*** POTENTIAL SPOILERS FOLLOW ***
I'm making the focus of this review an explanation of what I believe (and others that have shared their thoughts with me) the story and film is about. I think alot of the issues negative reviews have is that it makes no sense, so hopefully what I've laid out here will help go some way to explaining it.
Like other, more constructive, reviews have already stated this film works on a number of levels. Not just the various layers of reality but also with layered meaning and symbolism. I you were expecting *just* an easy to watch straightfoward action film then you're going to be, well, sucker-punched. Why would anyone think this though - the trailers' all pretty much warned you to not expect that and the title definitely does. In fact there are multiple ways to interpret the title of the film beyond it just not being a straightforward action film. Here are a few points to consider regardin it:
* Baby Doll was not the protagonist (a fact she twigs on to at the end).
* She isn't even necessarily real - she's an 'Angel' created in the mind of Sweet Pea.
* Baby Doll's back story (her sister and situation) all describe, in part, the story of Sweet Pea's (as alluded to within certain scene's of the film).
* Let's also not forget that Sweet Pea was playing the role of Baby Doll in the first scene on the stage. The narrator all the way through the film is Sweet Pea. The fantasy bordello elements didn't actually start until we meet Sweet Pea.
So, I believe Sweet Pea is the reality of this film, and no-one else, and if you realise Sweet Pea is the focus of the film's story (and this may only occur on repeat viewings) then you pick up on a lot more *clues* as to what is really taking place in this film.
Right at the beginning of the film a curtain opens and Sweet Pea is telling the story of how she came to be in an asylum. In her retelling, it's a 50's style asylum. The doctor reminds her that she's in control of the story. The asylum of the film isn't actually real (it goes without saying that the bordello and action scenes are also fantasies) which explains the anachronisms of modern music combined with 50's style fashion and technology.
In order to recover, she needs to explore her issues. Sessions in which they're addressed are too traumatic, so she further escapes into outright fantasies (the action scenes). The shifts through the various layers of realities and the projection of other personalities are the way Sweet Pea explores her issues and works through them. Its a very clever way of representing isolation and dissociative behaviour to make them palatable and accessible to the average film-goer.
The film's plotline is basically about Sweet Pea's journey along the path of recovery, her "escape". So, the other girls are symbolic of this journey:
1) Baby Doll is a projection of Sweet Pea's guilt over not being able to save her sister. She has to let that go at the end to fully "escape".
2) Rocket is repesentative of Sweet Pea's sister. She *is* Sweet Pea's sister but the denouement as she lies in Sweet Pea's arms goes some way to healing her [Sweet Pea].
3) Blondie is a projection of Sweet Pea's self-doubt. Constantly unsure, she also seeks justification and forgiveness in the arms of various authority figures (ie, the doctor and Blue).
4) Amber is a projection of Sweet Pea's denial and mental resistance to what has occured and this is symbolised in the fact that she's always the pilot - there to pull Sweet Pea out of the fire if it gets too hot.
Along with the layers of reality, all these characters are used within the film as metaphors for Sweet Pea's self-healing. The other characters (the doctor, Blue, her father) all exist as antagonists to this process throughout these layers of reality.
It really is a gutsy (maybe even experimental) film, dealing with these kind of issues, but because its wrapped up in the guise of a comic book (along with its script, visuals, etc) people don't seem to be able to see it for what it is. Which is a pity. With this in mind, I find it amusing to read alot of the negative reviews - especially the people that state how badly, scripted/acted/directed the film is and then plead with us that it makes no sense. If such people actually had any perceptive qualities they'd understand what the film is about, and as they don't it kinda calls into question their ability to recognise what a good film *is*.
In this film Zack Snyder has attempted to deal with some really big issues that are extraordinarily difficult to explain or represent visually in any format, never mind as the type of 'moving graphic novel' style he's known for, and he's probably failed as most viewers simply don't get the film. For me though, I found this film demanding (in a good way) and it made me really think about what was taking place and what it was actually about. Only a second viewing really sorted it out in my mind.
I believe, this film is a rough diamond and confirms that Zack Snyder is a visionary film maker who's attention to visual composition is up there with other movie making greats. As with his other films, he also knows how to integrate a film's score/music into a scene and in Sucker Punch he's reached his zenith on this - the soundtrack really fits. Sucker Punch, when at is best, dances along like some crazed hybrid action movie/graphic novel/music video. And its awesome. When not doing this, it does lack pace and interest can wane - almost like coming down from a drug induced high. But, considering the context of the film, perhaps that's somewhat deliberate? ... Snyder's took a real risk with the driving force behind this film as well as its presentation, which is commendable. Sucker Punch is an imperfect work of art which doesn't really fall into the category of 'standard film making'; it attempts to use the medium and approach storytelling in a different and highly stylised way, and I really enjoyed those aspects of it in addition to the central conceit of the film with regards to uncovering and understanding the layers of reality and the symbolism of the characters.
Although the film is not perfect by any means or without its faults, I hope people give it more of a chance in the future.