Sucker Punch: The Title Says It All

[WARNING: While this review does not contain spoilers, the Comments do. You have been warned. Now...read on...]

Director and Writer Zack Snyder can really make a beautiful movie. Snyder set his own style with films like 300 and Watchmen, but has also come under fire for making movies that lack depth or are very “comic book” in their almost balletic approach to graphic violence. When you consider his last two films were pulling from (wait for it!) graphic novels, it makes you want to bitch slap critics. Perhaps this is why critics (and perhaps, some moviegoers) have been overly critical of Snyder’s latest film, Sucker Punch.

On reading some of these reviews, though, I have to ask “Did you see the same film as I did?” I not only loved Sucker Punch, I am here to tell you that missing this on the big screen would be a crime. It is original. It is surprising. It is intelligent.

What is isn’t is what the critics are making it out to be: Geekboy Titillation.

Now there’s no denying it: Snyder covers all of the bases in this flick. Sucker Punch offers up zombies, steampunk, dragons,  WWII bombers, and katana swordfights. And yes, all of the gunfire and swordplay is happening with women who all just happen to be hot.

Quite hot.

Smoking hot, as a matter of fact.

But the titillation critics rant on and on about just isn’t there. I didn’t find anything really “stimulating” about Sucker Punch unless you count the alternate realities where our femme fatales are kicking surrealistic asses in a variety of ways. Snyder’s signature “artistic action” sequences could hardly be described as “erotic” in their video game brutality. (And the more I think about that, the more I come to understand why Snyder’s fantasy sequences are so epic. You have to see the movie to catch it.) An episode of Sailor Moon or Bubblegum Crisis has more titillation than Sucker Punch. What should be titillating — Baby Doll’s hypnotic dance that segues into her own imagination — we never see. All we see is the reaction to it, and that is really intriguing.

Before any of my female readers comment with “If this isn’t geekboy pr0n, why then are Sucker Punch’s insanely attractive women so scantily clad in the action sequences? I mean, where’s the realism? What’s with the high heels in the giant samurai sequence?” I would like to present a few visual aids to end this debate.

History tell us that this is Sparta:Frank Miller and Zack Snyder, on the other hand, tells us that  THIS — IS — SPARTA:

This just in from Zack Snyder: “You’re welcome, ladies.”

Critics have also been making references that the principle players as “happy hookers” and “sensitive strippers.” Both of these assessments are completely and utterly wrong, and ruin the subtext running through this film. While these girls are carrying stripper names like “Rocket,” “Sweet Pea,” and “Baby Doll” (the lead), and while they are exotic dancers performing extravagant burlesque productions, they are not hookers nor are they strippers. And they’re not “happy” by a longshot. They’re sex slaves.

Let me say that again: These girls are sex slaves.

When you accept that uncomfortable fact, the whole mood of Sucker Punch changes; but from the opening — a very bleak, powerful opening telling the backstory of Baby Doll’s arrival to the insane asylum — this movie makes it clear that this is not a fun ride we are undertaking. This is the kind of darkness that makes Synder’s Watchmen look like an episode of Super Friends (the first season with Marv and Wendy…who were those kids anyway?!), and adds a sense of desperation for the girls daring to escape. Calling them “hookers/strippers with hearts of gold” really could not be farther from these characters’ dismal collected truth.

And when you consider the reality that Baby Doll is truly escaping, this tale takes an even darker spin.

That’s where I nurture a growing respect for Sucker Punch: it’s amazing layer-like quality and intelligence. Sucker Punch keeps you guessing as to where the lines of reality reside. Perhaps this is another reason why critics are coming out hard against this movie: Snyder made a geeky action movie that you have to pay attention to when watching it. This is a tale of redemption, and the lines of what is real and what isn’t are blurred just enough that when you walk out of the film, you are trying to piece together what was real and what wasn’t. Giving away any details right now would be spoilerific so I will simply say the ending completely caught me off-guard. How things play in the finale, which you discover isn’t the finale you were expecting, are a complete and utter surprise.

