"Sucker Punch," a 2011 film directed by Zack Snyder, brings eye candy to the big screen via a mishmash of top action scenes, dancing, sexy girls and violence. Snyder borrows from many genres such as steam punk, anime, sci-fi and fantasy, and "Sucker Punch" plays like a gothic video game as the characters slay dragons, kill robots and slaughter statues. Visually dazzling, "Sucker Punch" also touches on social themes within its three-level narrative.
In the late 1960s, 20-year-old Baby Doll is committed to a mental institution after the deaths of her mother and sister. She learns that her sexually abusive stepfather has arranged for her to have a lobotomy in a week. She vows to escape and slips into a fantasy world in which she and her fellow inmates, imprisoned in a brothel, must dance for men. When she is dancing, Baby Doll escapes once again into a fantasy world where she battles Nazi zombies, dragons and giant samurais. In one fantasy, a Wise Man tells her she needs five objects in order to escape. Working with the other inmates, she tries to collect the items that could free them from the asylum.
Most of the action in "Sucker Punch" involves Baby Doll and her friends. These characters fall into stereotypes: sassy Blondie, protective Sweet Pea, sweet Amber, faithful Rocket and fragile Baby Doll. With little character development, the audience fails to connect with these young women. Two other characters also are one-note: Dr. Vera Gorski, a caring psychiatrist/brothel madam, and Blue Jones, a corrupt orderly/brothel owner.
Snyder works themes of male dominance and female empowerment throughout "Sucker Punch." In the first two levels of the narrative, the women must submit to male authority and sexual objectivity in the mental asylum and the brothel. They experience freedom only when they dance. In Baby Doll's third-level fantasy, the inmates are transformed from innocent victims into sexually charged warriors.
"Sucker Punch" received mixed reviews from critics and moviegoers. Most agreed that the action scenes, steeped in special effects and imaginative battles, are the strongest part of the film. But the one-dimensional characters, melodramatic plot and lack of suspense led some to call the movie dull.
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