The Big Picture: You Are Wrong About Sucker Punch, Part One

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Two Angels:
It doesn't matter what it tried to do, what messages it was trying to put across... it was still an average film with a poor script with average acting.

So what a work tries to do is irrelevant, and only what it achieved matters, you say. I disagree. At the very least, what falls into the gap between reach and grasp can be examined by later filmmakers trying similar things so they can see where it went wrong. One of the things I've learned about life is that it's generally a good idea to try and learn from other people's mistakes, not just your own.

It may not matter to you, but I think it matters to someone. It matters to me, it matters to Bob, it matters to a lot of people in this thread.

I could dwell about the possible meanings of the movie but it would go well beyond my abilities and the point I'm trying to make. In short there just seems too be much more going on in the movie to warrant this very narrow interpretation. ...

Um, I'm assuming you happened to miss that this is Part One. There's more to come, and Bob's going to expand.

I pretty much agreed with everything in the review, except for the message behind the Asylum reality (if we're moving upwards in steps from the 'dance reality'). What I got from that was not statements of abuse and violation - for god's sake the second level is a brothel we already have that - but a criticism of the view that these sort of films are about 'female empowerment'.

I'm not sure how clearer a metaphor we can get - a bunch of girls imprisoned and abused by an all-male staff placing themselves in fantasies specifically appealing to that particular set of trashy male desires. That's not a criticism of the men, we already have that. That's a poke at all the girls who go 'oh this was a chick flick about yada yada' and buy into the same stereotype simply from the other end.

It's a shame about the acting and shallowness of the plot devices. I did get the feeling that the film was deliberately trying to be a bit like a 'suspiciously stained anime comic' with some shock value thrown in, but it certainly looks like it alienated the vast majority of its audience. It didn't manage to achieve that Tarantino style self-mockery that people would more easily recognise, probably because it was too busy having a laugh.

Storm Dragon:
I liked this movie overall, but my biggest problem with it was the ending.

So One flew over the cuckoo's nest didn't work for you either?

Moonlight Butterfly:
I feel like I 'get' this film mostly because I have been in abusive relationships with men and have used my imagination (and games) as a form of escapism. This film could have been taken from inside my head... I have real life parallels for both the step father and the doctor/brothel owner guy, unfortunately.

You are so right about this Bob, don't let anyone tell you otherwise.

This film made me cry, I'm not sure how many people it had that effect on.

So you fantasize about dressing up like a whore and having a stripper name? I feel bad for ya.


Moonlight Butterfly:
I feel like I 'get' this film mostly because I have been in abusive relationships with men and have used my imagination (and games) as a form of escapism. This film could have been taken from inside my head... I have real life parallels for both the step father and the doctor/brothel owner guy, unfortunately.

You are so right about this Bob, don't let anyone tell you otherwise.

This film made me cry, I'm not sure how many people it had that effect on.

So you fantasize about dressing up like a whore and having a stripper name? I feel bad for ya.

Say, are you familiar with the concept of "decent human beings"? It's like this exquisite club, for ppl who don't hear a story of abuse and triggering and then go on to belittle the victim for their coping mechanisms. Another prerequisite would be not to use gendered slurs, and not to shame women about "whoriness". You will probably never make it into the club, but hey, at least now you know it's out there.

@Moonlight Butterfly
It sucks that you went trough that. I totally hear you on escapism and empowering fantasies.

But I think moviebob is actually right, and the movie was leaning towards "no, it isn't really empowering", in this particular case of male-gaze-serving fantasies. (i still stand by my opinion: the message was not subtle, it was cowardly hidden)


Not really but I know what it's like to be trapped in a shitty situation with aggressive men and using video games and escapism to take yourself out of that.

I completely agree that calling Sucker Punch misogynist is basically saying, "Women can never wear skimpy outfits or be protrayed as being victimized," so it's not misgynist.

