Reader Review: Sucker Punch

Well, Sucker Punch isn't technically a video game, but it's clearly inspired by video games - it's for this reason that I'm allowing a movie review on Kotaku - just this once! Especially given that it's as well written as this one - great job AmbroseIV.

And thanks to Madman, the best review of the month receives a Blu-ray pack.

Take it away AmbroseIV

Sucker Punch After being derided by critics as a hedonistic movie that demonstrates the worst of an ever-expanding videogame culture, I decided to check out Sucker Punch. Interested but preparing for the worst, I grabbed my 3DS and Pokemon, paid my $22 for a ticket and walked in with few expectations...

Loved The Music: From the opening scene, set to an eerily creepy rendition of The Eurythmics "Sweet Dreams”, to the booming and psychedelic cover of "Army of Me", the soundtrack makes this movie. It's relentless and perfect, with the most intense moments coming when it's scaled back to convey some genuine sense of emotion (rather than trying to obliterate your sense, as in the action sequences) - something that is otherwise missing from the film.

The Story: While the plot is admittedly thin, the simple game-inspired narrative works well and I found it an interesting experiment. It's not perfectly consistent or integrated throughout the film, but it’s an ambitious effort and more than I expected in a film where girls fight off Nazis, dragons and robots, all without wearing any pants. And, despite marking a sudden shift in tone, I thought the ending was brilliant.

The Fights (+ Visuals): Just as impressive as I expected, Sucker Punch really only marks an evolution of Snyder’s work on 300 and Watchmen. What is real and what is computer-generated doesn’t matter because this completely blurs the lines – the movie looks awesome and that’s pretty much all that needs to be said.

The Girls: Let's just clear this up straight away – if you like boobs and legs, you'll love this movie. If you find that all a bit shallow, I'm sure there is something to be said about feminist undertones (focus on the girls, but it’s really all about men; empowered only in their dreams and even then it’s framed as a male fantasy, etc.) but overall, despite nothing too demanding being asked of them, they’re well cast and suited to their roles. What more can you ask for?

Hated The Girls: Strutting around in skin-tight clothing for the majority of the film, it's initially hard to empathise with a gang of gorgeous, arse-kicking girls. For the first half of the film I was too distracted by the visuals and music to really care too much about their plight and, in hindsight, that's a little bit disappointing because it undermines most of the effort made to tell the story through the girls. It's also unfortunate that (with the exception of two or three characters) you really don't know anything about the characters, so even if you want to care there really isn't any reason to do so before the film reaches its climax.

The Fights: The fights in Snyder's movies are typically impressive but his trademark slow-motion and physics-defying stunts are starting to feel a little bit tired and overdone so by the end of the film I felt like I had seen everything on offer multiple times. The action sequences probably could have been shortened by a minute or two and the movie would have been all the better for it.

The Pacing: Coming in at just under two hours, the movie – surprisingly – doesn't feel long, but it does have some issues with pacing. With the film driven by the music and action sequences rather than the characters, it starts to crumble whenever the actors are really given a chance to earn their keep: with the acting. It's not terrible by any means, but the dialogue sounds awkward and there's a significant disconnect between the fantasy world and the fantasy-fantasy world they actually fight in – it’s probably more a result of the script than the acting, but there’s no standout performance either.

You can definitely see a videogame influence on this movie (mostly in the fantasy of it all), but it’s significantly overstated and to consider it a flaw seems a fairly arrogant and elitist indictment on gaming – in an industry where a haunting drama or black comedy are the only vehicles for critical success, I don’t think it’s a surprise that a film attempting a slight difference in formula is denounced for being different. The execution isn’t perfect and it feels unfocused at times, but Sucker Punch is undeniably fun and has more depth than it would be fair to expect.