Perhaps this is why critics are so “angry” about Sucker Punch: They didn’t see this coming. But isn’t that the title right there? I was waiting for this movie to jump the rails. Pip was, too. It’s the morning after and I’m still waiting! Sucker Punch was not even close to what I was expecting, and I loved experiencing it on the IMAX big screen.

And concerning Sucker Punch’s soundtrack, I rank it right up there with the music from Scott Pilgrim Versus The World. Sweet crapbuckets, did this soundtrack ever rock! Props to Snyder, Tyler Bates, and producers for coming up with some fantastic covers and a Queen mash-up that gave me goosebumps!

In the age of reboots, remakes, and comic book movies, Sucker Punch is a breath of fresh air and originality, along the same lines as Inception and Black Swan. Dismiss the critics on this one, and go see it. If you can catch it on IMAX, do so as the bigger screen just makes Snyder’s composition — even the ones based in reality — breathtaking. You may be pleasantly surprised. You might walk out wondering what the hell you’ve seen, but you will be talking about it. Consider the tagline: “You will be unprepared.”

I was. Delightfully so.

 

12 thoughts on “Sucker Punch: The Title Says It All

  1. I went to see it on opening day in IMAX and I was a bit disappointed. Maybe my expectations were too high. It wasn’t bad but it wasn’t as good as I thought it could have been. Don’t want to get spoilery here but I agree that the soundtrack was excellent.

    Folks can watch the first six minutes of the movie online…

    http://www.metacafe.com/w/6185190/

  2. I don’t like this whole “I’m doing my own blog” thing you’ve got going here, Morris. This would have been a great article for BSP. ;)

    Nice review! (I still haven’t seen it, but Adam is raving about the film.)

  3. Actually, the girls aren’t sex slaves.

    They are mental patients. But that reality is so hard for one of the girls to take that she imagines them as being dancers in a night club who are forced to be sex slaves as well, because that image is preferable to being mental patients who are preyed upon by the orderlies who are supposed to take care of them. The movie spends so much time looking at things from that perspective, it is easy to forget there is an outer layer.

    I think most of the folks who are complaining about SuckerPunch do so because they can’t keep track of the story as it plays out on multiple levels. Instead of seeing its depth, they stick with the lowest common denominator.

    Although I just gotta say that I loved the fact that Blondie was the brunette.

    Doc

  4. Warning: spoliers!!

    I speak as someone who was able to understand the multiple levels and dream sequences. I understand the narrative, and could read it back to you in a way that would make sense, even after only seeing it once. I got the subtext and the subtle elements that were shared between worlds. All the same, I thought this movie was crap.

    My main problem is the message. Consider the highest level, and the main character who never speaks. In the entire movie, that character has only one action, and even there, she pulls her punch so that it costs the life of an innocent. Once she has made that mistake she never, NEVER, does anything else for the rest of the movie. This is not a story about a main character coming to terms with anything, because her only action is allowing herself to be lobotomized.

    Now, as she is being lobotomized, she imagines a more lavish world where she engages in a fantasy of being a sex slave. What message is this? Abuse victims: don’t fight back, just go to your happy place until your oppressor disposes of you?

    Once she is in her fantasy, she concocts a laughable escape plan that would make a 1980′s video game designer embarrassed by it’s simplicity. Collect the red key to get through the red door. And the only way to get what she needs is by seducing men and pickpocketing them. Again, abuse victims, don’t fight back. Try to be sneaky.

    Finally, in the third level of her psychosis, she imagines that they actually do something. This could, finally, make the movie worthwhile if the action scenes were really great. But honestly, the action sequences here made me long for 300, and I’ve never been a fan of 300.

    On that third level, the lavish nature of the action was so far out of reality that it became boring. I’ve never liked watching other people play video games. If I’m going to experience a video game, hand me the control.

    The fact that there was nothing compelling about any of the characters in the third level (“Girls, attack this thing for no particular reason so you can collect a token”), and the fact that the characters were so ridiculously 2D on the second level (Was Snyder just trying to do a reboot of “Caged Heat”?) and the fact that the main character in the “real world” literally does nothing at all in the entire movie, combined to make this one of the most exploitative and pointless stories I’ve seen all year. This makes Tron: Legacy look well-written.

