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Sucker Punch Early Reviews: Feminists, Choose Your Weapons

by Sophia Savage
March 24, 2011 4:40 AM
11 Comments
  • |
Thompson on Hollywood


Judging from early reviews (below), if Warner Bros. has any hopes of luring a female audience to Sucker Punch, they may be in trouble. It looks like plenty of red-blooded American males will soak up the latest hyper-stylized entry from writer-director Zack Snyder (300, The Watchmen) which critics are variously describing as "spastic," "humorless" and "psychosexual." TOH will weigh in tomorrow. (Check out the trailer below.) The film stars Emily Browning, Abbie Cornish, Jenna Malone, Vanessa Hudgens, Jamie Chung, and Carla Gugino.

Jake Coyle, AP:

"Zack Snyder's Sucker Punch feels like one…The question naturally arises: Just what kind of gyrations is Babydoll doing to effect such awe and conjure such imaginary garbage? Is it like Beyonce's 'Single Ladies' dance? Because that was pretty powerful…No, instead, it's merely a lazy technique for Snyder to reduce his already exceptionally thin story to its lowest plane. Why shoot for meaningfulness or subtlety when a narrative can — with the lamest of ploys — simply be turned into a bloody video game level?…One feels for the talented actors swept into such hokum…This is the filmmaker who has been entrusted with the next Superman movie?"


Nick Schager, Slant Magazine:

"Barely legal hotties in stripper-schoolgirl outfits, colossal samurai statues wielding chain guns, Nazi zombies, Orcs, steampunk mech suits, assault rifles, WW II trench warfare, mobsters, rapists, and dragons are merely some of the myriad fanboy fetishes Snyder indulges throughout his latest, which claims too many superior ancestors to actually bother itemizing. The 300 and Watchmen auteur's distinctive style remains the same,…ultra-violence with more than a hint of psychosexual sadism…It's a random mishmash of juvenile ideas without a single lucid thread to hold them together, except for both the incessant CG bombast ripped off from video games and the works of Peter Jackson, the Wachowskis, and Quentin Tarantino,…All bloodless, weightless, inconsequential sound and fury, these dynamically composed but masturbatory centerpieces are cast as the reveries Baby Doll experiences while she performs dance numbers…As a tale about tough chicks revolting against uniformly misogynistic guys, Sucker Punch posits these hypnotic routines, which we never see, as examples of female sexuality's defiant power. Yet Snyder's conception of his heroines—who are asked to do little more than pout, strut, glare, and look fierce—is pure nonsense."

Roger Moore, Orlando Sentinel:

"Snyder rounded up five of the most buxom young actresses in the biz, women who give five of the flattest performances ever in a humorless quest fantasy about Pussycat Doll inmates trying to escape from an insane asylum. I’d quote a witty line or two, if the script (co-written by Snyder) had any. I’d mention the emotional peaks if the movie managed one…The only Sucker Punch here is to your wallet if pay non-matinee prices for this. Just be grateful it wasn’t in 3D."

Ben Kendrick, ScreenRant:

"Unfortunately, despite a few visually striking action sequences, Sucker Punch is a soulless film which comes across as little more than an excuse for Snyder to showcase a series of striking fantasy worlds in rapid succession…Despite the filmmaker’s attempt at an overarching story of self-empowerment, as well as the imaginative dream-worlds, Sucker Punch is one of the most formulaic films to hit the screen in recent memory…even in the closing moments of Sucker Punch, it’s unclear whether anyone has actually been empowered."

Emanuel Levy:

"The movie’s incoherent, both ideologically and thematically. For all of his considerable talent for constructing imposing or startling imagery, Snyder appears dangerously uncertain what to make of the cumulative power and radical possibilities the form is capable of. The movie is meant to invoke a dream state, but the narrative line is too cluttered and spastic to locate the necessary rhythm and shape…Worst of all, Snyder explicitly turns the viewer into sexual voyeurs, hypnotically leering at his cast of young actresses. The women, to be sure, are astonishingly beautiful, but they’re also ornate and never fully individuated to emotionally connect the material to the larger architecture of the story…Given how fully Sucker Punch is steeped in the meaning and history of Hollywood moviemaking, it rings as particularly depressing how that history is debased and made small…Cornish is the only actress who survives with any real personality intact."

Marshall Fine:

"A sensibility that blends comic books and video games - then invests it with an operatic grandeur and a seriousness that gives it surprising emotional weight."

11 Comments

  • Mukkinese | November 27, 2011 12:36 PMReply

    You really have to laugh at some of the critics of this film. It's fine to say, you don't like/understand/agree with what a director has done, but most of the criticisms shown here are as thoughtless and self-masturbatory as they accuse the film of being. A film that makes the audience think? Outrageous, especially if it has no depth too(?). A little thought might have sorted out the plot in their heads, but why think about that when you have an easy target for "right-on" posturing?

    Plot;The entire film takes place in Sweetpea's mind, all the characters are aspects of her.

    Girl goes mad, Sweetpea -not Babydoll, and is committed to an asylum. When we see that asylum it is through her mentally ill interpretation of it. In therapy she relives the trauma that caused her insanity; the opening sequence with Babydoll taking her role. We see Sweetpea re-living this on the asylum stage. This first "session" also brought her hope of recovery; in the form Babydoll's strength, her "angel". The continuing therapy threatened to take Babydoll from her; in the form of a lobotomy. She avoided this by moving to another "deeper" reality; the brothel. This reality can be seen as representing the sexual abuse of the father-figure. Babydoll's dances represent more therapy sessions; Dr. Gorsky plays her tape machine during the asylum therapy sessions and Madame Gorsky does so during Babydoll's dances, which we can note are all voluntary. The fight sequences merely show her literally "fighting her demons". Along the way, Sweetpea has to give up the illusion that her sister is still alive and also the other aspects of herself. As Babydoll tells her; "you have to live for us all now". This includes sacrificing Babydoll herself. The bus ride has "Still a long way to go" along the road to recovery. A point of interest; The bus is going to Fort Wayne, a city named for General "mad" Anthony Wayne and also known as "The city that saved itself".

