Zack Snyder, maker of 300 and Watchmen, describes his deliriously bonkers new movie Sucker Punch as “Alice in Wonderland with machine guns” – and the five lissome, ass-kicking babes who are its warrior heroines have outfits to match his perverse tagline.
Combat gear for Emily Browning’s Babydoll and her companions (who go by similarly twee names such as Sweet Pea and Blondie) turns out to be skimpy sailor suits and corsets, fishnet stockings and leather hot-pants, midriff-baring tops and thigh-revealing skirts.
These outfits look like a fetishist’s dream, but the film will have you believe that they spring from the fantasies of Browning’s protagonist, who’s been locked in a mental asylum in the 1960s by her wicked stepfather. With five days before she is due for a lobotomy, her bid for freedom takes the form of escaping into a series of alternative realities.
In the first level of her fantasies, the asylum becomes a mix of high-class bordello and burlesque theatre, presided over by Carla Gugino’s Eastern European Madam (the dream version of the institution’s chief psychiatrist) and Oscar Isaac’s orderly-turned-pimp.
To flee the bordello, however, Babydoll has to venture into a series of even crazier dreamscapes in which she and her companions (Abbie Cornish’s Sweet Pea, Jena Malone’s Rocket, Vanessa Hudgens’ Blondie and Jamie Chung’s Amber) battle giant samurai monsters, zombie First World War One German soldiers and fire-breathing flying dragons.
The throbbing psychedelic pop that accompanies these episodes – and the soundtrack is stuffed with trippy cover versions of such classics as The Beatles’ trance-like Tomorrow Never Knows and Jefferson Airplane’s druggy, Alice-inspired White Rabbit – only enhances the sense that this is one long, totally beserk head-trip.
And Snyder’s film – shot using his now trademark blend of live action and CGI animation – is itself as unhinged as Babydoll’s mind. Both kinky and kooky, it’s a warped mash-up of different genres – Gothic nightmare, psycho horror, steam-punk, Japanese manga, video game.
Wildly different genres – but all of them giving Snyder’s camera ample opportunity to ogle nubile female flesh. But before anyone accuses the director of misogyny, you only have to recall the buff male bodies on display in his Spartan beefcake epic 300 to realise that he goes in for equal opportunity leering.
Is his film a girl-power fable or geeky fan-boy fantasy? Sucker Punch is impossible to pin down. File, though, under Guilty Pleasure.
On general release from 1st April.
The soundtrack, released on Sony Music, features an eclectic mix of songs and artists including Alison Mosshart, Carla Azar, Björk, Skunk Anansie & Queen, plus several of the film’s stars. Emily Browning sings covers of The Eurythmics’ Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This) & The Smiths’ Asleep, while Oscar Isaac and Carla Gugino perform a swaggering, Latin-inflected Love is the Drug. Fabulous!