herself in a bordello, where she's verbally and physically abused (the cerebral equivalent, I guess, of out of the frying pan and into the fire). To escape from that scenario, she performs awesomely hypnotic dances (we never see them, alas, but images of Flashdance kept popping into my head for some reason) that allow her to visualize herself and her sisters-in-arms Sweet Pea (Abbie Cornish), Rocket (Jena Malone), Blondie (Vanessa Hudgens) and Amber (Jamie Chung) battling formidable opponents in fantasy worlds in an effort to secure certain items that will allow them to break out of the asylum way back on the first level. Just call this Inception for Dummies, except instead of a spinning top for a totem, we get Scott Glenn as an elderly sage who advises the girls (in faux-female empowerment tales like this, the only decent males are the ones who are too old to pose any sort of sexual threat).
The only reason this escapes a one-star rating is because writer-director Zack Snyder's story is ambitious enough to allow for multiple interpretations, a plus in this age of lobotomized entertainment. But Snyder sacrifices any real desire for discussion by tricking this project up with every fetishist and/or pop-geek card up his sleeve. Look, scantily clad dames with swords! Wow, German soldier zombies! Cool, a fire-breathing dragon! And hey, no point stopping with giant samurai warriors when you can have giant samurai warriors with Gatling guns! Even more than Battle: Los Angeles, it's an all-out assault on our senses -- not in the fun, roller coaster ride sort of way but in a manner that's exhausting rather than exhilarating.
"This is your story," Baby Doll tells Sweet Pea at one point, but I didn't care if it was Baby Doll's story or Sweet Pea's story or Zack Snyder's story or Muammar Gaddafi's story. I just wanted to see "The End" plastered on the screen, so I could retreat and live happily ever after.