Sucker Punch

starring Emily Browning, Abbie Cornish, Jena Malone, and Carla Gugino
written by Zack Snyder and Steve Shibuya & directed by Zack Snyder
Rated PG-13 for thematic material involving sexuality, violence and combat sequences, and for language.

After Baby Doll (Browning) is committed to an insane asylum by her evil stepfather, she retreats into an adrenaline-fueled fantasy world with fellow inmates Sweet Pea (Cornish), Rocket (Malone), Blondie (Vanessa Hudgens), and Amber (Jamie Chung). The five must work together to retrieve the five items that they will need to stage an escape before Baby is lobotomized in five days time.

Interestingly enough, this is Zack Snyder’s first screenwriting credit since he co-wrote 300. It can be no coincidence, then, that I haven’t seen a movie as repulsively exploitative, self-defeating, and relentlessly misogynistic as Sucker Punch since I squirmed my way through 300 five years ago. Despite the fact that Snyder spends nearly two hours literally nuking the screen with the most ridiculously cool things he can think of, his overt hatred of women taints every frame with a nauseous aftertaste.

There can be no denying Snyder’s immense talent as a filmmaker, so I won’t even try to pretend he isn’t good at his job. This is a man with an incredibly fine level of artistic control. He has a superb grasp of the elements of cinema at his disposal, and a visual aesthetic that is as magnificent as it is distinctly his own. But that is no excuse for the outrages that are on display here from the very first minute of the movie. Sucker Punch is what happens when a talented director has an eye for beauty and an ugly imagination. The only real question is how, despite his skill, Snyder got so many talented actresses to play out his warped fantasies for the camera.

The bulk of this film revolves around stylized depictions of sexual violence perpetrated against helpless women by grotesque lechers, and sexualized violence perpetrated by women doing battle in skimpy fetish costumes. The degree to which the camera lingers lovingly on both is downright disturbing for anyone who happens to be paying attention. It’s all undeniably gorgeous to look at, but what is it that we’re looking at, exactly? The audience is cordially invited to gorge themselves on a lush visual feast of repugnant sleaze that, most outrageously of all, somehow milked a mere PG-13 rating out of the obviously broken MPAA.

Meanwhile, the storytelling is about as brain-dead as anything I’ve seen. While, again, every action set-piece is absurdly awesome in a video game/music video sort of way, nothing of substance strings them all together and they lack both weight and internal consistency. Snyder is obviously hoping that we won’t notice how stupid it all is amidst the fireworks of his masturbatory orgasm of cinematic self-indulgence. So pervasive is this phenomenon that it is impossible to even single out a particular sequence for ridicule. Consider, though, the manner in which Snyder clumsily strings his ideas together to maximize the combination of exploitation and titillation:

Ostensibly the story is about Baby Doll escaping from the insane asylum. Only it isn’t interesting enough (or sexy enough) to just have her be in an asylum, so almost immediately her imagination transports her to some sort of underground club where she and the other inmates are sexual slaves, forced to perform for wealthy and powerful clients in outfits that are much more pleasing to the male gaze than asylum-wear. Except, even that isn’t interesting enough, so Baby Doll immediately discovers that she has the ability to hypnotically seduce anyone who watches her dance as she fades into a trance in which she does battle as a sexy schoolgirl against orcs, dragons, steam-powered Nazi zombies, giant robot samurai, and so on ad nauseum. That’s just a taste, though. It’s really far more incoherent than I am capable of expressing.

Probably the worst thing about Sucker Punch is not that it exists, but that so many people aren’t going to recognize what it truly is. They’ll confuse the scenes of infantilized, fetishized young women wielding guns and swords as symbolic of female empowerment, mistake the muddled confusion between reality and fantasy for some kind of profound statement about psychological coping mechanisms, and completely miss the significance of the film’s thin pretense that it abhors violence against women while it continually wallows in it. Zack Snyder should be ashamed, but I’ve just seen a pretty strong body of evidence that he hasn’t got any shame, and I expect he’ll be laughing all the way to the bank.

~ by Jared on March 27, 2011.

4 Responses to “Sucker Punch”

  1. Did you feel at the end that you were indeed “unprepared?”


  2. I was definitely unprepared for the burlesque dance number that ran behind the end credits. That was a classy touch, particularly given the movie’s ending. And I was more or less prepared for *some* misogyny, but I wasn’t expecting quite such a lack of coherence in the plot.

    So, yes and no, I guess.


  3. Wow, you abused the dictionary writing this, also I think suggesting Snyder hates women is libel. It’s nice to have different opinions, though your over exaggerated one is a bit much.


  4. I appreciate your stopping by to express your opinion, as well (though I assume you’re being facetious about the libel bit). You’re probably right that I shouldn’t go so far as to suggest that Snyder overtly hates women. That is clearly an unnecessary exaggeration, and it undermines the real point that I was making: Snyder has made an ugly and undeniably misogynistic film.

    What was your opinion (if I may ask)?


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