The Aisle Seat - Movie Reviews by Mike McGranaghan
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THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan


Sucker Punch

I'm going to do something I don't think I've ever done before; I'm going to re-review a movie. When I reviewed Sucker Punch upon its original theatrical release, I wasn't entirely impressed. Visually striking to look at and possessing some clear ambition, the film seemed oddly incomplete to me. I wrote: "On every technical and visual level, the film is astonishing. On a story level, though, it never achieves the kind of meaningfulness it strives for." On my Twitter page, I opined that it felt like there must be a longer, R-rated cut somewhere that would fill in a few of the gaps.

Guess what? I was right. On June 28, Sucker Punch hits Blu-Ray in an Extended Cut, 17 minutes longer and newly rated R. While still not a perfect movie by any means, this version is undoubtedly an improvement, giving the story more coherence and more fully realizing some of the themes it attempts to explore.

I won't waste time recapping the plot - you can read my original review here - but I do want to point out some key differences in the Extended Cut. (Minor spoilers ahead.)

1. The "Love is the Drug" musical number that played over the end credits now appears about 20 minutes into the story. This may not seem like a huge difference, but it helps to establish the nightclub as a fictitious place in Baby Doll's mind, as well as emphasize the odd relationship between Dr. Gorski and Blue. Theatrically, the transition into Baby Doll's imagination was a little tentative; now we quickly grasp the idea that she's taken Dr. Gorski's "theater therapy" to heart. That, in turn, makes the transition into and out of fantasy-within-fantasy sequences feel more natural.

2. The action scenes are a bit more graphic. You'd expect this from an R-rated cut, but it also serves to highlight the danger that Baby Doll feels she and the other girls are in at the psychiatric facility. The overall sense of life and death is a bit stronger, as is the notion that Baby Doll's dances (which the action sequences represent) are her fight to survive.

3. A vital scene between Emily Browning and Jon Hamm has been reinstated. Many people complained that the ending of Sucker Punch was muddled, and now we know why: a rather lengthy climactic exchange between Baby Doll and the "High Roller" (a.k.a. the lobotomy doctor) was excised. Now that it's back in the story, we understand Baby Doll's motivation for saving Sweet Pea and, more importantly, what the doctor means when he says, "Did you see the way she just looked at me?" Without giving too much away, this scene represents the completion of Baby Doll's journey; she reaches a stage of acceptance that is essential to understanding the end of the film. Having seen this sequence, it's unfathomable to me that it was cut. My suspicion is that studio execs thought it slowed down the action. While it is a talky scene, it's also full of information we really need to have.

Upon second viewing of Sucker Punch, I also picked up on some of the little nuances that didn't quite register the first time around. Knowing in advance what happens in the plot allowed me to notice the details and the way certain things are set up. That too made it seem more coherent. Several of the flaws I initially pointed out still exist, but my attitude toward the movie has changed overall. It's clear that Sucker Punch, while by no means perfect, is an ambitious work that strives to explore tough themes while still providing kick-ass entertainment. Director Zack Snyder deserves commendation for trying to craft something unique, even if his reach exceeds his grasp.

This brings us full circle. I'm re-reviewing this film. My original star rating was two-and-a-half. That's technically a rotten tomato. The Extended Cut gave me a little more appreciation for Sucker Punch. I'd recommend this cut of the movie, so therefore I'm upping my rating to a fresher three stars.

( out of four)

Blu-Ray Features:

Sucker Punch will be released on DVD and Blu-Ray Combo Pack on June 28. The DVD is the theatrical cut only. The Combo Pack has both the theatrical and extended cuts. A theatrical cut-only Blu-Ray will also be available.

The highlight of the bonus features is Maximum Movie Mode, hosted by Zack Snyder. Basically, this is every kind of bonus feature you can imagine packed together. Snyder appears on screen to walk you through the film, explaining how it was made and why certain things were changed for the theatrical cut. He introduces behind-the-scenes segments, as well as provides compelling, informative commentary on how he used fantasy worlds to address themes of oppression and abuse. If you found any parts of the story confusing, he elaborates on what he was trying to convey. Picture-in-picture interviews with cast members also sync up with the main feature, as do stills galleries. Watching Maximum Movie Mode gives the viewer fuller appreciation for what Sucker Punch is trying to accomplish.

Also on the disc, you will find a short segment on the selection of songs for the soundtrack, and four animated shorts that serve as mini-prequels, setting up the story's fantasy worlds.

Sucker Punch - Extended Cut is rated R for for thematic material involving sexuality, violence and combat sequences, and for language. The running time is 2 hours and 7 minutes.