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At The Movies: Sucker Punch

2011 April 6

Dragons. Swords. Guns. Retro gothic steampunk stylings. An all-women ensemble cast with kewl powerz. Imaginary fantasy worlds constructed using the tormented psyche of an innocent plunged into an asylum (a la American McGee’s Alice). Huge explosions. Epic fight scenes. A kick-ass rocktastic soundtrack. Did I mention dragons? I love dragons.

Photo: the cast for Sucker Punch Ensemble. A group of mostly white young women dressed in

Boom. Boom. Boom.

There was literally nothing from the trailer for Sucker Punch that I didn’t squee with joy over and clap my hands like a small child about. I was so excited. It was as if someone had written down a big list of “things Sarah likes” and then made a film of it. It even had reams of clockwork, zombie nazis mowed down by women with Really Big Guns. Get in.

I bought a vast tub of popcorn and settled down gleefully to absorb the aural extravaganza of a super-cooltasm created Just For Me.

Except…

…I hated it.

…Really hated it.

Sucker Punch is like a blind date who is perfect on paper but in the flesh there’s just no spark. Worse, they are annoying, their opinions and anecdotes are unfunny, meandering nonsense and they lied about how tall they were (I’m 5’9″, this matters). You spend the whole, pitiful date alternately bored and clockwatching or actively fighting down the urge to laugh out loud in mild hysterics at the awfulness of the situation.

The plot is a pile of garbage, which given Zack Snyder directed (300, anyone?) I was sort of expecting. But I at least wanted to be entertained. This was never going to be high art, but it was beyond mindless. I’m summarising for the sake of summarising because the plot is basically irrelevant, consisting of pointless scenes in which the unfortunate actors mug badly scripted dialogue whilst sobbing through mascara until the next fight happens.

So, “plot”.

There’s this girl called Baby Doll (don’t ask) who is put into an asylum due to Evil Male Relative Action (don’t ask). She uses her Sexy Magic Hypno Dance (don’t ask) to summon up a Mystical Goffick World in which other scantily clad women – who may or may not be aspects of either her OR of another girl called Sweet Pea (don’t ask) – Fight Their Demons (like, totally deep, meaningful metaphor, whoa) and Collect Quest Items under the tutelage of Replacement Male Figure (don’t ask). Eventually after many tears, violence, death and bullets, one of them escapes. I think.

TL;DR: Some Kinda OK Fight Scenes Happen. Women Cry Lots. The End.

Like the crap date, the film reeked of desperately wanting to be clever, ironic, sexy and cool. It was none of those things. It wasn’t even a good, silly action film. And I like good, silly action films. The fight scenes were very fast and quite short so you didn’t get any sense of excitement or drama from the battles: they focused on the look of the costumes and scenery rather than the actual fighting.

The whole thing was tedious in a watching-someone-else-play-a-computer-game way. You watched, but didn’t really engage. There was no tension of any sort, at any point. I had no feelings nor empathy for any of the supposed “characters”. Even in the brief moments when I was vaguely aware of what was going on, or why, I just didn’t care. The exception was one tiny scene between the Doctor/Madam and the Pimp/Asylum Owner. Needless to say, this minor moment only served to remind me of what I wanted the film to be like.

I exited the cinema feeling horribly disappointed (to the point of anger), let down, and deeply confused. You see, not only did the film contain all of the things that I liked and I still hated it – but half of the people I was with really enjoyed it. The other half, like me, hated it. There were arguments on the tube ride home. Maybe it’s a Marmite thing.

I hate Marmite.

Marmite

It's a close run thing, but I would probably rather eat all this than watch that film again

Like a trauma victim (and speaking of which, this film contains pretty much every abuse trigger in existence handled with the tact and sensitivity of a brick in a sock), I am now trying to post-rationalise the film into being less awful.

The effort of trying to think of any way in which the film is “acceptable” or “average” or even merely “an alright way to pass the time if you are really bored” is beyond me. I’m too angry.

My poor, betrayed brain mourns the loss of the film it wanted to see. The film that was screaming quietly inside, trying to get out.

Like me in the cinema.

Writing this post has actually been somewhat cathartic and therapeutic, so thank you for being there for me during this terrible moment in my life. And for understanding. It’s appreciated. I’m actually starting to feel a little better for having relieved myself of this weight and have begun, a little, to think of the positive sides. Like that I don’t need to see it again. And that really it was just a big, long, not-very-good trailer for the computer game. Which I am looking forward to. The acting will probably be better.

Oh yeah, and like a really unironic sucker punch (geddit?) I’ve just realised that this film totally passes Bechdel. Yeah. Woo. Way to perfectly prove that just because there’s more than one female character and that they manage to talk to each other doesn’t mean it’s any bloody good. Or even particularly feminist. Which this film isn’t, by the way.

Fortunately, it is such utter drivel that it won’t register as meaningfully anti-feminist because nothing it contains is meaningful or worth registering.

YOU SHOULD SEE THIS FILM BECAUSE:

  • You like Marmite.
  • Um… Dragons? For a few minutes, anyway.
  • … by reading this review you accept that I have warned you to the best of my ability, and do not blame me for wasting your time and money.

YOU SHOULD NOT SEE THIS FILM BECAUSE:

  • You will be sad over all the things it could have been.
  • You are tired of explaining to fellow cinema-goers that women dressed in their sexy pants fighting evil doers is not “empowering”.
  • You will then have to watch Warlock: The Armageddon, which I am reliably informed is actually the worst fantasy film ever made, in order to be able to rank Sucker Punch against this grim standard.
  • If we give that man any more money, he might make another just like it.
18 Responses leave one →
  1. April 6, 2011

    Oh dear. Well, if it’s any consolation, I enjoyed this post. And I won’t be seeing the movie. Might steal “SARAH SMASH”, too.

