With scenes in a dragon's castle, an alternate World War I with steampunk zombies and anime-inspired battles, director Zack Snyder's “Sucker Punch” takes viewers down the rabbit hole with its heroine, Babydoll (Emily Browning), as she retreats into her mind to escape her life in an insane asylum.
In the screenplay by Snyder and Steve Shibuya, an accident ultimately caused by Babydoll's abusive stepfather has landed her in the asylum, with no family or outside help she can call on. Her stepfather has bribed an orderly (Oscar Isaac) to put her in line for a lobotomy.
Fearing the loss of herself, she begins to plan her escape with other inmates: Sweet Pea (Abbie Cornish), Rocket (Jena Malone), Blondie (Vanessa Hudgens) and Amber (Jamie Chung). Carla Gugino plays Dr. Vera Gorski, who sympathizes with her charges but isn't able to stop their systemic abuse.
Babydoll retreats into her mind to deal with her situation, which provides the movie's visual panache. She sees her fellow inmates and herself as prisoners in a high-class brothel, performing for the management and their guests. And when she dances, she moves her mind to a third level, a level where she and her allies are warriors on a quest to gain the items needed for their escape.
It's this third level where the most action-packed scenes take place. Snyder has created worlds filled with allegorical vistas as Babydoll struggles for freedom. Fantastic in scope and brilliant in design, “Sucker Punch” showcases Snyder's cutting-edge visual style. With instruction from the Wise Man (Scott Glenn), the women turn into action heroes, battling orcs, zombies, dragons, robots and more. The strength of “Sucker Punch” is in these sequences, with amazing music and brilliant visuals. It's four fantasy shorts in one, embedded within a tragic but hopeful arc with multiple layers of meaning.
— Matthew Price
Starring: Emily Browning, Jamie Chung, Jena Malone, Abbie Cornish, Vanessa Hudgens, Carla Gugino.
(Thematic material involving sexuality, violence and combat sequences, and for language.)