G3 Review: Sucker Punch

Ladies and Gents, this review contains SPOILERS.

Critics have slammed it, and the box office numbers are dismal in comparison to the $82 million budget. The former affecting the latter, I’m sure. But Sucker Punch has quickly become a polarizing film in pop culture fandom. I stand firmly on the side of the pleated skirts. Orcs, fishnets, and Steampunk Nazis? Oh, yeah. Baby Doll leads us on a physics-defiant fantasy ride within her two-tiered dissociative delusions, which are the movie.

The Good
The soundtrack is out-of-control awesome. Look, Sucker Punch is not exactly dialogue-heavy (you knew that, right?) The music is a driving force and works as a transition from reality to dream world. Grit and rhythm engage you in Baby Doll’s mental reality. It works. Soundtrack downloaded. The music must be experienced in an IMAX theater.

I have got to give it to these ladies; they pulled off some phenomenal fight sequences. I suppose 12 weeks of training and dead-lifting 200 pounds might get one in shape. Particular props go to Vanessa Hudgens and her super-sweet ass kicking of one steam-powered Nazi robot. I literally squealed when she was done. Aside from the combat scenes, the action sequences were just visually stunning. Scenes of dodging dragons in a fighter jet and exploding futuristic cities, were wildly amusing.

Since I’m on the topic of eye candy, those girls are hot to the tenth power. No one should be ashamed of saying so. Yeah, the costumes are clearly fetishist, but fetish does not equal “bad.” Personally, I can’t wait for the cosplay Sucker Punch will inspire. I’m looking at you, Dragon*Con.

The Bad
The story does drag at the beginning, but who’s going to see this shit for the story? Seriously.

As is the way of Hollywood, Sucker Punch touts some major violence towards women, mostly in the form of attempted and implied rape, and a murder or two. The ladies do fend off the physical affronts, and the violators are shown reaping the consequences of their actions. But the “damsel in distress” is not just an emotional plot hook, it is the crux of the film. The reason the girls have to defend their person at all is because they are held against their will. In one layer of Baby Doll’s dream world, they are sex slaves and are fighting for their freedom. Ultimately, I’m not so much bothered that it is in the film, but because Sucker Punch garnered a PG-13 rating.

Snyder originally had a sex scene with Baby Doll and The High Roller (John Hamm), consensual sex where Baby Doll is enjoying herself. The MPAA ordered this to be edited. Their request cut the scene down to where it looked as if Baby Doll was not experiencing pleasure, thus it seemed as if she was being taken advantage of. The MPAA was OK with that version. Why would they want that in a film where the girls are fighting against that very thing? Snyder cut the scene all together.

I take issue with the MPAA and its culturally and politically skewed rating system. That is where the blazing misogyny dwells. Sucker Punch contains no blood and most of the more extreme violence is implied. There is still slavery and murder of young women. But it gets the studio-sanctioned PG-13 rating once the female pleasure portion of the show is cut?

I am a woman with a daughter, and I enjoyed this movie. The female characters have enough spit and fire in them, and ultimately they triumph. I also recognize it in the context of the 1950s setting. But the interwebs are alive with folks bitching about gender roles and vapidity of Sucker Punch. Do me a solid; direct your angst towards the MPAA. I don’t think this film should be accessible to the 13-17 crowd, but I guess the studio has to make their money back somehow.

The Verdict
Sucker Punch is a scantily clad acid trip, which may not appeal to everyone’s sensibilities. However, it is damn good time. If you expect this to be intellectual fodder for the ages, you’re an idiot. I’d really like it if everyone lightened the fuck up, let it be the cheesecake film that it is obviously meant to be. Pop culture has been graced with five new kick-ass ladies: Baby Doll, Sweet Pea, Rocket, Blondie, and Amber. Enjoy the view. I did.

45 thoughts on “G3 Review: Sucker Punch

  1. This movie had so much potential. I went in expecting Girls with swords. I got learned that even girls with swords can make you leave the theater say “WTF just happened?”

