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Movie Nights: Sucker Punch

So I went and saw Sucker Punch; chances are that some of you all did as well. Let’s discuss. Spoilers after the cut.

There were several things about this movie that I can say, but I am going to be as polite as I can be. The first thing that I want to say is: it was terrible. Terrible. I can’t even begin to stress how glad I was to spend only 5 dollars on this movie, if  I had spent more, I would have been pissed. From all the press surrounding it, I am surprised at the terrible development of the characters, the writing, the music, and the concept of “female empowerment.”  Let’s get the low down of my dislike:

[spoiler] Let’s not forget what started this whole crazy terrible movie. The fact that her stepfather killed her sister and framed her for it, had her placed in an asylum, and, so that she wouldn’t realize it, has her lobotomized so she doesn’t get out and take the money her mother left to her. He has the main manager of the asylum, Blue, fake the doctor’s signature to have the lobotomy performed on her in five days. Let’s also mention that apparently the sole doctor that works there full-time is opposed to lobotomies, but apparently has never questioned why they keep being performed at the asylum when they have to be cleared by her? Yeah, plot hole! Anyway, instead of trying to figure out a way out of the asylum in real life, Babydoll retreats to some made-up land in her head, where all the girls are sex workers, to find a way out. Then when she dances for the first time, she retreats into her mind again! (Inception anyone?) There, she fights for what she wants and gathers the materials she needs to escape, even though we know she isn’t actually doing that, her recruited team is actually putting their necks on the line while she dances for the entranced men.  Every time she retreats into her mind, the clothes get smaller, more transparent, and frankly disappear, because that is what the average 20-year-old girl in the 1950s always dreamed about. After they fight and do their sexy dances, they suffer terribly by being beaten, tortured, sexually assaulted, and killed (not Baby Doll, remember, she entrances the men). Only two survive to make it the outside of the building! Yes, the whole time they have been inside the building. At that moment, but not before when all the others were dying (literally) to follow Babydoll and get free, Babydoll realizes that she has to sacrifice herself to save the last girl and let her escape. She distracts the men outside in her Swarovski-encrusted sexy sailor costume, where you know she is most likely going to either be beaten up or raped, and lets the last surviving girl leave. Then you are brought out of her first dream and subjected to her quick lobotomy (performed by the visiting doctor, played by John Hamm) that apparently freaks John Hamm out because there was “something in her eyes!”, and finally she is almost assaulted again at the hand of Blue. She luckily is saved when the doctor finally puts the pieces together in her clearly inept brain and calls the cops on Blue and the corrupt people in the asylum. The movie ends with Babydoll being calmly out of her mind and no problems are solved. [/spoiler]

The characters are one-dimensional and, frankly, badly acted. I can’t even being to understand why they were made that way, I mean, the main character didn’t speak until about 30 minutes into the movie (or at least it felt like 30 minutes). I came into this movie hoping that there was going to be some kick-ass strong characters, and when talking to people who had already seen it beforehand about what they experienced, I was worried going into it. Turns out for good reason. I can’t even being to understand how Jena Malone could take on a role like this, especially as I think of her as the kick-ass protagonist in Saved. Vanessa Hudgens was terrible as I expected, and not surprised at all that she would take on any role that she would think could save her declining career. Girl realizes it is a hard knock life for a mediocre actress outside the Disney machine. Abby Cornish wasn’t too bad, but I expect better from her. Though to be honest, how much more could she do with a character like hers? Not much. Emily Browning, there isn’t much to say there. She was dressed in a stereotypical school girl outfit that must have titillated the 13-year-old kid sitting next to me who kept freaking out every time the girls came out less and less clothed. Frankly, it must have given a boner to every single guy in the audience there. I was also annoyed with the name of her character, “Babydoll.” Really? Really? We are going to refer to this young woman as a “young girl” and call her Babydoll, when it is clearly stated that she is 20?! I don’t understand, not at all. There is one other main girl, but she is so pushed to the side that I don’t remember her name. It frankly didn’t matter and I have an excellent memory. I feel bad placing blame on some of these girls for the horrendous portrayal of these characters when in fact they were just badly written. I guess this is why Warner Brothers let go of their “no leading ladies” policy, when the movie doesn’t do the characters justice. I also think that is why this whole theme of domestic and sexual abuse was allowed to never be resolved and solved in a rational manner, because Warner Brothers seems to have no concern shaming women completely. This movie is the furthest from the widely publicized “female empowerment” that it claimed to be. I would not be surprised if the actors pulled a complete 180 when they are done having to promote the film according to their contracts.