I disagree with everything else you said. Remember that film "The Room" by Tommy Wiseau? After it premiered and absolutely tanked, he came out and said it was a black comedic farce intended to suck to make you laugh. I simply don't grant that. I have no room in my head or my moviegoing experience for a director to come out after, or even before, the fact and say, "You're watching it wrongly." If the film itself can't prove to me that that is "what it's about" then the film failed and not my inquisitive moviegoing brain. Seriously, just how does a striptease parallel to shooting Nazi zombies? Furthermore, why am I supposed to believe it's a good plot device that a pubescent dancer is so great at sexy dancing that it literally stuns the men who see it? Then you've got the pretty aritrary death of two of the main five female characters, which has nothing to with subtext and is just a lazy way to whittle down the protagonists because this is the kind of story where only one person is allowed to survive. Besides, what does it mean for a person to lambast sleazy moviegoing audiences while delivering to them a sleazy movie? that's like a vegan serving hamburgers to his guests and then retreat back to the kitchen to scorn them. No thanks to that kind of self-unaware pretention.

It's not just that Sucker Punch doesn't get to say, "No, we're LAMBASTING that stupid stuff instead of glorifying it," it's that it doesn't serve up a good movie on any basis. The plot is like something out of an 8-bit video game, the characters are as deep as their monikers, and the events do pretty much nothing to make you care about anyone except by saying, "Hey, they're in a crappy asylum and people are abusing and killing them. Be invested." Sucker Punch just didn't work, on any level.

But yeah, it's not misogynist.

I have to agree with mrblakemiller, It seems like you are really stretching here, almost into conspiracy theory territory. I think you're giving this movie way more credit than it deserves. I think the film makers just had some disparate ideas that they thought were cool, but couldn't make a hole movie out of. So they wrote a flimsy plot that they could hang there fantasy sequences on.

Watching it reminded me of 'Funny Games' and it fails for similar reasons as that film. I love the idea of this film and while hiding an art-house film in a blockbuster has worked before, it really didn't here. And I think Snyder is why. His entire career is based on a visual style that pretty much embodies the objectification that this film's story is trying rally against. The message gets lost in the battle scenes which go on for too long and end up just being straight objectification. Without those sequences (which I'm willing to put money on were Snyder's only real contribution to the screenplay) it would be a much more interesting, more ideologically coherent film.

In saying that, I quite like Snyder's style and indeed the film but only in terms of it being a stupid, pandering action-fest. In that sense, it's enjoyable. But it shouldn't be and just like 'Funny Games' it ends up being a film that's enjoyable for being the very thing it's trying to criticise.

it has justa bout everything i like in it,fantasy,animestylish fight seqounces and a good story. but i would make an adjustment to the end.

head desk tricycle:
If I remember correctly, Robocop is Bob's favorite film. And that is a pretty great movie, but it's also essentially a satire; like a GTA game, it takes place in a hilariously insane yet uncomfortably plausible world. What I wonder is, considering that Bob is attuned to those kinds of things, could he be seeing them even when they aren't really there, despite his seeming awareness that Zack Snyder is no Paul Verhoeven.

On a minor side note. Looking back at Robocop... and realizing it takes place in Detroit... then looking at Detroit today...Wow! I think we are outside the realm of uncomfortably plausible and well into that of disturbingly prophetic.

Bob makes some interesting points, but I feel they are undercut by the distinct feeling that Zac Snyder loves every minute of the gratuitous, fetishized, fishnets-for-the-sake-of-fishnets as much as he loves his battle-for-the-sake-of-battle. And -given who we're talking about here- every minute of this action takes roughly five minutes to play out. If Snyder is chastising the audience, he must doubly chastise himself.

But the main thing that made it boring to me is something I think Bob himself put well in his review of District 9: Action scenes are more exciting when you care about the people involved and know what they are fighting for. In SuckerPunch what they were fighting for was trivial (is it so hard to steal a knife when you work in the kitchen?) and I just didn't care about the poster girls or their plight.

I will grant that the film does have more going on than many will give it credit for though. Still looking forward to finding out what Bob has to say in Part 2.

