After watching 'Sucker Punch' I feel like there are pages and pages of commentary inside of me, just bursting to get out. Truthfully, this is one of those times where I find myself the most conflicted I've ever been when deciding on the overall tone of my review. Do I rip it to shreds because of its lack of a coherent plot and overtly misogynistic tones? Or do I laud it for its ambition, and its unflinching drive towards uber-style over substance? There's no middle ground when it comes to 'Sucker Punch.' I don't mean that you have to either love it or hate it, but I don't think you could come away from watching it saying, "Well, that was all right." There's something about Zack Snyder's grandiose action-opera that draws you in. There's something there, but I'm not entirely sold if, overall, it's a good movie. Well, now I'm just rambling on and on like the movie tends to do. So, let's get to it shall we?
I'm reminded of an article I read on Cracked.com not too long ago that snidely discussed the state of Hollywood and whether filmmakers are being serious or ironic, or if they even know. That question can be raised about 'Sucker Punch.' Is Snyder making an ironic statement about action movies in general? Is he completely serious in his depiction of these girls? Because if he's serious, then he's got a real problem. I'm sure he'd argue that this movie is ultimately about the empowerment of women, but dressing them up like anime characters and giving them, on average, about 15 upskirt shots a piece during every action scene isn't empowering them. Dressing them up like naughty school girls doesn't equate to women's liberation. Now, on the other hand, if Snyder is being ironic then 'Sucker Punch' is a fantastic statement about the state of action movies and our society right? Dolled up women fighting dragons, robots, and orcs is every geek's wet dream. Is he slyly poking fun of that mindset and that crowd or is he catering to them? I really have no idea. That's why it's so hard for me to pigeonhole 'Sucker Punch' as a good or bad movie.
The movie begins with a young girl named Baby Doll (Emily Browning) being committed to a loony bin. Her stepfather has wrongfully imprisoned her there so he can inherit the family's wealth instead of her. She soon meets and befriends a group of girls in the institution. A lot is made about lobotomies here, and she's going to get one. Right before Jon Hamm nails an ice-pick into her brain we're transported, laterally I guess, into a pseudo-dream state, where Baby Doll and the other girls are now strippers imprisoned in a brothel. All the characters that we met in the institution are here, but have taken on different roles. The man who runs the mental institution, Blue Jones (Oscar Isaac), is now a pimp, who rules over the girls with an iron fist. Head psychologist Dr. Vera Gorski (Carla Gugino) has morphed into a dance teacher with a really bad accent. The girls are forced to dance for rich men of ill repute.
Baby Doll has a plan though. She's going to escape, and she needs the other girls to help her. They must procure four physical items to escape: a map, a knife, fire, and a key. Baby Doll is informed that she needs these things by Wise Man (Scott Glenn) – yes that's his name. Whenever the girls need to procure another item we're transported even deeper into the dreamlike state to ultra-stylized war zones where the girls battle everything from killer robots to gigantic samurai warriors. Snyder's direction of action scenes is at times splendid, but his love of the slow-mo Matrix-influenced shots wears thin after the first couple dozen times. Keeping track of the timeline, if there actually is one, is harder than keeping track of the dreams within dreams from 'Inception.' At times you get the feeling that this entire list of objects is a ruse in order to transport us from one CG-laden action scene to another. I'm not complaining though, because even though at times you feel like you're watching a glorified video game, there's something honest about the way Snyder directs an action scene. His camera pulls back and we're able to grasp the spacial distance between the heroines and their attackers. He eschews the quickly cut, handheld camera action scenes for scenes that are much more epic in scope, and even though they're full of fantasy attackers, they're much more believable.
The problem with 'Sucker Punch' is when you try to think what it's about, and ponder if Snyder is putting out a snide or serious film. Is he woefully ignorant of his movie's overt misogyny, or is he keenly aware of it, exploiting at every turn? It's almost impossible to tell.
What I do know about 'Sucker Punch' is that its storyline is a jumbled mess, its characterization is underdeveloped, and its overly melodramatic. On the other hand it's, at times, one of the most beautiful CG films out there. Snyder is definitely going for style over substance here and it's easy to let the video game-influenced action scenes wash over you. You may have no idea what they are or why you're watching them, but you'll most likely enjoy it for the spectacle that they are.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
This Blu-ray release of 'Sucker Punch' contains both a theatrical and extended cut of the film. The theatrical cut is 110 minutes while the extended cut clocks in at a beefy 127 minutes. Snyder had a tough time getting the movie a PG-13 rating from the MPAA, and had to cut out around 18 minutes of footage. Much of that is action scene footage, but other footage that has been added in are dance scenes and a scene between Emily Browning and Jon Hamm that was considered a bit too steamy and too dark tonally for a PG-13 rating.