    The accusation of misogyny is also misplaced, in my opinion. Snyder treats Babydoll in a misogynistic fashion, but steadfastly avoids doing so with all the other women throughout the film. This is clearly deliberate and to make a point. Why place the tiniest woman in the cast in that costume and give her the only lingering, sexually exploitative close up in the whole film? The close up I refer to is the shot of her thighs as she recovers her sword. Later in the film another version of that costume is used, when she is "dressed" for the high-roller. It is the same, but cleaner and sparkly. She looks like a piece of candy offered for consumption. surely by making this treatment an anomaly Snyder is asking us to think about why he does this? I think it is a trap fro the male viewer. Emily Browning 23 at the time of shooting, is undeniably an attractive young woman, but dressed as an anime school-girl, complete with blonde bangs, she is a brunette, Snyder is saying "If you find this tiny woman dressed in a "sexy" school-girl costume and made to look like a little girl, what is the difference between you and the creepy step-father or Blue?

    Sorry for the long, and late, post.

  • DavidC | March 29, 2011 10:32 AMReply

    A genuinely interesting take. Now I may actually have to see it.
    http://cinerati.blogspot.com/2011/03/sucker-punch-just-what-is-going-on-here.html

  • Tarasturn | March 29, 2011 9:02 AMReply

    K...see..I saw this and the only thing I want to do now, is crawl into Snyder's mind and search it. Its screwed up, flawed and generally whack. But his creativity and his whacked up brain are fascinating to me. There is so much here, sucks that the MPAA got their hands on it and messed with it. I walked out not exactly knowing what I saw, but was glad I didn't see more hollywood fluff.

    I thought the performances were fine. The girls weren't given a lot to work with character wise (another downfall) but again, it wasn't about that really, it was more about action and more action. IDK...folks are too hard on this. Can we not enjoy some creativity without purpose from hollywood anymore? Do we have to block everybody in and expect them to follow the same cord?

  • DavidC | March 27, 2011 11:24 AMReply

    Could be argued that the movie would least have the courage of of its soft-core cosplay ambitions if it had been rated R.

    There's still one critic who occasionally takes chances:

    "...["Sucker Punch"] is not convincingly feminine. (Imagine a boy playing with dolls as if they were tin soldiers.) ... It’s bloody but without menstrual awareness; just as its musical pretext neglects to express genuine feminine trauma or yearning. The girls are like Charlie’s Angels—featuring Scott Glenn as a guardian—doing a 'Kill Bill' remake. Fatally, 'Sucker Punch' has no divas. ... Despite their little-girl-wearing-Mommy’s-make-up stylization, these actresses aren’t fierce like the icons in '300.' This neuters Snyder’s video-game logic into a kid’s game."

  • Anne Thompson | March 27, 2011 9:32 AMReply

    I agree. Doris Lessing wrote that critics exist to remind everyone of what the current conventional thinking is. Any artist working outside the box will offend them. Whatever Sucker Punch's weaknesses, Snyder is a legitimate filmmaker trying to express original ideas. Should he be playing in the big studio playpen on such a budget scale, though? That is the question.

  • DavidC | March 27, 2011 7:54 AMReply

    The reviews are so sneeringly negative, I'm actually starting to feel sorry for Zach Synder, of all people. It's a truly terrifying spectacle, an epic-scale, $100 million version of the public humiliation all artists have to be willing to risk in order to dredge something up and offer it to the public. The critics function as the enforcers/playground bullies in this after-school pile-on; exorcising their own free-floating embarrassment - the timidity that led them to play it safe as critics rather than take chances as creators. Wouldn't blame any budding filmmaker who read these notices for deciding to change careers on the spot. I blush for my former profession.

  • Brian | March 25, 2011 3:10 AMReply

    Any chance Warners will have second thoughts about turning over the new Superman reboot to Snyder?

  • Brian | March 25, 2011 2:49 AMReply

    Sergio: Better yet, try SO CLOSE (2002), a Hong Kong action film starring Zhang Ziyi, Vicki Zhao Wei and Karen Mok, directed by Corey Yuen. One of the best "girls 'n' guns" thrillers I've ever seen.

  • Sergio | March 25, 2011 1:07 AMReply

    Am I guy and I have NO interest is seeing some jailbait movie like this. hey Scott who want to see a movie about real women and gun then go wtach Coffy or Foxy Brown

  • Brian | March 24, 2011 6:40 AMReply

    Scott, I was going to post a snarky response, but I decided to read your review first and found it very interesting. So no snark. Your review made me think of Sam Fuller's SHOCK CORRIDOR (1963) and I can only wish Snyder had used the structure Fuller employed in that film to explore various pathologies at large in our culture at the time. I also thought about actress Frances Farmer, an outspoken political activist, and her treatment in a mental institution. A serious film about women, sexual abuse, and mental institutions, even with fantasy touches like Snyder employs, could be very useful indeed. But it sounds like Snyder let the fantasies and fetishizing overtake him if, in fact, he had any intentions about a serious treatment of the theme in the first place. There's a serious film waiting to be made on this subject.

  • Scott Mendelson | March 24, 2011 5:51 AMReply

    The film is actually about the casual acceptance of sexism and how we view women onscreen in genre fare. It's a lot more complicated than most are willing to acknowledge. http://scottalanmendelson.blogspot.com/2011/03/review-sucker-punch-2011.html

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