    Of course there’s complaining about the Sailor Moon outfits and all that, but I accepted that walking into the movie. What I didn’t anticipate was the almost aggressively pro-abuser message that permeated the incredibly thin story.

    Oh, and the fact that the Asian girl was the driver and tech hound in each situation? Real class. No stereotypes there.

    I know I’m gonna be in the minority on this board, and I’m really not trying to pick a fight . . . I just wanted to point out that some people who understand the whole story still think it’s crap.

    • No worries, Brand. This is an open forum. I don’t agree with your write-up here, and I don’t doubt this would serve as spirited fodder between us at a con. (TOPIC: Sucker Punch — A Story of Redemption, or Total Crap?) Perhaps this is what makes Sucker Punch, again, a real work of genius from Snyder — it’s open to interpretation.

      This might make your head spin, but track with me — Sucker Punch could be regarded a bit like one of Shakespeare’s problem plays, like Merchant of Venice, and then opened for interpretation. Is the play anti-semitic, or a play protesting anti-semiticism? That’s been open for debate for some time. Perhaps that could be the debate concerning Sucker Punch. We saw the same film, but walked away with two different messages.

      Wow…the deeper we go, the more I love this movie. ;^)

  5. What’s frustrating me is that I don’t know what Zac Snyder wanted his audience to take away from Sucker Punch. I thought the movie was fun, just as visually stimulating if not more so than something like Scott Pilgrim, and that soundtrack was sublime (that cover of “Sweet Dreams” for example – yum! Along with the rap/Queen mash-up).

    I imagine Snyder sitting in a room and wondering, “How do I get fans of various nerdy sub-genres together in one room?” And hey, he did it – I saw elements of steampunk, sci-fi, anime mesh well. That made my inner fangirl go “Ooooo!” And I appreciate that he was adding a dark story underneath it all, although Tee, I do disagree with “This is the kind of darkness that makes Snyder’s Watchmen look like an episode of Super Friends (the first season with Marv and Wendy…who were those kids anyway?!” Nuclear war trumps an insane asylum in my book, but hey whatever ices your dark Oreo! :) (And this is irrelevant, but in terms of the Spartans being scantily clad for the ladies? Speaking as a lady, um, no thank you. I see that movie move as more of a “We know we’re going to die, let’s be as intimidating and bad-assed during our last stand as possible! Rawr!”)

    Needless to say, I definitely enjoyed the movie, but if I may make another awful comparison – it reminds me of a second or third draft of a story. You sit there and think “This is brilliant, and I can’t wait to share it with my writing group!” Then you hand it out, and your group says, “Wait…huh? What are you trying to say here?” I think there’s hope for Snyder to mix his visuals with his plots in the future, so this wasn’t a terrible attempt. :)

  6. Brand,

    Spoilery bits to follow, folks.

    I do see your point. In some ways the story doesn’t seem to say much about dealing with those who would victimize others. While the abusers do eventually get their comeuppance, there is a terrible price to pay for it to happen.

    But from my point of view, the main character ISN’T Babydoll. The main character is Sweet Pea. She even says it when she is introduced. She raises her hand and says, “I’m the star of this show.” I think that is the sucker punch of the movie. So much of the cinematography centers on Babydoll, that it tricks you into thinking that she is the main character, but she’s not. Snyder even says, right at the beginning that the story is about ANGELS and how they can appear and guide us when things are worst. When we first see Sweet Pea, she is submitting to her captors. The influence of Babydoll and the others gets her to stop playing it safe and fight back. But when you fight back there is risk, and consequences.

    It occurs to me that there is a lot of allegory here. As Tee said, it can lead to endless discussions on how to interpret things.

    Doc

  7. Whatever one’s opinion be about said movie, there is no doubt about one thing…

    … A very well composed & written review Mr. Morris.

    I enjoyed it, thoroughly!

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