  2. Rob permalink
    April 6, 2011

    Didn’t Snyder actually say at one point that he wanted this film to be “the game you want to play but it hasn’t been made”? I guess he overlooked the part where watching a videogame you’re not playing is often really, really tedious. Also in this case it’s a really bad video game that you don’t actually want to play, even a little bit.

    I want to say that the best part of the film is that it ends, but even that is tainted, because after it ends one has to go through life as a person who has seen Sucker Punch.

  3. Russell permalink
    April 6, 2011

    “If we give that man any more money, he might make another just like it.”

    It’s worse than that. He’s making a Superman movie.

  4. April 6, 2011

    I’ll admit I’ve never seen Warlock: The Armageddon, but I will always beg to differ on the subject of worst movie.

    I’ve seen Birdemic: Shock and Terror.

  5. April 6, 2011

    I’m loving many great -and full of anger- reviews about this film, so there is no way I’m going to the cinema to see this film. But I am becoming super curious to see it and confirm the shit this world public is exposed to.. Thanks!
    Oh, and fortunately, I don’t know what marmite is.

  6. Pet Jeffery permalink
    April 6, 2011

    I love Marmite… but, even so, this sounds like a film to wait until it appears on television… and then maybe switch off after five minutes.

    Unless you really think it will appeal to Marmite lovers.

  7. Markgraf permalink
    April 6, 2011

    I cannot believe you beat me to this! I’m seeing it on Friday!

    • Miranda permalink*
      April 6, 2011

      I think we’d all definitely very much still welcome something from you on it, a la the Scott Pilgrim doublepost!

      Even if you end up agreeing, post anyway. Or post your visual response!

  8. April 6, 2011

    Oh. I was really looking forward to this one because there had been (in my insular little world) so little information about the actual, you know, plot. And maybe the reason is because there is so little , you know, plot. When I finally did hear that it was bonkers girls being abused in an asylum, fighting demons in their imaginations, I thought ‘But doesn’t that kinda leave them stuck in the asylum being abused?”. Yes, in their heads they’re lycra and leather clad warrior women, but in my head I’m Indiana Jones on a motorbike, writing sci-fi and smoking a pipe. Doesn’t make it so.
    The non-feminism is hardly a shocker though. This seems to me to be the biggest screenwriting challenge of the age – write a film that’s got empowered female characters that aren’t simply Schwartzenegger with boobs, that doesn’t leave male viewers cold, that gets past the studio readers….Anyone out there got any ideas?

  9. April 7, 2011

    I was in a real quandry about this – love action heroines, several in one stylish film, how could it lose? I even kind of liked the 300. But your review has confirmed my worst fears and I think its best if I just stay away because I will just get angry. By the way, I will now definitely become a regular visitor to your site!

    Damien, my husband tells me Resident Evil: Afterlife might fit your brief http://whatwritesatmidnight.blogspot.com/2011/03/why-i-loved-resident-evil-afterlife.html
    and Winter’s Bone, while not an action film, and didn’t exactly make it past the studio script readers, shows just what women should be doing in the movies.

  10. Custard permalink
    April 7, 2011

    The Vegemite song will make it better:

  11. Vee permalink
    April 7, 2011

    In a perverse and selfish way, I’m glad to hear that the plot in minimal to non-existant, as every time I’ve seen the trailer I’ve been left reeling for a few seconds before spluttering out “But… but what is it about?!

  12. April 7, 2011

    What a truly fabulous review! That was a great read – although it’s not going to stop me seeing the film. I was sniggering throughout but the “trying to rationslise it to be less awful” bit got me. Great stuff :D

  13. Luke permalink
    April 8, 2011

    This review is about as accurate as it gets. Zack has basically just seen inception, thought to himself “wow, I really like confusing concepts. Im now going to go and shit all over myself and roll around in it until Im so high I can write something that makes no sense”. Sorry for the graphic imagery but this guy cannot be called a film maker as he relies on CGI saving his ass for every little piece of shit he makes. Now that my rant is out of the way ……. here is how I really think he stole his themes.

    He blatantly has watched/looked at a load of anime, jotted down some of the images he liked and took them to his art designer and said “yeh, I like little girls in their school uniforms and oooh yeh I really like samurai swords….oh and she should have a gun….yeh! now mix that with the confusing shit I rolled around in earlier and we have ourselves a hit!”

    hang on a minute any one see a complete and blatant rip off devil may cry and almost any other anime heroins?

    Seriously shut this guy down before he actually causes me to kill myself in a cinema. This is the one film that makes me say “actually piracy is a good thing! It stops these idiots making money from the millions upon millions shoved into their arses from the last one that everyone went to see (out of curiosity) making them think they did a good job”

    Sorry if this seems like Im ranting but damn this person for making me so angry about an hour being taken away from my life. Take my advice DO NOT SEE THIS FILM!!!!!!!!! side effects may be: anger, boredom, constipation, more anger, a large urge to hit the one person saying”that was awesome”(dont hit them, this is probably the first time they have seen a girl in sexy underwear.)

  14. Lola permalink
    April 10, 2011

    Just to reassure everyone, every single review I’ve read/seen has said this movie is awful. Absolute drivel, that’s in film magazines not feminist ones – it’s bad on a misogynst level and on a general movie level it is spectaculaly awful.

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