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  2. great review V. I’m glad to see a positive one. I was starting to get spooked when EVERYONE seemed to be shitting on this film. I do want to see it again. The movies I tend to avoid are the ones where all the critics LOVE it. Especially some of the “Oscar-worthy” ones (where the only good comment people can think of saying about it is that it’s “Oscar-worthy”). Tells me maybe one or two critics liked it, half of them didn’t understand it but are afraid to admit it so they say “yeah, what he said”, and the rest realize it was crap but don’t want to be standing alone, so they jump on the bandwagon too.

    “If you expect this to be intellectual fodder for the ages, you’re an idiot. I’d really like it if everyone lightened the fuck up, let it be the cheesecake film that it is obviously meant to be.” You’ve given me my favorite quote for the month.

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  3. I appreciate your equal handed review,Vanessa G looking at what you thought was the good and the bad in the film . I myself have not seen it as yet but I aim to.
    I am most certainly not expecting intellectual fodder, but I do have one thing to say about your review. I find your sentence “I’d really like it if everyone lightened the fuck up…”to be an often ill used turn of phrase that is often used to discredit arguments of real concern and discourse. I have heard it plenty from people who do not wish to honestly discuss racism, sexism,white privilege,homophobia misogynist and misanthropic behaviour.
    It is cheap and implies condescension, as if you know better than any one who may not agree with you.
    In short using that hackneyed expression just killed your argument/review for me.

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    • Fair enough.

      Taking my turn of phrase personally as it relates to your previous encounters is, of course, your choice.

      The aforementioned “isms” exist, therefore the manifest in various forms of art. If they didn’t, I’d suspect a conspiracy of censorship. You know, Stepford shit. I think misogyny would be the gripe with this film, and I have no qualms discussing it … honestly. But, I am capable of doing that, and still enjoying the movie.

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      • I am sure that you are more than capable to discuss any and most topics Vanessa and from yours and E’s previous posts I can more than see that, but that is not what I was saying at all.
        Nor was I implying that you could not do so and enjoy the film.
        What I am saying and now asking why use that phrase? Was it just a way of making your review sound hard core cool?
        That can be said in other ways without the hackneyed condescension.
        I LOVE this site and you and E. are a wonderful and fun voice in a field of mostly male voices, and like I said I do appreciate your equal handed review of the film ( it is the first one that I have read thus far) but I am just a tad sad that you seemed to stoop to using that condescending turn of phrase. It was stellar for me up until that point.
        Also you do not have to say that my taking your turn of phrase personally is my choice. That in itself is totally obvious and a tad trite.
        Other than that love you and E to bits and keep on keeping on!
        Pax
        Heburn

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    • It is a shame that the scene was edited down until it looked like Browning’s character was not in charge of her own pleasure and sexuality.
      But I guess that you cannot show women enjoying themselves sexually. Co-opted and cajoled but no joy for the women or else then they would look oversexed and hysterical.
      I am glad that the director opted out of it completely.
      I by no means think that this film is going to be the foundation of the next wave of feminism, but I will take it for what it seems to be from the ads and some of the reviews that I have read, a live action video game.

      On another note I have no idea how they rate films for it never seems to make sense to me at all. I remember that I was greatly vexed by the fact that as I watched “Kick-Ass” , a row of eight boys no older than ten years old were watching and laughing at inappropriate times at the film.
      The violence of that film was way harsh for that age group to be allowed, but that is okay as long as no women are having a good time sexual you can kill and bleed victims with impunity.

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      • I know Kick-Ass was rated “R,” as it should have been. As for the kiddos in the theatre (it was in a theatre, I assume), that is too young for that movie.

        There is a disproportionate allowance made for extreme violence as opposed to healthy sexuality in MPAA rated films. It’s twisted.

        Sucker Punch is DEFINITELY NOT the next wave of feminism. We just get so few female leads in Hollywood (aside from your standard RomCom), that I think the ladies (myself included) are a tad protective with Sucker Punch. Although, my fiancé brought up an excellent counter-point that I had not considered previously – It is great that there are female leads, but why do they have to be in a revenge fantasy to be kick-ass … why can’t they just BE in a position of strength and/or power to begin with minus the plot-point of being assaulted thus seeking revenge?

