Artwork and Review By: Daniel Albert
I really wanted to like Sucker Punch. In fact I had a whole bunch of pride on the line since my girlfriend and I had gotten in an argument from the very first trailer. I thought it looked like an interesting action packed ride with astounding visuals and an awesome soundtrack. She thought it looked like a bunch of girls being exploited for the sake of film, all to pander to fanboys with titillation, explosions and every ridiculous piece of “awesomeness” a prepubescent boy could ever dream of (You mean I can have giant samurai, Nazi zombies, and android hitmen!?). Which one of us would come out as the victor of our little spat, who knew? Well as it turns out we were both right…
After viewing the movie I tried to let it seep in. I read reviews, which by and large razed the film to the ground like some defunct Vegas Casino. I also read an interview with the director explaining what he was going for, in addition to some funny posts from the virtual worlds trolls all trying to defend what in the end is a horribly beautiful mess. I tried to gather as many opinions and valid or invalid points before I decided to sit down and write my review, and I have to say this film is not easy to categorize.
I’ll start with the good. As always Snyder pulls out all the stops and nearly puts the viewers into a catatonic state of grandeur with epic battle sequences and visuals that are so amazing you literally try not to blink. In addition the film is set to a soundtrack filled with covers of rock ‘n’ roll songs that fit the scenes so well you can’t help but be sucked into Sucker Punch‘s world.
Now the bad. The acting was so wooden and stale (with the exception of Abbie Cornish) that it lands somewhere between pinocchio and that bag of chips you find in the cupboard that fell behind everything two years ago. I had my worries about the cast from the get go since Snyder enlisted everyone’s help from Disney to the Real World (although I will credit Vanessa Hudgens for looking the most natural during the fight scenes).
In addition a coherent storyline was nowhere to be found, as I ended the movie wondering, ok so was she in a…or was it really her that…wtf did I just watch? The women are scantily clad which seems like a completely unnecessary part of the film except for the fact that they throw in a brothel angle, which comes off as a half cocked excuse to flash upskirts during somersaults. In addition the movie cuts so rigidly from “reality” to fantasy I felt like I was watching Mario Batali butcher a chicken carcass with a chainsaw. Perhaps this was on purpose? Some say yes, others say no but we’ll get to that in a minute.
By the end of it all I felt that I had just watched a horribly awesome movie. I couldn’t decide if I was enraged or enthralled, disgusted or disguising the fact that at times I was like a kid in a candy store. That’s when I went to my fellow critics to get their view on things.
What I got was usually either unreasonably negative or some jack ass just trying to be a contrarian listing nonsense as his defense points. Obviously there was the feminist angle who viewed Sucker Punch as nothing more than an encapsulated wet dream/adrenaline boost mash up. Some critics even tried to pass off a reverse sexism angle, stating that the only male characters in the movie were sleazy and perverted. Uh ya because that’s the world the girls are in? It’s a film! It’s not reality. In fact Snyder even takes the time to make this a point by opening on a red curtain, letting the audience know “This is a show”. That would be like someone saying there’s reverse racism in Schindler’s List because all the Nazi’s are white.
I filtered and filtered until I finally came to a decision. My girlfriend and I were both right. Sucker Punch is both visually stimulating and sexistly titillating. The film juxtaposes the harsh “reality” the girls live in, with these awesome “fantasy” scenes of sexed up trollops kicking ass and taking names. Essentially what I believe Snyder is trying to do (and what he’s claimed he’s trying to do although I’m not sure how well he nailed it) is give us a subversive film that turns into a mirror at the midpoint and shines a light on the society we live in.
By showing these women in sexy clothes taking back control of the heroine archetype, while still looking sexy, Snyder is attempting to say “Why not? Why can’t a girl be really sexy and still badass? Why should she have to fight in camo hammer pants and combat boots so you’ll take her seriously. I bet if a girl wielding a three foot kitana wearing Christain Louboutin pumps approached you on the street you’d be equally aroused and petrified.”
I think that liking Sucker Punch depends on how much of an artist’s bullshit you’re willing to believe (since in my humble opinion all high concept art involves a certain amount of bullshitery). Is Andres Serrano’s Piss Christ high art because he says it is? Or is it just a sacrilegious sham made by dunking a crucifix in a jar of urine and back lighting it?
Whether Sucker Punch is a subversive masterpiece or a multi hour mindless suck fest, I’ll leave up to the viewer since I’m pretty sure it’s both. What I can say for sure is that Sucker Punch is a bold exploration into what film could be, and for critics to label the film as mindless I think is unfair. Especially when Michael Bay is allowed to blow stuff up nonsensically and Katherine Heigl can search for Mr. Right in all the wrong places ad nauseum, all while still receiving better reviews than a film that tried it’s damnedest to give us something different.
In the end it’s all about how much you buy into the bullshit and how truly heady you want to get.