For the sake of argument I will concede the points you made about this movie being satire and making fun of the audience for just wanting to see young girls in small outfits. This Sucker Punch seem even more pretentious art BS then I first thought. Probably why I couldn't stomic more then 20 min of the film. Besides the fact that watching women be abused is unpleasant I also got that they were trying to throw the fantasy element of it in my face.

But is this kind of movie a broader example of sending mixed signals? I am asking seriously here cause it seems like there is no correct response. Women fought to have the right to dress however they want. I am also under the impression that most women who work as cheerleaders/strippers/at Hooters enjoy their job and feel empowered by it. If a women is told in response to being raped "Don't dress like a whore" then society criticize the insensitive prick who said it. I guess what I am asking is why do men need to be made to feel guilty for looking at women that want to be looked at?

My main problem with sucker punch was the character's. They are all REALLY thin and interchangable. There was Babydoll, the girl doctor, that other girl, her sister, and the one that wasn't the sister. I couldn't go into significantly more detail than that about any of them for the first hour of the movie. After that hour I counted them up and realized that there was actually ANOTHER girl who I hadn't really noticed because there was no way to tell her apart from the others. At that moment, I mentally checked out.

The action scenes were fine, and the bad guys were all great, but without interesting good guys you are kind of distanced from the whole thing.

Judging by the 430 comments, I am a wee bit late to the discussion, so its pointless to try and delve in now.

I really enjoyed Sucker Punch. For the same reasons that Moviebob says I should enjoy Sucker Punch? Not all of them, I've only watched it twice and haven't taken the time to analyze it like I have other movies. Did I enjoy it because of the skimpy outfits and "sexualization" of the characters? Not intentionally, but I can't help it if mini skirts on a cute girl look awesome.

If anything, I just need to watch this movie another 3 or 4 times to get all the nuances I missed the first couple times.

I got the movie and I still didn't like it. Stunning visuals, Steampunk Samurai giants, and scathing metaphor be damned.

Babydoll should had pulled the trigger and ended the movie in the first ten minutes, if the same thing had happened to her after that point I would have thought the film was decent.

edit* I'll add the zeppelins said Liedland (German direct translation song land, or more appropriate Music World), quite literally where she was.

So the pandering vibes I got from just the movies trailers, turned out to be the forefront of a metaphor in a movie that supposedly condemns said geek/nerd pandering in genre films.

At least I was half-right about my reasons for not wanting to see Sucker Punch; it looked like it was another one of those directly-pandering sorts of action films (like Underworld, or most of Milla Jovovich's career).

Given the audience's reception of the film, and the title, I'm not that surprised it turned out to being a metaphorical critique on the role of women in action films relative to their audience, and the fact that said criticism went right over the audience's heads.

I'm against pandering in general, since it detracts greatly from actual characterization. Its presence in film is distracting, and it eliminates a lot of potential design space for characters.
Not necessarily "likeable" characters, (villains and bastards have their place in film). but relate-able.

(a reason that goes a bit further than the token "because it's not right to portray women that way" argument, which is fine in itself. I already roll my eyes in disgust when a character whose defining characteristic can be summed up as "a pair of tits" is brought into the film solely to pander to the audience.)

Going any deeper into the topic requires dipping into feminism, and since I possess the Y Chromosome, I am automatically disqualified for discussing such under the "Feminist Clause" under the Raging Internet Forum Act of 2002.

Wow. Well said. I "got" the movie the first time I saw it, but I missed the depth at which the metaphors ran, and I felt like it was calling me an asshole for enjoying the film at all. Now I see the reasoning behind it--that's actually remarkably clever.

It's definitely pretty inscrutable though. I don't know what to think about art that does require incredible perception to be able to fully understand--it may be a brilliant message, but still comes across as elitist to basically exclude everyone who isn't carefully analyzing every inch of the film. Regardless, I'm interested in what Bob has to say next week.

The only issue I've ever had with Sucker Punch is that it's not a very good movie. Wide ranging-discussions about theme and intent don't change that fact.

