[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.
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.
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.