Essentially cohering around a simple premise -- hot chicks kicking ass and taking names, the film's bravura opening charts Baby Doll's (Emily Browning) institutionalisation by a wicked stepfather after her mother's death and her introduction to the asylum where damaged young women are sent to be kept away from society. She meets the people-in-charge, Blue (Oscar Isaac) and Dr. Gorski (Carla Gugino) as well as the other girls in the institute: Rocket (Jena Malone) and her sister Sweet Pea (Abbie Cornish), Amber (Jamie Chung) and Blondie (Vanessa Hudgens).
The story that follows Baby Doll reveals a larger canvas of a clever narrative conceit that coincides three realities together ("Inception" comparisons, tread lightly); the first being the asylum, the second is a burlesque brothel run by Blue and trained by Gorski and the final and most resplendent one is Baby Doll's hyper reverie focused on destroying the forces of evil -- be it shogun titans, zombie Nazis or killer androids. The darker the reality preceding it, the deeper and more risky the wormhole of fantasies go. There is a real sense, despite its tremendous parade of visual set-pieces that Snyder wanted a narrative strong enough to endure the weight of spectacle, and in many respects he has. He uses the age-old device of character quests to propel the plot, peppering it with familiar consequences until he doesn't. The flow culminates in an intriguing final act that sets it a mark higher than anyone would have expected, or even needed from a film that already proudly wears its stripes as pure escapist entertainment.
Snyder goes the way of Tarantino in appropriating and amalgamating artistic and stylistic influences from the most conspicuous of genres and mediums. Within the real world or whatever the relative equivalent of what exists in this film's dark and twisty tone, the film uses templates in the vein of sexploitation female prison grind-house features from the 60s and 70s like "Love Camp 7", "99 Women", "Caged Heat" and the grandmother of them all, 1950's "Caged". As the film progresses into its action-oriented enterprises, it quickly recalls the dizzying array of cut-scenes from video-games and punk anime-style design in how it encompasses the digital environment. Snyder's thematic goal is to situate the idea of imagination as a coping mechanism for terror, a concept seen recently in "Pan's Labyrinth" and "Tideland". The landscape of the mind is uniquely realised here by Snyder, who etches a remarkable amount of detail into each CGI frame, an hyperbolised celebration of artifice and invention that is at once magnificent and exhilarating as it is compelling and spellbinding.
Werner Herzog once posited that the dearth of new and unique imagery that do not reflect the times we live in will be the death of civilisation. If anything, "Sucker Punch" truly defines the generation of filmmaking we exist in -- a sophisticated and passionate emblem that delivers an overload of sugar high through the ideals of creating and maintaining a creative medley of pop-culture influences, bridged together with keen commercial sensibilities. Suddenly, Snyder holding on to the helms of the next Superman film makes more sense than it ever did.