Sucker Punch (2011): a beautiful sexy mess of a movie, with a strong moral core and brilliant videogame-style scifi imagery.

Sucker Punch (2011). sucker-punch3.jpgSucker Punch (2011).

Sucker Punch wasn’t a movie. It was a sexy, twisted video game. From samurai swords and ninja moves to Gatling guns and giant mecha, this one nearly has it all.

Sucker Punch (2011). suckerpunch-poster.jpgSucker Punch (2011).

The film’s director is Zack Snyder, who would soon go on to direct Man of Steel (2013). If you’ve seen Man of Steel, you’ll immediately recognize the choice of color palette as nearly identical.

The moodiness of Sucker Punch’s muted dark look was a clear fit for its mental-institution setting, although some details of the action may have been muddied or swallowed by shadows. This was particularly true in the alternative reality of warzone battles with quick cuts and fast editing.

Sucker Punch (2011). sucker-punch-150.jpgSucker Punch (2011). World War I-style warzone imagery.

Sucker Punch: The Story

The story seemed to be a loosely plotted attempt to arrange a set of action scenes. As such, the plot served its purpose without unnecessary excess.

Sucker Punch (2011). sucker_punch_pic_4.jpgSucker Punch (2011). Actress Emily Browning as the diminutive-yet-strong character called Baby Doll.

It also was a dark tale of a girl trapped and abused by a psychiatric system, that, in real life, has the same chilling capability [1] to harm people as we see in the film [2]. Sucker Punch takes the premise and runs wild with it. The core question — “whose version of reality should we believe?” — is a moral one that is most acutely relevant in relation to a mental health system that has the same power to incarcerate as the judicial system. If a person is deemed clinically insane or a danger to themselves or others, they can be detained in a mental institution against their will.

In a sense, then, a police state creates a dystopian society. A “mental health state” creates a dystopia for all those who do not conform to society’s definition of “normal”.

When the film was released, several reports complained of sexism and a fear that lead actress Emily Browning looked disconcertingly young to play the lead character. Simple answer: no. The film was about five young women struggling for freedom — and beating the hell out of everyone who got in their way. They also happened to be sexy-looking, which is to be expected in an eighty million-dollar Hollywood action film that’s structured to appeal to those who love video games.

The Visuals

It was clear that the best part of the movie was its eye-watering use of visual effects.

Sucker Punch (2011). File:sucker-punch-sineasi-2011.jpgSucker Punch (2011). Actress Jamie Chung plays the suave and self-assured lollipop-wielding Amber.

Amber’s Giant Mecha

Particularly noteworthy was a giant mecha piloted by the suave and self-assured, lollipop-wielding Amber played by actress Jamie Chung. Watch from the second minute of the clip below:

The action continues in part two (click here) and part three (click here).

Bullet Train and Robot Fight Scene

Also in the sci-fi visual vein was a scene later in the film aboard a futuristic bullet train. The scene included brilliantly staged fighting against robots that seemed directly inspired by Ultraviolet (2006) or even the anime Appleseed Ex Machina (2007).

Part two of the bullet-train fightscene is here (click here). Beware of spoilers.

In fact, a comment came to mind that visually, Sucker Punch had everything that Ultraviolet lacked (except, of course, for Ultraviolet’s Milla Jovovich). If anyone decides to reboot Ultraviolet with a better script, hopefully Zack Snyder will find time to sit in the director’s seat.

Bonus: Las Vegas Meets Bollywood Deleted Scene

As an added bonus, the creators of Sucker Punch even included a delightfully “Las Vegas-meets-Bollywood” dance scene that was deleted from the theatrically released version. Watch below:

What Is Real? Dystopian Visual Tropes With A Dizzyingly Beautiful New Spin

To fully enjoy the film (and forgive the story’s shortcomings), keep that question — “what is real, and according to whom?” — in the back of your mind while watching. If you do, Sucker Punch transcends its sexy, cool visuals and hints at a deeper moral core. Led by actress Emily Browning (playing the character named Baby Doll), the film’s morality expands via the actresses’ performances, especially given the rather limited “action movie/video game” source material and relatively brief running time. As a film, Sucker Punch was silly at best. As a video game, it was great.

Further Resources

1. Sexual assault rife in psychiatric hospitals: report.

2. Abuse At Texas Institutions Is Beyond ‘Fight Club’.

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