SUCKERED? Even though Diary of A Wimpy Kid 2: Diary Harder looks likely to beat it at the box office this weekend, at least to our demographic, Sucker Punch is the movie that matters, and I wanted to open up a zone for discussion of it with a few (spoiler-free) thoughts of my own. One review I read described it as "Burlesque meets Inception," and that's actually not a bad description in a lot of ways. Like Burlesque, there's abundant and gratuitous cheesecake from our five female leads, but like Inception, the movie plays with "levels" of reality and consciousness.
Part of what made Inception work so well is that it was always crystal clear which "level" we were on--"the real world," the antigravity level, the snow fortress, the crumbling city--and how something on one level interacted with the other levels ("death in the dream means you wake up," the significance of a "kick"). The key problem with Sucker Punch is that two of the levels (the "real world," which we rarely visit, and the "brothel") are largely visually indistinguishable (the costumes on the ladies are skimpier in the brothel), and that we have no idea how the layers of reality interact. We know that when our heroine "dances" in the brothel level, she (and the others) are transported into the videogame-like action sequences that have predominated in the publicity, but (save for once) we don't see how the action sequences "translate" to the brothel level, much less the "real world." Seeing how the fantasy mirrors reality would have made the film much more effective.
Much of the criticism is valid--a lot of the time, the film feels like a fanboy fetish video--scantily clad chicks destroy Steampunk Nazi Cyborgs! Emily Browning in a Japanese schoolgirl outfit a la Sailor Moon v. giant samurai robots! Helicopter vs. dragons! But I think Snyder at least hoped to do something more with the film--it doesn't work as well as Inception (or another quasi-relative--Scott Pilgrim), but it's audacious, interesting, and, at times, visually stunning. (For those concerned/interested, Jon Hamm is in the movie for about 5 minutes, though it's an important 5 minutes.)