A film like Sucker Punch is never going to win any Oscars for its acting, but if you forget about all the critics complaints and just enjoy the ride, you'll find the movie is an enjoyable escape from everyday life.
Overall Zack Snyder's new movie is a fanboy's dream, all skin-tight costumes, gun fights and fantastical scenarios.
It also reminded me a little of Inception with its fantasy worlds within fantasy worlds.
Sucker Punch movie costumes
on display at ArcLight Pasadena cinema
The central character, Babydoll, retreats into the fantasy world of her imagination to escape the horrors of the real world - her stepfather, the mental asylum he's had her committed to, the guards and orderlies that torment and abuse her.
The first level is imagining her prison is a bordello run by a Madam, who trains her 'girls' to dance to entertain the club's gentlemen guests as a front for all other kinds of criminal activities. The next level is when she dances and is transported on missions to worlds of demon samurai, bombed out World War Britain, orcs and dragons, robots and futuristic worlds.
I thought it as clever that zombies are made of steam and the fight lifeless robots, so the girls can shot, hack and slash without fears of copious amounts of blood spurting everywhere over the big screen.
Sucker Punch really is a visual spectacle and Babydoll and her ragtag group move through fantasy worlds like different levels in a video game, their mission to find five objects to help them escape from the asylum. At first it's all quite formulaic, although great geek fun, until things start to crumble and things get a little more interesting.
Unfortunately even though there's some great action, you don't really get a sense of all the characters, their motivations, their connection to one another or why the other girls are in a mental institute (although you could assume for the most part some of them have been wrongfully imprisoned like Babydoll).
Ultimately these girls are all a little one note, but at least Babydoll has motivation to escape -her step-father killed her sister, he had her committed in order to steal her inheritance and she's going to be lobotomised in five days time.
The movie's orcs and dragons made me remember that recently I rewatched the Lord of the Rings trilogy and how those films have really held up over time. However, that's not just because of the special effects, but because of the quality of the source material, the depth and complexity of the characters. The marketing may describe Sucker Punch as a fantasy-action 'epic', but unlike LOTR, it doesn't really live up to that word.
Sweet Pea, Blondie, Babydoll, Rocket
and Amber costumes from Sucker Punch
It also feels like it should be a movie about 'girl power', but it seems told more through the eyes of a male action fantasy and you never really get the impression these girls get enough retribution for all the abuse and torment they've suffered at the hands of men.
Even though it's inventive, it's lacking substance. Yes, it's enjoyable and entertaining, but overall it's not entirely satisfying.
But, I am one of those geeky fanboys that loves this type of movie and think for pure imagination and escapism it deserves four **** stars, and to hell with the critics.
If you liked the movie, be sure to check out these fantastic costumes and props from Sucker Punch on display.
Here's hoping the superheroics of Thor, Green Lantern, Captain America and X-Men: First Class will have style and substance this Summer...