Going To Bat For Sucker Punch

The movie “Sucker Punch” is a pop culture talisman that, by it’s very nature, sends viewers on a  personal rather than universal trip.  It’s a mash up .. chaotic by design.  In choosing to make a movie packed with influences ranging from video games to anime, to steam punk, to Kurosawa ..  director Zack Snyder wisely opted out of the pitfalls of a nerdcore focus group, and went ahead and made his own movie. Perhaps that’s why a hefty slice of the audience that “Sucker Punch” seeks to court is in a full blown, dyspeptic snit over the final results.

I loved it.  Yeah, you heard me, I loved it.  Not in the “that was the greatest movie I’ve ever seen” way .. “Sucker Punch” is far from that .. I loved it in the “thank you for sticking to your guns” way.  In “300” and “Watchmen” Snyder was working from some of the holy scrolls of geekdom.  He delivered solid interpretations of those works, but I was curious about what would happen when he stopped working with another writer’s narrative net.  Put me down as impressed.

So let’s deal with the less enthralled for a bit.  “Sucker Punch” leaves itself wide open for wholesale abuse .. I gotta believe that’s where the title comes from.  The story focuses on Babydoll, a young woman sent to mental institution by her evil, and murderous step father.  Inside a facility that’s equal parts “One Flew Over The Cuckoos Nest” and “Arkham Asylum” from the Batman comics, Baby Doll takes us on a tour of her tortured inner-psyche through amazing video game inspired action sequences. That her path to empowerment also leads us through a minefield of sex, violence, and enough politically incorrect behavior to spawn its own cable channel .. only raises the stakes for Snyder and the audience as well.

Is it okay to like a movie with young women in skimpy or provocative costumes?

Is it okay to like a movie that glamorizes the use of weapons of violence?

Is it okay to like a movie that recklessly mixes genres, time periods, fashion, music, architecture, and culture?

Is it okay to like a movie that presents gross stereotypes of both men and women?

Is it okay to like a movie that clumsily tries to tell a story of heroic self-reliance, while wading hip deep into a morass of howling cliche?

Is it possible for movie to be joyless and uplifting at the same time?

These are the kind of questions that “Sucker Punch” raises.  It makes me extra dubious of critics who have dismissed it out of hand .. there is just too much to talk about here.

The performances by the cast are also worth a healthy discussion.  Emily Browning is a pouting, haunted, angel of death as Babydoll. Yeah, she’s the one in the sailor girl outfit .. but she’s carrying the weight of the world on her shoulders. She has all the lethal moves of the fiercest ninja warrior .. a skill set driven by purpose and rage.  There is no joy here, just a tortured soul .. and Browning wears her broken heart on her tattered sleeve.

Jena Malone is the other stand out in the cast as Rocket.  Big heart, uncrushable dreams .. as real as anyone could be in this unreal world.  Abbie Cornish, does well as Sweetpea, the soulful, but practical older sister of the girls trapped in the asylum.

Of course handing out any compliments to the actresses puts you back on the hot seat.  The characters are rather skimpy .. as are their costumes .. so what’s really drawing you in?

Sorry, but it’s everything.  You’ll just have to deal.

I guess my message to the fanboys and girls out there is “stop hating on this movie because YOU didn’t get to make it.”  Get over the fact that Snyder got to run wild in YOUR pop culture playground. Look beyond the “Sucker Punch” in your head, and give credit to the one that made it to screen.

I’m feeling very uncool loving this movie .. and I’m really okay with that.


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