All that being said, this movie far exceeded my expectations. The visuals were stunning and the soundtrack is the most memorable of any movie that I've seen in the last few years. Ultimately, despite some missed potential, I thoroughly enjoyed watching Sucker Punch and I feel like it could be on the verge of becoming a pop culture icon – even if you leave the cinema disappointed, I suggest checking it out because there are much worse ways to spend your money. Oh, and there are cute girls wearing very little clothing – did I mention that?


Comments

    "...it’s initially hard to empathise with a gang of gorgeous, arse-kicking girls". You and I, sir, are from two very different worlds.

    That said, I enjoyed reading a positive review of this film for a change, I've been looking forward to seeing it for a while now. Mainly for the gorgeous, arse-kicking girls, though.

    I half expected the mentor / dude to hand Baby Doll the Katana and say "It's dangerous to go alone, take this!"

    Yay, your opinion, concisely stated!

    I'm definitely looking forward to the directors cut, which will supposedly be a fair bit longer, and have a whole lot more going on. The main problem being that the majority of what is added is non fight scene stuff, so it will be the same dialog you criticise.

    Oh well, good review Ambrose!

    I just want to say, sorry for stealing your thunder Blaghman - total coincidence and I tried not to read yours before I finished :/

    (but you know what they say about great minds, eh?!)

      Not at all, mine is a three thousand word epic, that goes on a rollicking adventure through the expanses of my mind, I'm glad to see other supporters of the film announce their feelings, and any similarities to people living or dead is entirely coincidental. I mean, similarities between the two...

    Sit in seat, put brain in neutral, and enjoy the ride.

    The Greenmile it isn't but I'm still looking forward to switching off and enjoying gratuitous, violent, skimpy clad women entertainment. It's all that is left us until the R18+ games classification ;)

    Cheers Ambrose!

    Great Review Ambrose! Totally agree in relation to not feeling anything for the characters, being a major part of the 'disconnect'.

    Just some trivia - 'Sweet dreams' (Eurthymics) and 'Asleep' (Smiths) were both sung by Emily Browning

    I had read a bunch of bad reviews of this movie but was still looking forward to it being a fan of Synder's other work. Rarely do I not finish a movie no matter how bad it is, with this I just couldn't stomach my way through it and turned it off with 15 mins to go.

    The movie looked and sounded great but it just seemed hollow... maybe watching True Legend right beforehand ruined it for me

    I strapped myself in switched the brain off and expected a bit of dumb fun... instead I got some dull pointless action, dull characters with no progression nor any reason to emphathise with them and terrible terrible covers.

    If this is what you can expect when snyder does something that isn't an adaptation or remake then perhaps he should stay the hell away from them.

    The film seemed to be going for some weird mindbending action, but just fumbled everything it tried. Turns out that tits do not make up for terrible everything else.

    Sorry mate, but one of the worst films I have ever seen. This film was Highlander 2 bad. If you want some tits and arse action then there are far better alternatives.

      oh man, Higlander 2 **shiver**

      Least its not 'Highlander: The Source' Bad,

      That movie made Highlander 2 look like an epic piece for Film Making and Story telling...

      ..
      ..
      ..

      I still get nightmares about that movie..

      I totally agree, it is one of the worst movies I had to sit through. The fights were soooooo boring and went for way too long. You never get to see her dance either, that might have been cool to see.

    i like how everyone continually mentions tits.. Bu this movie was far more tame than anything i have seen in a long long time.

    No Blood
    No Guts
    No Naught Words (except for when one girl screamed "mother f.." - but the f-bomb was drowned uut by the sound of heavy gun-fire.

    Most of all.. no nudity, or anything close to it.

    And as far as skimpy outfits go.. it really wasn't that deplorable at all. You see far far worse on WWE, which all the kiddies sit around to watch.