There is no way in the world that Zach Snyder could have thought that he could send a positive message with this movie. None at all. All he apparently knows how to do is shove all the aspects of anime and fantasy into one film and call it a masterpiece with a lesson. Seriously. I mean how did he think the audience wouldn’t recognize that he practically ripped off the orcs from The Lord of the Rings? Wrong, we did. The first thought of the one battle scene involving dragons was “WTF?! WHAT ARE THEY DOING IN MORDOR?!” It was that obvious. Don’t even get me started on the fact that the main character’s special skill is to dance so sexily, that men can be robbed by the other girls around them and not even notice because she is so “entrancing.” Annalee Newitz on i09 broke down the immediate metaphors perfectly:

It’s not hard to get the “incoming metaphor” message, so we’re obliged to use a couple of brain cells to figure out the symbolism of placing a young woman in a mental institution that becomes a whorehouse that becomes a series of increasingly cheesy action movies.

A few possible interpretations are:

1. Insane people and sex workers are interchangeable.

2. Women can only triumph over adversity in their dreams.

3. Action movies spring from the imaginations of enslaved, mentally unstable prostitutes.

This is literally all this movie is about, there isn’t anything beyond that. Somehow Zach Snyder thought that would apparently equal female empowerment. That you can survive your torture and terrible fate by having part of your brain removed. Yay! Zach Snyder fixed all women who have suffered! He has the solution! Just have yourself lobotomized! That’s the cure-all. Fail, Zach Snyder, fail. This movie might possibly be the furthest thing from empowerment. Frankly, if you aren’t insulted I would be bothered, though I can understand if you don’t look too deeply into it. Somehow her reality was inside a dream inside a dream, which you know you can’t take at face value, Inception taught us that and did it better. I AM NOT FOOLED, ZACH! You can’t add layer after layer of alternate reality and call it plot development. It just doesn’t work. Overall, this movie tried too hard and failed miserably.

So should you see it? If you want to see mindless entertainment and teenage boys getting boners, then yes. Otherwise save your money and download it eventually, or completely forget that it even exists. That would be the better option.

20 replies on “Movie Nights: Sucker Punch”

It looks like me, Mr. Cupcake, and two of our friends are the only people in the world who liked Sucker Punch. Thoughts in no particular order:

Was this really intended as a female empowerment movie? Or were we assigning it that status because we saw girls with guns in the promo material? I’m trying to find an article, interview, or video where Zack Snyder says this is a female empowerment movie. If you have one, could you please forward it to me?

This is hard to articulate, but Sucker Punch feels like it’s for the powerless, trapped, and abused. I have been abused and the movie actually captured my mental state while experiencing that. I cried several times in the theater because it felt so familiar.

Strong Female Characters (TM) are still slaves to the male gaze – a SFC in geek-oriented media rarely makes it to the screen unless men want to bang her. I think that partly what the brothel was all about.

The girls may not be the SFCs we want them to be, but just about every dude – except one – in this movie is a rapist or other predator. That’s also telling.

I don’t give a shit about artist’s intent – my perspective is that what viewers take away is based on what they brought in. What I brought in identified with it in a big way.

Was this really intended as a female empowerment movie? Or were we assigning it that status because we saw girls with guns in the promo material? I’m trying to find an article, interview, or video where Zack Snyder says this is a female empowerment movie. If you have one, could you please forward it to me?

This month’s Nylon magazine with Emily Browning on the cover. They interview all five leads, who heavily promote the move as female empowerment and that Baby Doll is ‘taking charge of her sexuality’.

I’ve heard other interviews with Snyder where he talks about it the same way, but I literally read the Nylon interview yesterday so its fresh in my mind.

Zack Snyder said in the WSJ:
“I really don’t look at it like, ‘Oh, I’m going to make a female empowerment film.’ I just thought that the girls are awesome, and they can do whatever they want. I can only make it from my perspective, and if the goal of the film was to make a female empowerment film, then that’s absolutely debatable whether or not a man is the right choice for that. But the goal of the film is to tell an artistic story that is not bound by reality or anything like that, and if it happens to be at the end that girls feel like hey, I feel like I’m free to be strong in my life, then I don’t know.”

I09 did a review on it before it came out with quotes from the cast and Snyder. Regardless if he says the exact words “Female Empowerment,” that is what he was promoting. Here is the link.

Here is the direct quote if you want to see that too.

“But my hope was that they would take those things back, just like my girls hopefully get confidence, they get strength through each other, that those become power icons. They start out as cliches of feminine sexuality as made physical by what culture creates. I think that part of it was really specific, whether it’s French maid or nurse or Joan Arc to a lesser extent [laughs], or schoolgirl. Our hope is we were able to modify them and turn them into these power icons, where they can fight back at the actual cliches that they represent. So hopefully by the end the girls are empowered by their sexuality and not exploited. But certainly that’s where they come from, the journey is asking, “What do you want to see? Well, be careful what you want to see.”

“Zack Snyder said in the WSJ:
“I really don’t look at it like, ‘Oh, I’m going to make a female empowerment film.

Except that is what he’s said in other interviews — LBA offered up his interview with IO9 in which he says just that. And unfortunately the text of the entire NYLON interview isn’t online (thought you can try and work your way through page scans here if you have good eye sight and patience) but if the actual actresses in the film say that Zach told them its an empowerment film, and that’s what they were aiming to make, well, I can’t really argue with that. How would the 5 lead actresses get mixed up on what the intent of the movie was? VG even says ‘when I saw the movie, I was, like, yay, women!’