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        • Becuase the revenge, psychologially speaking, is still part of the overall rape fantasy. Not only has the person been raped, but now their story revolves around the rapist as a reason for being. Its the ultimate extension of subjugation.

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          • Even Kill Bill was a revenge movie, for that was the premise. The Bride gets revenge on her former assassins, but first with Buck and that trucker. She is seeking payback for her “unborn” child. Just like in the second Alien film, Ripley’s motivation is the mother instinct to protect Newt. I enjoyed Aliens but what if they had left Newt out of it and just had Ripley fight to get back at the monster? In the third movie they kill Newt off and we find out that Ripley has been ‘raped” by the Alien, she fights back with incarcerated rapists and killers (all male) who show a veiled contempt for her but help her because it helps them, and what does she do? She sacrifices herself. Does John McClean do that, or even Rambo? No, the male action heros fight for their loved ones and their principals not because they were violated in the first place like Ripley, The Bride and now the Sucker Punchgirls ( when I write it like that it sounds like a variety show with the SP girls as the backup dancers, :P :D). They do not fight just for the sake of it or that it is the right thing to do it seems they fight because they have been violated, and they have to fix that. Would they wish to escape that place if they were not being subjected to rape or lobotomies? Would they want to fight back because the food was crap and that they want their freedom?
            This review thanks to you Vanessa has brought to light a deeper conversation that should be had! Thanks for that! :)
            Oh and great explanation Peter Lang. :)

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          • Hep, we horror genre fans tend to disregard anything released past Aliens. There’s your ultimate woman-in-power movie. Both the antagonist and “final boss” are both females. She wasn’t raped or violated, but she was a survivor. That could have just as easily been a male in that role, and I think that’s what I’m looking for here. The character that’s not defined, limited, or directed by gender roles.

            Kill bill was just a sick, twisted fantasy dreamed up by a one-hit wonder of a director who thinks quite a bit more of himself than he probably should. Bring up Pulp Fiction? I say watch Reservoir Dogs and you’ll see Rodriguez was the real talent in that team.

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          • Yes in Aliens Ripley fought the monster which was also female but she was doing it to protect a child, as was the monster was trying to protect her offspring. Now being a mother/mother figure is and can be a good thing but that seems to be the crux of what females fight for, children, men usually fight for their pride first before their kids (if the hero has any and often he does not.)
            How many female action heros are fighting for their own pride and freedom without the factor or fear of rape,or their children being harmed?
            In closing I have to say that I LOVE Ripley myself, but I do and have wondered about the hero’s motivation to fight back.

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          • good point, but survival is a worthy goal. Characters that fight for pride, Rocky for example, make a good story, but wear quickly. And in the past, even recent past, male and female roles carried very different responsibilities, consequences for actions, and even fears. For the working man, loss of honor, freedom, or the ability to support his family (not necessarily for the protection of the kids either) were important. For females, violence at home, social austracism, and harm to children and husband were important (the army wife waiting for word of her husband, for example).

            There were exceptions, and they made for some of the most beloved movies of the 20th century. Scarlett from Gone with the Wind fought for many of the same things as male characters in movies from that era. The heroes of the Wizard of Oz put their own fears and perceived shortcomings aside to protect a young girl.

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        • In Toronto, the age rating was AC14, and when I made a complaint to the manager of the theatre about the 10 year old boys he said as long as an adult buys the kids the tickets they cannot do anything, and that the film company did not want the movie rated R because they would not get as much box office.
          This is sick and disappointing that parents/adults would let their kids go see that film and that all the movie rating people and studios carry about is box office cash. Who cares what is on the screen as long as it is not women enjoying sex or being in control of their power. But they can kill and rape until the cows come home. :P

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  4. V., I think you did a great job of explaining the popcorn, eye-candy appeal of this movie while speaking to the larger issue of violence toward women. I wouldn’t go see “The A-Team” movie and expect a nuanced evaluation of U.S. military operations and protocol. People can see the movie (or not) and take it from there.