    The action scenes were pretty bloody amazing.. but got old quickly. The samurai fight scene was purely electric, especially with "Army of me" pumping in the background. The following steampunk nazi zombie scene was my favorite of the movie. The fighting was slick and better yet, the nazi's actually spoke german... not english with a bad german accent, like a lot of action movies.
    The lord-of-the-rigs-esque scene was great, but slitting the baby dragons throat left me feeling cold...
    Then the last fight scene with the robots was just "all the same" and quite frankly, boring as batshit.

    I felt it was a great movie for women, in a way, because it wasn't too overly sexualised and the women, considering they were in a mental institutions, were strong and independant... well all but one. And the men were utter pricks, and slime bags. Minus the David Caradine-esque mentor.

    Overall i really, really enjoyed this movie. It definately has it's flaws, but i still felt it to be exciting, even if the dialogue was pretty crap and the ending left me feeling awkward and hollow...

      Also, i want this soundtrack :P

        I bought it as soon as I got home - went on sale about a month ago :D

      See, I liked the ending - it felt totally out place, but it also had... a poignancy that was missing from the rest of the film.

      Sean N: Don't be sorry - I don't think it's gonna win any awards and I enjoyed it for what it was... but comparing it to Highlander II might be a little harsh :P

        Indeed... but it was somewhat out of nowhere...

        *spoiler*

        i mean the girls all started dying off fairly quickly all of a sudden..

        */SPOILER*

        I had no problem with the ending, but it was kind of a kick in the head considering the way the movie was structured... The main problem being that i didn't care enough about most the characters that when shit started hitting the fan i was sort of conflicted... i knew i should feel bad, but i just felt like they had robbed me of story line in favor of popping caps and the such.

        There's only a couple of times that I have been to the movies and wanted my money back. Highlander 2 was one of them. The movie (I can't remember the name of it) where the lead character asks for the keys to the submarine was another. And this one.

        I loved watchman. The movie got me reading comics for the first time in my life (starting with the Watchman graphic novel which then led to The Walking Dead ... Fantastic Comic.). 300 I don't mind. But Sucker Punch was horrible.

        I am sorry because I would have really preferred enjoying the movie.

        :-)

      That film made me miss David Caradine... but the look alike was good at what he did (for the few minutes he was on screen).

        Yeah.. i felt the exact same way.. but it felt good to know he went out enjoying himself at the same time..
        I mean, i'd chose to die from strangling myself and my trouser snake over something horrible like prostate cancer any day of the week...

        The fill in was pretty brilliant though. I felt he had the same screen presence as Caradine would have, were he alive and in the movie today.

    There was no segway from the bit where she enters the mental institute to where it becomes a cabaret... which didn't really explain that it was in her mind.

    Also, I'd like to have seen some of the dancing intersperced with the 'fighting'...

    I can't decide if it's a great film, with some flaws... or an marginal film with some saving graces.
    I am concerned about how Man of Steel will turn out.

      I think the lack of segway was meant to make the end a bit of an "ohhhh now i get it" sort of moment that fell a little short...

      *MAJOR SPOILERS*

      The Brothel was never Baby Doll's fantasy, it's Sweet Pea's.

    I wonder if we only have ourselves to blame for shaping the games industry over the last 15 years into a colossus of endless fight scenes, terrible story and dialogue and one dimensional characters that we continue to pour stupendous amounts our money into. When a movie reflects the same level of trash as what we've come to expect in gaming (and therefore what the industry gives us) it reminds me of just how poorly 99% of games would stand up to critique in the same things we judge movies by. If I went to the movies and saw something with the story and dialogue of Alan Wake...

      I think that's true of everything, though - books, TV, movies and video games. The majority of material in any medium is just guff... but I think everyone is totally justified in questioning why that is the case - particularly because the quality spectrum is so large.

      That being said, I think the commentary on video games is waaaaay overstated. Games adopted adventure and storytelling elements from film and text, and the really haven't evolved much at all - is it so special that there are adventure, fantasy and sci-fi elements in this movie?

      Is it because it's an adventure - Isn't Lord of the Rings?