I think you can enjoy the movie as a series of fight scenes with some really good visuals. I appreciate it on that level. And the soundtrack was ah-may-zing. But as anything else, it fails. Its message is muddled. Its plotting is poor. And it painted itself into a really bad corner by suggesting that the only freedom from the horrible live Baby Doll has is to be lobotomized. I mean, that’s what he says, pretty much. ‘She will go to paradise’ when she meets the High Roller. Who is a doctor. Who lobotomizes her.

If you don’t care what the directors intent was, then why ask to see if Snyder intended it as an empowerment flick. You can decide for yourself if it works on that level. Do you think it does, given what Baby Doll ultimately gives up?

Though I found the fight scenes arduous and largely overdone, I didn’t seem to take as much issue with it as my parents. Yes, I found the end off-putting, creepy and confusing as far as intended message, but, at least up until Rocket’s death, I didn’t find it as bad as so many others seemed to. Still, this may be testimony to my limited experience in analyzing film and story narratives because unless there is something horribly, glaringly wrong about it (Twilight, anyone), I am unlikely to take issue with a story ark before I revisit the particular story or someone points out an issue with it.

Even as mindless entertainment it’s terrible, though. The CGI was unimpressive, and while some of the set pieces were cool (steampunk zombies!) every single fight scene was infinitely dragged out because Zack Snyder is addicted to slow motion. He needs an intervention.

Seriously. When he kept asking if anyone else had seen her eyes, I thought maybe she had been trying to communicate with him. And then its followed up with the whole ‘its like she wanted it!’ Those two lines prove that Snyder had no idea what message he wanted to send with the movie.

That’s some shoddy ass plotting right there.

I’ve read in a couple of interviews with Browning that there was a sex scene with her and Hamm that eventually was cut from the film. And I can not even imagine where that would fit into the narrative. Like, would it have been right before he gives her the lobotomy? Like, seriously, WTF?

I can’t figure it out either — since Babydoll tells Sweetpea to go and do those things her sister told her (which happened in two different levels of the fantasy world), some of it had to happen. But if Rocket, Amber, and Blondie were killed, why didn’t the Doctor mention it while she was talking about what a problem Babydoll had been? If Rocket is really alive, why doesn’t Sweetpea get her out?

This was one of those movies that made me angry. Angry that I’d spent money on it. Angry that I spent time on it. Angry that my unutterable anger ruined what could have been at least a pleasant night out with Slaybelle. The last movie that made me this angry was Hellboy, and I still get teased for that (the first thing I said to Slay after walking out of that was “That was so bad I can’t even look at you.”) This time I just kept my mouth shut because we took Minibelle and I didn’t want to shape her reaction to the movie by expressing my own, bitter disappointment.

I did NOT get a boner, thank you very much. This was one of the unsexiest movies I’ve seen in a long while. Snyder might argue it wasn’t supposed to be “sexy,” it was supposed to be about empowering women (because empowered women can wear anything they want without fear of the male gaze because it becomes an expression of THEIR AGENCY, especially when their agency just happens to conform to the masturbatory fantasies of teenage boys. Lucky, that!)

I also immediately thought of Mordor, but I assumed it was more of an homage than laziness. Not that it matters, really.

The fight scenes were visually gorgeous but SO boring. I was bored. It would have been better to leave them as a series of concept art print and allowed the viewer to fill in the narrative. At least there would have been a coherent narrative.

I won’t get into questions of empowerment or that the solution to surving lady problems like rape offered by Snyder is to withdraw into fantasy because that’s the only agency you have.

But one narrative inconsistency that drove me crazy: so Dr. Gorsky is the head psychiatrist at the hospital, right? And no lobotomies get performed without her signature, right? And you would think that the number of lobotomies performed wouldn’t be so high that she would lose track of who she had signed off on, right? Yet she is caught by surprise when dreamy lobotomist, John Hamm, tells her “well, you signed off on it…”. Seriously, wtf? Slay tried to convince me that maybe the lobotomy was scheduled before Babydoll’s arrival. Then why would Dr. Gorsky’s signature need to be on the approval unless she needed to review the paperwork? Thin, Zach Snyder. Very thin.

Hated. this. movie.

I didn’t read the spoilers and I haven’t seen the film, but from your synopsis I’m not exactly surprised. The first half of the trailer seemed awesome, but then it became clear further in that this was just another hot-girl-with-pigtails-pretends-to-be-badass movie. For the sake of the guys. The usual boring B.S. Looks like they tried to disguise it under the pretense of being kind of an art house, feminist, girl-power sort of thing with a cool soundtrack, but yeah, I knew from the trailer on that this was going to suck. Probably won’t ever see it.

I am really looking forward to the movie Hanna though. I hope it turns out to be good.

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