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  5. I found it very concerning as the entire thing was a two hour long rape fantasy being foisted on us as “empowerment.” Hell, we even get the line “Its almost like she wanted it” at the end of one of the symbolic rapes. There was nothing empowering about the treatment of any of the characters, from the way they are dressed to the situation they are in or even most of their names. “Baby Doll”, “Sweat Pea”, “Blondie”? I am surprised there was a “Rocket” and “Amber” character. Did Zack Snyder run out of imagination before he could come up with the names “Toots” and “SugarTits?”

    Trust me. I *love* cheesecake as much as the next guy, and I think that we really do need more examples of strong women that completely own and celebrate their individual sexuality in ways that feel appropriate to *them* and not necessarily to the society they find themselves within. But this wasnt it.

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    • Nicely and astutely put Peter Lang. :)
      There does seem a huge gap between the female empowerment idea that is proffered, and the images, names, rape fantasies that appear to be the driving force of the film.
      I wonder how this film would have been taken if it was written and directed by say Katherine Bigalow, or Karyn Kusama?

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  6. I’m in the minority that liked “Watchmen,” probably because I think the comic is ridiculously overrated. I want to see this, and planned to, but from here through May is a fuckjam of tests at school. Good Friday may work for this jew, though.

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      • I’m there with the two of you. I was impressed. Granted I read the graphic novel back in college more than a few years ago so my memory of the story is limited at best, but I enjoyed the movie. I’ve seen better books butchered far worse in their film incarnations with less fanfare than this one.

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        • Yeah, like “A Prayer for Owen Meany” fantastic novel, but pure stool as a film.
          Even John Irving does not associate with what they did to his story.

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          • or almost all of Stephen King’s novels.

            ….okay, so maybe not a literary genius, but I love the guy. And he lives right up the road, so points for being a local.

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  7. THANK YOU, for mentioning the MPAA and STUDIO intervention! I haven’t seen it yet, but aside from the feminist dividing line, (some for, some vehemently against, even without seeing it,) and the narrative quality, there’s not only the story onscreen, but the behind-the-scenes drama, that absolutely drives me up a wall. Thank you for not letting it go.

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  8. have you seen this film is not yet rated? Sad another movie with female enjoying sex is not allowed but raping a women is fine.

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    • Yes, I have seen “This Film Is Not Yet Rated.” The MPAA’s rating system is sketchy at best, and I think Hollywood would be well-served if they were subject to transparency.

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  9. I put a lot of thought into the above post, and I wanted to thank everyone for taking the time and chiming in with some smart and though-provoking comments.

    I came across two reviews which offer what I thought were interesting counter-points to my review and the above comments.

    Cheers!

    Uncovering the Method Behind Zack Snyder’s Madness by Adam Quigley

    AND

    On Zack Snyder’s ‘Sucker Punch’: Why Ass-Kicking and Empowering Aren’t Always the Same Thing by Angie Han

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    • Thanks ever so much for those two diverse but well written points of view reviews Vanessa. :)
      They both illustrated the pros and cons of this film, and I can see the discussion and the dissection of Sucker Punch being added as a part of a Women’s Studies course in the near future.
      This has been a great and insightful post! :)
      Another reason for me to love your blog!
      Thanks V and E! :D

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  10. “I think that we really do need more examples of strong women that completely own and celebrate their individual sexuality in ways that feel appropriate to *them* and not necessarily to the society they find themselves within. But this wasnt it.”–I beleive the movie you are looking for, with these examples of celebration, is Bound.

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  11. I enjoyed the movie but was a little disappointed in the substance of the story. It reminded me more of an outline than a detailed movie. The action scenes were wonderful and the revised Airplane & Beatles songs were perfect for those scenes. What I will struggle with the most is to whomt to recommend this.

    I also liked Watchmen the Movie. As to the comic being over rated remember when this was written. There was not much out there that addressed some of the issues Alan/Dave brought up.

    This has become one of my favorite sites that I frequent. Keep up the good work ladies.

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  12. Now months later I have now seen the film and I have to say that your review and views of the film V were and are spot on.
    I liked it but found it a tad disjointed because of where the real and the dream worlds left off and began.
    Yes the women’s outfits were fetish gear but what I was happy about was that their bodies were not filmed in a sexualized way, I found that they wore what they wore and there were no close up pans of T and A.
    I liked the film for what it was just a bit of fun.

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