      Is it because it's over the top - Isn't every single movie Arnie's ever made?

    ...$22 ticket? What was this, Imax?

    I thought the going rate for a full ticket was $17.50.

      A friend guilted me into buying the [expensive section] tickets.

      Normally it's $14 where I go, standard seating.

    Ok, let me get this straight...

    So the main draws of this movie are the girls' body parts and the video game-like CGI scenes?

    Yet there is no nudity and people are saying that the action scenes drag on too long?

    No thanks. I'll pass. Maybe I'll go plug in my original Xbox and play the "Guy Game". At least with that I can see some real nudity while INTERACTING with something resembling a video game.

    Nice review BTW.

    Site unseen (as yet) I imagine this to be a tween video game inspired epic that merges closer to digital rendering than resident evil franchises etc.

    its not meant to be dramatic or much more than a dreamscape with music and scantily clad girls for the boys ... its kind of hard to rate these kinds of movies because they do not follow a conventional narrative or are meant to have complex plots. I think this style of film is getting closer to how people used to sit in rooms together in the 70;s and listened to concept albums (before singles and ipods changed the experience). I think this extension of film/ art is going to be more well received as time goes on.

    *doffs hat at 5footassassin*

    "What more could you ask for?" Oh god, where to begin...

    Such a shame to see the lovely Abbie Cornish slumming it in this dreck.

    For what it's worth i really enjoyed the movie. While I can certainly see the criticisms being aimed at the film, i still found myself being absorbed in the girl's struggles. I did read an article on IGN defending the movie and i already knew a lot of the movie was set internally (if that makes sense).

    I find it interesting that nobody's talking about the theme of abuse. It's all been about the visuals, effects, similarities to games etc. While it's viewed that the story line is threadbare by many, i found the idea quite intriguing and the ending message powerful in it's simplicity.

    I guess the movie for me was a tale of someone who escaped their terrible realities by living out a fantasy in the mind and an end message to realise the power of one's own mind to affect their reality.

    However we all have our own opinions i suppose.

    I hope this makes sense it's really late :)

    Saw this this evening. I found it god awful. I'm trying really hard to find any positive aspect to it, but I've got nothing. Maybe spoilers below.

    Plot, as expected, is non existent. As is any interesting characters or character development whatsoever. There's so much ridiculous cliches and bland drivel for dialogue. The action was the aspect which I expected to get a bit of enjoyment out of, but I wasn't drawn in at all. I think that's down to there being no danger whatsoever, there was no peril, just random random shit. The music did nothing for me. I hated the two covers at the start, especially the Pixies cover. It didn't add atmosphere or drama to me, it felt annoying and distracting. The stylised stuff Snyder was going for ended up feeling a visual mess. For instance, the scene on the train, the camera spinning around was ridiculous and you felt completely thrown out of the action - just ended up watching an extremely violently motion blurred scene.

    Don't get me wrong, I had a blast at the cinema. But I had a blast because we were predicting the awful cliched moves (slow motion throw object in the air, that landing stance that was in it about 100 times). But it was horrible on every level. And if there was a game inspired by it, no doubt we'd be ridiculing it for it's tired formula that gives you nothing innovative or interesting - it's just shovelware.

    Man this movie has made me frustrated!

    Awful, awful, movie. I work in a cinema and saw it for free, and it still felt like such a waste... I started reading the comments and was seeing some support for the film. I thought I was gonna have to leave Kotaku for a while honestly, but I see people came to their senses.

    There are plenty of good reviews of this movie.
    But I think some critics have got it way wrong. Especially those dismissing it as supposedly 'sexist' - hilarious! They have simply been PWNED. Just like they were back in 1997, when many of them accused director Paul Verhoeven of fascism when he released Starship Troopers. LOL.
    Anyway, some more good reviews...

    http://www.tsode.com/blog/general/obsessed-with-sucker-punch/

    There is a bundle to know about this. You made good points also.

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