Sucker Punch was a film I actually went to see with a couple of friends in the cinema a few years ago, and I don't think I had heard much about it prior to seeing it. I left the film feeling a bit ambivalent about it all, and with one friend who adored it and one friend who hated it. Since dissent makes me very uncomfortable, I decided one of them would have to die, but it was very difficult to decide which.
Set in the 1960s, Sucker Punch follows a young woman identified only as Babydoll who is institutionalised by her abusive, widowed stepfather. Taking place in layers of delusion, Babydoll first imagines the institution as a brothel, and further envisions four other fantasy worlds, based on a feudal Japanese monastery, steampunk World War One, an orc-infested fantasy castle, and a high-tech train guarded by robots. Using these fantasies, she must gather items needed to escape from the institution.
If that sounds like a video game, then that's no doubt because there is definitely a seeming of video games about this film. That can be a good thing - as is the case with Wreck-it Ralph - or a bad thing - as is the case with Defiance - but here it isn't really either.
|Even Tetsuya Nomura is better than this.|
My indecision regarding this film can be summed up three or four things. First, the film is gorgeous and striking. Every set piece is artistic and detailed, and often sweepingly epic; the choreography is gorgeous; the music is absolutely sublime, and I highly recommend checking out the soundtrack. A lot of effort was clearly put into making this a very striking, dramatic film, and on an aesthetic level it's very well done.
Secondly, it is a concept with a lot of potential. The idea of someone experiencing drab, real life through colourful delusions and dreams isn't new by any stretch of the imagination, but it's an idea that recurs partly because there are so many interesting things that you can do with it, and the idea of layering the delusions one within another is definitely one that has a lot of potential.
Thirdly, and on the negative side, this film is as breathtakingly pretentious as it is utterly shallow. Under all the glitz of it all, this is in effect a ridiculous action flick in which Zack Snyder has dressed a bunch of women, whose personalities he has barely bothered to establish, in unnecessarily sexualised outfits so that they can beat up more or less generic monsters. And you know what, far be it from me to begrudge anybody a silly, over-the-top action flick, except the film has delusions of being meaningful, and it presses those delusions onto you whenever it can.
|Nice armour, guys.|
Snyder himself has rather cagily posited that the film might be meant as a critique on geek culture's sexualisation of women - more relevant now than it was even when he made the film, given the Gamergate idiots - but the women of his story are anything but empowered, given that their only real agency in the film comes in the form of illusions. If it was meant to be a critique on geek culture's misogyny, then Snyder failed spectacularly, producing what can only be described as the absurd, grotesque holy grail of geeky objectification, a film through which the kind of sweaty neckbeardious men that populate the Gamergate movement can leer at sexualised women engaging in over-the-top battle, while comforting themselves that said women aren't being given any actual agency in their own lives.
Maybe it was Snyder's intention to make a bitterly pessimistic film on the subject, but if it was, then that certainly soared over the heads of his audience.
Fourth amongst my problems is that the film's plot is a little bland. It's essentially a 'collect the magic items' plot, and those are not massively inspired, but they're fine, but Snyder gives us so little time in each individual delusion-world that it comes off as glances at five very different and infinitely more interesting films. I'd watch any of the films set in those worlds, don't get me wrong, but the glimpses we get fail to impress, instead only tantalising.
|Okay, maybe not the brothel world as much as the sci-fi world or the WW1 world.|
So, you see, I'm divided. I was divided at the time, too, but as the years have passed I have found myself drifting more over to the negative side of the scale. Ridiculous action flicks, while fun, are a dime-a-dozen, after all - and I can quite easily scratch my ridiculous action itch with something that doesn't make my eyes want to roll out of my head.
It's clear to me now which of my friends should perish. I am sorry, friend. It - it always had to be this way.
Oh, by the way, check out the soundtrack, guys. Great soundtrack. Love it.