I'm probably very, very late to this party and it has probably been said a few times, but...

No, I don't think a bunch of the people who disliked the movie are not getting it. I admit that some people don't get it, of course, that's true of all movies, but I don't think this is a fundamentally misunderstood film, at least not from film scholarship.

I think this is a hypocritical film called out on its being hypocritical. Most of the sexism critique I've seen thrown at the movie has revolved around trying to have its cake and eat it, too. To pander to the same audience it criticises while at the same time not being able to mount criticism any deeper than "you are a pig for liking this".

That seemed to be the main thread, really. They advertised the hell out of this with the schoolgirl outfits and Snyder fetishizes EVERY layer of his little fantasy world, not just the fantasy parts (which I do believe is incompetence, the man has no range when it comes to visual style, which is why Watchmen sucks so hard, but that's another debate). See, if you're going to sit there for two hours and wag your finger at your audience, it helps if you at least can build up some artistic or moral integrity upon which you can climb to shout at them. Otherwise you're just being a pretentious jackass.

Emily Browning seems to get caught up in that kind of stuff a lot, doesn't she?

So no, I don't think we're wrong about Sucker Punch. I do think you're wrong about Amazing Spider-Man, though. Can we make an episode about that?

If a visual medium needs someone to explain it outside of that medium then it did a piss poor job. And this video is proof of that.

When I think a strong women I think of the manga Ninja Girls (for example), yeah it's has fan service and all that jazz but it's nice to know they are the ones who for the most part can handle themselves and have help and save the male lead. Main female lead is in a skimpy outfit but she kicks more ass then anyone else and is wanted for her skills. The male lead helps her and she helps him. And it doesn't go "Men are evil" it more like they need each other to complete their goal. Hell the main villain is more like what Sucker Punch is mocking, ready to have his women die when no longer needed.

I also think Winrey is a damn good female lead in FullMetal Alchemist. It shows how much without her Edward would never EVER last as long as he did. She isn't in skimpy outfits, she carries her own weight, and puts her self in danger to help the guy she loves making sure he gets his job done.

These females are not what I think when I think strong women, hell Terasa in Stigmata of Quezar is a stronger female lead. Yeah the male lead sucks her tits for energy but she at least dresses decently and can fight. The sucker punch women just steal for stupid men thinking with their penis, they are not a threat except for the pimp who runs the brothel.

They didn't get my money. I tend to stay out of debates about sexism on the grounds that neither side really knows a GOOD answer to whatever issue they're posing as a problem. Heterosexual men like seeing beautiful women in skimpy outfits, the female form is attractive. I don't see why people are surprised by this, nor do I think it grounds to shake your fist at the male sex. Now if the movie is as heavy handed as Bob says it to be, then I really have no interest because I'm not a guy that gets off on the girl in a tiny school uniform with a katana fighting things. Things like Dead or Alive Volleyball and Lolipop Chainsaw don't appeal to me because I recognize it for what it is - schlock. Just like the Resident Evil movies, stupid shit glazed over with guns,swords, and tits because executives think it will sell. AND because most men are drooling neanderthals this shit goes on and on forever, just look back at the late 60's with Barbarella, I'm sure it goes back farther but this has been going on since movies have been a thing. So, I say to hell with Sucker Punch and anyone who thought it was a good movie.

Though the movie is meant to be a condemnation of fetishistic, pandering male nerd fantasies, it still sells itself as one. People go to see it for that aspect of it. It's sort of like Dr. Faustus- yeah, it condemns Faustus for making a deal with the devil, but that's not where the fun lies. The fun lies in seeing Faustus fuck around with his demon buddy. That's the real reason the play exists. So one must wonder if the aforementioned condemnation is really sincere, since the whole point of the film seems to be displaying loosely tied vignettes of beta male wish fulfillment, with the irony being more of an excuse for it than an actual reason for the movie to exist. Yeah, Sucker Punch, you're doing it ironically, but you're still doing it.

.. How can anyone claim Sucker Punch is bad film when people debate it so vociferously?

