So, Sucker Punch...
In case you've missed the premise: when her mother dies, a teenage girl is locked up in a mental institution by her evil stepfather so that he can get his hands on the inheritance. There, she creates creates fantasy worlds where she's fighting demons, dragons and zombie WWI Germans, while trying to escape, aided by several companions. It's directed by Zach Snyder, who did previous comic books 300 and Watchmen, but this is all Snyder's own.
Or, to phrase it a little differently: hot chicks with swords and machine guns fighting zombies and dragons – what's not to like?
How is it?
Let's start with the good stuff. The setup is very nicely done, as Snyder basically does a pop video, telling the story up to the point of incarceration to a cover of Eurythmics' "Sweet Dreams". This would be possibly more impressive if he hadn't done exactly the same thing (also very well) at the start of Watchmen.
Browning's character is called Babydoll, which should set alarm bells ringing. For no particular reason, the first level fantasy places her into a brothel scenario, along with her companions Rocket, Sweet Pea, Amber and Blondie. They have to dance for their clients, and Babydoll's dancing happens to be just so good that everyone watching forgets what's going on, and is completely distracted. This forms the basis of her escape plan: she'll distract everyone with dances, while the others grab the necessary Plot Tokens. As plans go, it's not the most fool-proof, but then, we are one level deep into fabulation.
The trailers show clips from what appear to be song-and-dance numbers, but in fact that footage is relagated to the closing credits. Instead, in what is a quite interesting move, we never see any of Browning's dancing. Instead, each time we go into a different second-level fantasy, where all the action mayhem takes place, and Browning and co are fighting for their tokens.
I think there's some interesting stuff going on here, trying to get out. Babydoll's an unreliable narrator, and we never learn her real name (I'm assuming Babydoll isn't it); in fact, I don't believe she utters a single world in what's presented as the real world. But Snyder needed to give the story much more work. For example, there's almost no character development. Everything we learn about Babydoll and co. – and that's very little indeed – is a constant, and doesn't change. The one bit of development I can think of relates to the dance teacher in the brothel level. We learn almost nothing about Rocket and Sweet Pea, and Amber and Blondie are blank slates. In terms of story resolution, there's a gaping hole at the end that Snyder appears to have overlooked, having gotten tangled in his realities.
If you take it as just an action flick, then it's a bit of a disappointment there, too. I don't think the sequences are done well enough to really enagage. Or perhaps I was just put off by the CGI post-processed finish that overlaid over everything, making it look like an advert for a game you can buy (perhaps it is).
There's a dark tone to all this, which I think works quite well given the 12A rating; there's a lot of suggestion rather than explicit references. So it might be that the tone of the outer and first level realities don't sit well with the escapist tone of the third level.
It's thought-provoking, at least – I'll give it that much.
Could have been so much better, though.