You have all the weapons you need: on sexism and offence in “Sucker Punch”
Going into “Sucker Punch,” Orion and I were expecting a mindless action flick. Coming out, we were both unsure of how we felt; the movie seemed to be straining for something, but neither of us was quite sure exactly what that something could be. The film is highly stylized, as per director Zack Snyder’s usual style, and is filled with imagined worlds and fight sequences.
The first scene is told entirely without words, with heavy music in the background; because of this, the whole setup is inherently ambiguous. It’s not really clear how our protagonist, the aptly named Babydoll, ends up in the asylum that she does. But all that doesn’t seem to matter much, because as soon as Babydoll gets to her prison, she immediately imagines it into a theatre (brothel?), where the inmates are dancers (and more?). When Baby dances, she further imagines herself as a fighter, battling dragons and cyborg zombie Nazis. (F A N T A C E P T I O N, no?) In many ways, this felt like a mix of a comic book and a video game: Baby’s goal is to escape, and to do it, she needs to find five objects, which she searches for in all three layers of fantasy.
This movie has the extraordinarily low score on Rotten Tomatoes of 20% from critics (the audience was more generous, giving it 60%). Reviewers criticized it as being boring and nonsensical, but surprisingly, I felt drawn into the story. Sure, the characters’ back stories didn’t make much sense, and neither did most of Baby’s fantasies, but the movie still had quite a few nice shots. Action ranged from sped-up to completely slowed-down; objects hitting the ground were given a great deal of focus, sound, and time. At one point, we watch the girls talk at dressing stations, and it isn’t until the camera moves that we realize we had actually been inside the mirror. I actually liked how genres were mixed: in one scene, Babydoll takes on a giant demonic samurai-esque creatures which wield swords and machine guns.
I still haven’t made up my mind whether or not to be offended. Sure, the movie is full of girls in short skirts, but at least it strains for something like empowerment. Baby imagines the girls as warriors, elite, powerful, who bend to no one; isn’t this attempt at empowerment worth something? Standing alone, the movie is wonderfully trashy, but something holds me back from recommending it. Is it the guiltless objectification of its heroines? Is it the exploitative stereotype of a beautiful, helpless patient? I have been told that this is a “guy movie,” and I hate being typecast into liking “girl movies,” but I definitely feel like there’s a barrier.
Overall, 3/5 – maybe it’s because I went in with such low expectations, but “Sucker Punch” definitely exceeded my expectations by at least aiming to be empowering. It may not have succeeded, but I have to say, it was pretty awesome to watch a bunch of girls take on a steampunk army (even if their weapons had little cellphone charms dangling off of them).