I think I have seen the trailer for Sucker Punch more than just about any trailer in the past year. It seems like every movie I saw in the theater had that trailer, and it got to the point where I was dreading the movie.
Besides just getting sick of seeing the same footage over and over, I was afraid that I had already seen the movie. It looked like a girl tries to kill her father or stepfather, goes to a mental institute, and imagines herself in some fantasy land. She is given a quest - to find 5 items (a map, fire, a knife, a key, and something unknown). If all the action that happens is all in her mind, how can it matter?
It turns out I was mostly right. In the opening sequence, we are introduced to Babydoll (Emily Browning). Her mom had just died, and her step dad is obviously a psycho. When he tries to rape her younger sister, Babydoll tries to shoot him. She misses, and accidentally kills her sister. So her step dad puts her in a mental institute.
In the institute, she meets several other girls with names like Rocket (Jena Malone) and Blondie (Vanessa Hudgens). The mental institute is actually a brothel, and the girls are required to dance for perspective customers. When Babydoll dances, she is transported to a fantasy realm. The first time, she is in a Japanese courtyard out of some Samurai movie. She meets a wise old man (Scott Glenn) who tells her to find those 5 items, and then she will be free. Then she goes out into the courtyard and has a pointless battle with giant robots.
After she defeats them, she returns to reality and stops dancing. This was all in her mind - the other girls just watched her dance. Is it all her imagination, or is she hallucinating, or what? There are several more sequences like this, and each time she has a mission to accomplish. The 5 items she has to collect are required in the fantasy world as well as the real world. The end goal is to escape the mental institute.
There are a couple of problems with the fantasy sequences. First, what happens there doesn't matter. In the first one, they are trying to retrieve a map. The girls are in World War I era trenches, fighting German zombie soldiers. But in the real world, while Babydoll is dancing and distracting the staff, one of the girls is to sneak into an office and steal the map. This is more interesting than the fantasy sequence. Another problem is there is no danger in the fantasy realm. No one is ever in any danger. The only time someone gets killed is when they are about to be killed in the real world - and it is obvious when that is coming.
I did like one of the fantasy sequences. The girls have to kill a baby dragon without awakening it's mother. Of course, the mother does wake up and try to kill the girls. The dragon is very cool, and the effects are great in this sequence. But just like all the other fantasy sequences, I wish the story lived up to the action we are seeing on the screen. These sequences just serve to slow down the movie. I would rather have the entire movie take place in the institute, and just stick to the girls trying to escape.
I didn't hate the movie as much as I expected, but that was only because I went in with the lowest of expectations.