I come at it from the perspective of it as art - it's incited and encouraged debate, investigation and emotional responses. To me, therefore, it's good.

.. How can anyone claim Sucker Punch is bad film when people debate it so vociferously?

Cause people have different definitions of good and bad, and what is artistic.


I come at it from the perspective of it as art - it's incited and encouraged debate, investigation and emotional responses. To me, therefore, it's good.

Well literary criticism encourages debate about anything. I still see what you're saying though.

Thank you bob I couldn't agree more; cheers as well for pointing out the same issue in brief with ppl not getting the tone of starship troopers, I've been saying it for years dammit!

If a film's message or meaning is so poorly delivered that I have to watch a commentary or read an analytical essay to understand what the filmmakers were trying to say... then it's a bad film. End of story.

As I'm one of the people who saw the movie,It is full of shit.I still loath this fucking movie. Awful script. Boring action piece and insulting its audience for getting what they wanted. Sucker Punch is the worst kind of movie: A movie that think it is so cleaver. When it is not. Everything about it is pointless! That we hear how "good" of a dancer Baby doll is when we don't see it a fatal mistake. It is called SHOW don't tell. I don't give two fucks how good of a dancer she is, if I don't see it.

I think you're missing the point. The whole "dancing" thing is taking place in her head. It isn't real. It's the kind of plot device that a bad author - the author in this case being Babydoll - uses when she doesn't have the imagination necessary to create it for real. They don't show it to you because Babydoll can't do it. Remember, she's locked up in an asylum. For most movies, your criticism would be completely valid. It just isn't for this one.

Now, I'm not claiming that the movie is a great one. I went to it unwillingly, found that I enjoyed it in the theater, and haven't bothered to watch it again. (I may change that after next week's episode. We'll see.) It has it's faults, but I think Bob's point is a valid one. For all of it's flaws, I think a great deal of the criticism directed at this movie is pointing the wrong direction.

Oh, and by the way, Bob - if you ever read this. You don't suck as a critic. I find I agree with you about 60% of the time, which is far more than any other film critic I can think of.

I got it but couldn't decide if I liked it or not, and couldn't even tell why I didn't like it; couldn't. Now I do, thanks Bob:

I watched Pan's Labyrinth for the first time just a month before I watched this movie. Pan's Labyrinth handled the premise (young girl escapes into fantasy to escape horrible life) much much better. But there was still the premise, and I like that premise. Premisepremisepremisepremisepremisepremise.

Anyway, I didn't even notice the target audience thing... but my brain must've. I hate movies, and the directors who film them, that are targeted to insult (or otherwise malign) the audience for which they're designed. well as movies, books, magazines, TV Shows, bathroom stall scribblings, and food (I'm looking at you Baby Ruth).

So yeah, I don't like Sucker Punch: because it's a bullshit waste of time aimed at people they don't like to make a point that is designed to make people dislike the people who wasted time to make a point aimed at people they didn't like in the first place! They are actively wasting time in order to keep our wasteful fighting active. How much more cyclical to I have to keep being?

They need their teeth kicked in...

The direction and performances were all so dreary and dull.

Sucker Punch was boring. The frenetic action scenes were repetitive drivel which tried to use CGI and quick editing tricks to mask subpar choreography and uninspired framing. I don't care whether or not they were supposed to be repetitive drivel: I was still bored as fuck watching them. The excellent (and decidedly not fun) Chinese film Mr. Zhao contains a ten minute take of two people sitting on a badly lit sofa and having the same conversation over and over again, and that was still more interesting than anything in Sucker Punch.

