I finally watched Sucker Punch, and I'm still a little disappointed that I didn't see it in the theater. Not because it was good, but because there are a few scenes that scream to be seen on a huge screen in a dark room.
Trying to figure out what Sucker Punch is about based on the trailers is pretty pointless. The trailers present you with images of a girl being admitted to a gothic mental institution, and then crazy fight scenes with zombies, dragons, and giant mechanical samurai. I read a few reviews to try and get a better understanding of what it was actually about, and was still clueless, other than now I knew there was also a burlesque theater involved somehow.
So here's the skinny: Our heroine, known simply as Baby Doll, is admitted to a mental institution by her stepfather, after she had tried to shoot him in order to keep him from raping her younger sister, and missed and killed her sister instead. The stepfather has paid an orderly at the asylum to make sure that she gets a lobotomy, in order to keep everything quiet when the police start asking questions. Our heroine overhears all of this.
She retreats into a fantasy world, where all of the girls in the asylum are now burlesque dancers/prostitutes, in the employ of the orderly, who is now a mobster. When she's called upon to dance, as long as she has music, she retreats into another fantasy world, this time a steampunk/fantasy world at war, where she fights all kinds of fantastic creatures. What's occurring in the burlesque during these fights is that she is dancing so erotically, that men have no choice but to watch her, and are even dazed following the conclusion of the dance. What's happening the asylum? I'm not sure, maybe she's screwing the guys, other than the opening and ending of the movie, the asylum is never shown.
It just feels like it's really one layer of fantasy too many. The steampunk scenes are very entertaining, the effects are great, and the choreography is entertaining, but it feels so disconnected that it's hard to really get into it and root for the heroines. For instance, at one point they are trying to get a lighter, with a dragon on it, off of one of the orderlies, and the fantasy world features the whole group of them fighting a big dragon, in order to procure magic fire stones. I see where the thematic elements, but I just don't get how slitting a dragon's throat translates into her dancing to distract the guard.
The most common criticism I've heard about this movie is that it somehow manages to be boring, which it is, and I think it's because of that disconnect, there's plenty of interesting stuff going on on the screen, but it's just hard to care because you don't know what's really happening. The real tragedy is that, hey, I'm easy, you could have just given me a steampunk action flick with crazy over the top anime fight scenes, and given it a stupid story, and I would have loved it, but somehow trying to give it more intellectual heft by having it be this fantasy world just kills it.
There's also the question of the clothing, the main character, Baby Doll, typically where's the sexy schoolgirl slut costume that you beg your girlfriend to where every couple of months, which I guess is your thing, then have at it, but the fact that in real life we're talking about young(?) girls in an asylum being taken advantage of by the male orderlies, just makes the whole thing disgusting.
Final verdict? Watch it for the fight scenes, and surf the internet, or fast forward between them.