The extended cut doesn't really change much of the overall plot of the theatrical cut.It's interesting to note that this is an extended cut and not a director's cut. Things haven't been switched around really, they've just inserted the lost footage back into the movie. So for those of you wondering if this new cut would drastically alter the movie into a better film, no such luck. For those of you wanting to see the scenes that got it an R rating before it was cut down to be acceptable for a PG-13 rating, then this is the version for you.
There are three discs in this Blu-ray release. The theatrical and extended cut both come on their own BD-50 Blu-ray Disc, while a DVD/Digital Copy of the movie is also provided.
If you hoping that 'Sucker Punch' would be near demo-quality on Blu-ray, then your wish has been granted. Warner's 1080p AVC-encoded image is bright and bustling with digital life. Snyder, along with cinematographer Larry Fong, paint with a myriad of color palettes here, and the result is a often times stunning end product.
The mental institution setting is awash with dingy blues, grays and blacks. Shadows are well delineated and blacks provide a foreboding atmosphere. The brothel scenes feature a more lively atmosphere with strong reds and rich browns. The action sequences run the gamut from cyan-colored winter wastelands, to amber-colored battlegrounds. Colors are bright and vibrant. Even a World War II action scenes that involves a more monochromatic color palette is livened up by bright orange explosions as planes and blimps explode. There's seemingly no end to the different array of colors happening here and they all look perfect.
Detail is one of the many highlights of this Blu-ray's transfer. Close-ups of the girls reveal the tiniest pores and the smallest lip lines hiding under their thick red, lipstick. Detail may be too good when you have to look at the blotchy face of the brothel's cook, but fine detail doesn't discriminate. Textures, from lether-clad mini-skirts to the intricate weaves of Dr. Vera Gorski's suits, looks extremely lifelike. Skintones are immaculately represented, even though they do end up taking on the overall palette of whichever scene they may be in.
Snyder's digitally produced wars between the girls and all sorts of enemies look great. They never look hokey or cheesy. Say what you will about the movie and its premise, but when it comes to green screen effects, Snyder is quickly generating his own unique style that really wow's in high definition. Digital anomolies are kept at bay, except one instance of shimmering that I noticed on Dr. Vera Gorski's dance costume and some banding that's present during the end credits. Other than that, this is a nearly flawless video presentation.
If the video was nearly flawless, then 'Sucker Punch's DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix is flawless. This presentation is one of the best audio mixes I've heard on Blu-ray this year. This mix is full of everything you'd want from a demo-worthy audio presentation.
The action scenes are jam packed with seamless transitions, perfect panning effects, and ambient sound that engulfs you in the scene. Directionality is imperative as action is happening all around the movie's heroines. You're able to hear every crunch of metal as bullets permeate killer robots, and ever crash of steel as gigantic samurai warriors wield even bigger swords.
Dialogue is pristine, clear, and is prioritized just right so you're able to hear everything that is said amidst the non-stop action that's going on. LFE is generous and unrelenting. Your room will rumble when a huge dragon crashes, head first, into a stone bridge. Your floor will quake as explosion after explosion riddle a World War II battlefield.
Audiophiles will eat this mix up. It's got everything you'd want to show off your surround sound system. This is five-star demo material through and through.
'Sucker Punch' seemed to be universally reviled by critics when it hit theaters, I however am perplexed by it. Snyder seems to suffer when he's telling his own story as opposed to telling someone else's ('Watchmen' or '300'), but he definitely has his own style and can direct an action scene. 'Sucker Punch's success as a film, however, hangs on whether Snyder intended the movie to be ironic or serious. When it comes to figuring out that question, I have no answer whatsoever. Instead I sat back, let the movie's action scenes wash over me, and bided my time until the next one arrived. Its misogynistic overtones are hard to ignore. Mini-skirts and makeup that doesn't smear, even in war, doesn't make for empowered heroines. Still, there's something about 'Sucker Punch' that drew me in. It's either that, or I've just been suckered.
The audio and video are a perfect one-two punch. There aren't too many special features, but the Maximum Movie Mode Blu-ray exclusive more than makes up for that area's shortcomings. Believe it or not, I'm actually recommending 'Sucker Punch'. It needs to be seen. Of that much I'm sure.