Sucker Punch is an action adventure released in 2011, it was written and directed by Zack Snyder with the screen play was co-written by Steve Shibuya. The film had an estimated budget of $82,000,000 (US dollars) and with actors like Emily Browning (Baby Doll) taking the lead and a supporting cast that sported stars like Abbie Cornish (Sweet Pea) and Carla Gugino (Dr. Vera Gorski) as well as special affects and sets to make anybody gush it’s not hard to see why. Now I did not see the film until early 2013, the advertisement and build up to the film went a lot like this ‘EXPLOSIONS, MINI SKIRTS, SWORDS, MACHINE GUNS, NAZIS’. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for mindless action scenes that have been polished to a CGI filled mirror shine but without justification or at least a bit of creativity it can be as stale as the newest Call of Duty.
Because of this and the desire to talk about a movie’s deep themes before, during and after watching (I’m the best cinema goer) I wasn’t exactly in a hurry to go see it. All the Katana wielding boob owners in the world couldn’t justify a $15 Cinema ticket, it wasn’t until my curiosity rose higher than my reluctance to pay $3 at the rental place did I finally sit down and watch it.
I was Not mentally prepared, this movie Sucker Punched ME!
It instantly had my attention within the first six minutes, it grabbed me by the collar, bitch slapped me across the face while wearing brass knuckles before shoving me in my seat for a ride on the 'Holy Fuck’ Roller Coaster. All without saying a single word. What I’m referring to is, of course, the opening song. Sweet Dreams sung BY Emily Browning sets the tone and I cannot think of a better example of showing not telling in film. There’s no exposition dump, no scrolling opening text just a horribly unsettling song that echos the themes on display perfectly.
The motivations were clearly conveyed while actually increasing the tone, the tone being pants pissing discomfort. We feel as Baby Doll does which is that you are in presence of a monster, a horrible creature whose exact motivations are not clear but pain is guaranteed. Like going to class only to see your parents are already there with your worst teacher.
This is the lead in to a story within story within mental meltdown that Inception would cream its pants over. Baby Doll is taken to a mental asylum with a lobotomy not too far on the horizon, kind of like the hang over to the world’s worst party. In order to escape the trauma of having both her mother and sister murdered and her own demise not far off she mentally breaks down and creates her own reality. One in which she is imprisoned in a burlesque club, the loboto-doc is a high roller and her reasons for being there are not because she was made into a bankrupted version of the Batman. This also opens up to ANOTHER fantasy in which she dances into worlds filled with action, monsters, skimpy outfits and Instagram filters. Heck, play thriller on and anyone can do that.
This is where the major criticisms for the film come in and where a lot of people lose the plot, assuming they weren’t stuck with Dicaprio before the entering the second level. The scenes are flashy, exploitative and shallow. Are they fun to watch? Fuck yes but in the same way 300 was fun to watch. Are they purely masturbatory action scenes? Not exactly and let me break it down for you! There is a scene after Baby Doll’s first dance in which she comes under fire from Sweet Pea, the most mature and level headed of the group (the Literal big sister). She tells Baby Doll her dancing is nothing but shallow thrusts, moaning and titillation and that it doesn’t actually SAY anything.
Hmm sooo … Baby Dolls dancing is shallow with no soul but is so sexual and explicit it puts all of the men who watch her into a fucking trance, like she’s a jiggly puff, and the actions scenes she escapes into when dancing are shallow with no soul and are so sexual explicit and primal it puts all the audience into a fucking trance.
I sense deeper meaning here, Quick! Hand me that Spelunking guide! It’s as if the film is aware of and is satirising anime, film and video games that put girls in a handkerchief sized piece of clothing, give them a big gun and scream FIGHT all the while claiming its empowering when really its sole purpose to con money out of anyone stupid enough to pay into it. And it cuts away from these scenes to disgusting horrible people, mouth breathing all the while unaware they were just conned out of whatever they had (knife,key, lighter ect). Kinda like the audience of this film was who went to watch hot girls in fishnets but instead got. MURDER, ABUSE, MANIULATION, CORRUPTION, PAAAIIINNN!!!
So all the scenes that actually point at anime’s where the girls wear maid outfits into giant robot battles, video games that are nothing about girls in bikinis playing volley ball (you know what I’m talking about!) and saying NO are criticized as misogynist while being against misogyny? What the shit cakes?
Ok I’m going back up from this because let’s be honest, majority of the people reading this think I’m taking the piss so allow me to analyse this film from another angle. Now let’s say this film ISN’T satirising all I said and the fight scenes are meant to be taken seriously. That works too! This story is focused on Baby Doll, a clearly unstable person who has to devise a plan for escape so the idea that each scene in which she dances is her actually going into battle.
Whether it’s fighting alone through her fears or with others to obtain something desperately needed, these action scenes are not bad ways of conveying it. People say that films like this (that star male leads) are nothing but male power fantasies well then it stands to reason that for Baby Doll her dancing battles are her own Literal power Fantasy.
She has been forced into a situation so dire it has stripped her of her power and she only regains some through her dancing, so for her to go into a world where she is beautiful, strong, fierce, deadly and has no equals is not surprising. Each battle is a much grander version then what she’s actually doing. Need a lighter? Kill a dragon. Need a map? Storm a Nazi strong hold.
Why do you think kids who are bullied or abused are more interested in super heroes, video games or creative outlets? It allows them an escape to fantasize about being an X-men or sword wielding adventures or making their own worlds. It allows them to imagine themselves stronger then they may actually be, just like Baby Doll does.
Now you may be wondering why I’m hampering on about the fight scenes so much, well it’s simple really. It’s because people won’t stop hampering on about them either, I was first inspired to write this after Anita Sarkeesian fucking woeful erm . . ‘Review’? It Basically went like this - ‘There is no plot, Snyder just wanted to make his own porn and I hate mini skirts’ What I got from that is - ‘I didn’t pay attention/didn’t care/ was too stupid for the plot (which is actually fucking amazing) and I’m going to claim sexism against the MAN who made it without asking why so many female actors and why such a Huge budget would be involved in one man’s porno. I’m only going to bitch about the scenes that were actually made to insult jerks who bought into the film with the expectation of being turned on by tits because my opinion is based on the expectation of being offended by tits … Duurrr’
It’s a shame the movie was treated the way it does because it is actually quite a brilliant piece of film. I had head cannons, theories and over analysed ideas about this film, if it was nothing but a high budget jerk fest then why didn’t the same thing happen after watching a Transporter movie or fucking Avatar?