As for the message? It's bullshit. Insulting, offensive bullshit. Are any of these movies feminist? Who cares? If Robin Morgan, Jessica Valenti, Andrea Dworkin, Catherine Breillat, Mary Wollstonecraft, Ozy Frantz, Noah Brand and Clarisse Thorn are all feminists (and that's only a very limited selection), I'm not sure how meaningful that adjective can actually be. The message Sucker Punch is pushing is the idea that having a sexual fantasy (specifically, a man having a sexual fantasy about a woman) is not only inherently wrong and harmful, but defines the person having it and their relations with others. It goes on to equate those fantasies (and here I would like to point out that the film specifically takes aim fantasies of men considered socially undesirable and thus already easy targets) with real acts of institutionalized abuse and violence. This is a blatant false equivalency and it plays to the romantic fantasies of the eternal female victim at the mercy of a cruel, brutish world that are far more insidiously patriarchal in their own right than any of the layered delusions. As a real life victim of institutionalized abuse committed by (mostly female) social workers on account of my mental condition, I was deeply offended by Sucker Punch and the shallow pandering drivel it attempts to pass off as a deconstruction. To be brutally honest, the film feels like an outdated separatist piece from thirty years ago more than anything else.

I just wanted to quote this for lots of WORD. Furthermore if the suckerpunch is to lure us with fantasies and then subvert us with the reality or negative implications the brothel really does not help. It undermines Gorsky who I just want to take time to praise. In most asylum drama's the doctors wouldn't know communication if it shot them. Gorsky has security staff out of the way but allows for self expression and etc and even despite babydoll's in reality actions (what we don't get to see and note this involves the excusing/unelaboration of the DRAMATIC DEATHS) wishes to calm and reach her.
I particularly felt what worked against the movie was just how...quickly the fantasies lost context. The first made more or less sense. Babydoll is in a stark harsh landscape seeks shelter and then a plan this enables her the fight and reach for talent and such that she doesn't know she has. By the second.. they are all despite all of one scene of reluctant apprehensive agreement in the fantasy as a crackshot team. Effectively we spend all this time in "her" head and yet it is full of nothing but hostile sexual abuse or nerdy male fantasies broken up by the occasional women in prison drama. And the worse is that it starts kinda smart but descends into crash dramatic depth that's just as cheap as the action fantasies.
One thing in my brain for a while has been a VGcat'ish parody with the movie constantly berating the viewer for liking women in sexy outfits in high action romps with the last panel being a tearstruck female. I know its less likely but what about the girls who ya know wanted a sexy action flick and got the abuse-a0-thon.

As one person said when the movie was fresh if this was a movie about a girl using imagination to contextualize and fight the shitty in average girl life (and NOT just exploitative girl imprison drama life). Particularly if the fantasies seem more connected with reality. But as it is there is no dramatic stake and a little weirdness of girls in beds in lingerie critiquing "the dance" in place of our women bonding over and providing a real soul. A soul that is torn out at random.

And can anyone figure out what was the deal with Gorksy and Blue or why Babydoll didn't just tell Gorksy she was being lobotomized? This movie is full of externalized imagery that makes no since. And I HATE the dragon mission "watch out fellas the hot girl wants to intercision into you long john and yank your spark stones" Sigh.

I'm actually expecting Bob's second part to be thirty seconds of the DVD cover, followed by the three seconds of a phrase like "dumbasses. It sucked." or words to that effect. All text, no sound, fade to black.

.. How can anyone claim Sucker Punch is bad film when people debate it so vociferously?

I come at it from the perspective of it as art - it's incited and encouraged debate, investigation and emotional responses. To me, therefore, it's good.

A movie is good because it causes debate? That has to be the worst logic I've ever heard.

I have to admit that Bobs take on what the movie was going for is interesting, and makes sense, but like many I have the whole hot chick thing as motive. On a more artistic bent, though it still tracks back to the previous reason, I looked forward to it as this generations live action version of the Heavy Metal movie. Not the second one, HM2000, but the original. If you take a look at the presentation of the 2 movies, you will see the similarities.

I suppose that is one interpretation of the movie. It makes sense, so I get why Bob would come to that conclusion. The thing with art is that it can mean different things to different people.

I loved the movie, for me its message is: that no matter your situation no matter the hand you were dealt in life you have the power the follow your dreamers, only if you are willing to fight for them.

There is tons of dialogue that talks about summoning the courage to fight.

That is what the movie means to me anyhow.

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