Watching several scantily-attired women kill zombie Nazis with swords and guns while a hot Asian chick sucking on a sucker pilots a mecha-suit (or something of that nature) was…interesting. Or at least it appealed to my brute senses in a very primitive way. The skeleton of the story was far more appealing than I had been led to believe by the trailers, the emotion raw but strangely compelling, the actresses oozing both sexuality and vulnerability. The structure, a fantasy within a fantasy, explored issues of escapism and empowerment, albeit in a very crude way. But I felt that there was something there, something deeper that remained woefully distant, a depth that could have, might have, saved this movie from…from what, exactly, I can’t say. I can’t help but like this film more than a similarly ridiculous one (Scott Pilgrim vs. the World). Whereas Scott Pilgrim had a sort of nerdy polish but no real depth, Sucker Punch is a wild and messy film that aspires to something great.
If you couldn’t tell this movie is straining to hold itself together. The responses to this film have ranged from a kind of exploitative pleasure to disgust (I heard a man and a woman speaking about this film—“It was awesome!”-man. “Oh, shut up, you just liked it because of the costumes, which were, by the way, terrible. It would be so impractical to fight in those clothes.”-woman) and I ran the gamut in terms of emotions. I couldn’t help but like the style of the film, the flashiness that Zach Snyder brings to the table, but I would have liked a gentler touch with the overarching plot. At some points the action scenes distracted from the real emotion that is involved in this story of a girl wronged and assigned to a mental asylum. This distraction was compounded at some points by the structure of the film—most of the film takes place in a fantasy world one level removed from the actuality of the plot, and the action scenes take place one level further from reality. While at some points this distance works, at other times this extended metaphor/fantasy is just confusing.
It’s hard to explain the structure, especially since the movie itself fails to clear up some points, but in essence there are three levels of the film:
LEVEL 1—this is reality, where the story is that of a girl, Baby Doll, whose stepfather places her in a mental institution and bribes an orderly to have her lobotomized. It is revealed here that the doctor who will do the lobotomy won’t come for five days.
LEVEL 2—A fantasy that puts Baby Doll in a different prison, a bordello, where she plans an escape. On this level, Baby Doll is capable of completely distracting men with her dance.
LEVEL 3—A further fantasy world in which all battles occur. When Baby Doll dances on Level 2, this is where the girls are transported.
There are so many ideas I appreciated in this film. Simple touches, like a story behind dragon’s fire, like off-screen violence that hits you hard, like the damn twist at the end, all these things make me want to like this film. But there’s simply too much here, too much stupidity mixed in with ambition, too much trash mixed in with the gold. I just can’t stomach the mix.
P.S. If you want a better written and smarter exploration of Sucker Punch, check out this article: http://www.salon.com/entertainment/movies/our_picks/index.html?story=/ent/movies/andrew_ohehir/2011/03/24/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).