CONTENT WARNING: SEXUAL ASSAULT
Mr. Zack Snyder is… interesting. The visionary behind the new DC Cinematic Universe (at least until the reboot it), he’s an incredibly polarizing figure. It also doesn’t help that I really don’t like Batman Vee Superman Colon Dawn of Justice, I thought Justice League was a mess, and I still don’t believe that the impending Zack Snyder’s Justice League will be any kind of improvement. But I don’t want my opinions on the man tainting my thoughts on Sucker Punch! There are enough minor quibbles I have with the movie that do that already.
The story of Sucker Punch is pretty hard to summarize in just one paragraph, so this is going to be a bit more long-winded than usual. There are three levels of “reality” in the movie, which I compare to Inception (a movie that came out the previous year). Reality Level 1 is the actual reality of the movie, where our protagonist, Babydoll, accidentally shot her sister while fending off the sexual advances of her step-father, is institutionalized by him, and is scheduled to receive an ice pick lobotomy after the orderly, Blue (Oscar Isaac), takes a bribe. Right before the pick goes into her brain we cut to Reality Level 2, where the asylum is a seedy nightclub, the inmates are all dancers, and Blue is the boss. Babydoll has only a short amount of time before she’s sold to the High Roller (John Hamm, who is the lobotomist on Level 1), and during a dance number that we never see, she transports herself to Reality Level 3. Here she meets the Wise Man (Scott Glenn, AKA Stick from Netflix’s Daredevil) who tells her what she needs to do to escape, but first she has to fight some demonic samurai in an over the top action sequence. Then it’s back to Level 2, where everyone was amazed by her dancing. She uses her dancing–which transports her to a different action sequence on Level 3–to get part of what she needs, but a mistake leads to the death of three of the girls; now it’s just her and Sweet Pea. Blue gets stabbed, a fire is set as a distraction, and the two almost make it out, but Babydoll sacrifices herself so that Sweet Pea can escape. Then we’re back to Level 1 where John Hamm has just completed the lobotomy, but feels really bad about it. We find out that the actions on Level 2 sort of happened on Level 1 as well, meaning Blue got stabbed and Sweet Pea is gone. Does this mean three inmates are dead? Unclear. Blue gets caught by the police and Sweet Pea gets on a bus to freedom with help from the bus driver, who is the Wise Man, who most likely also is a guardian angel.
It’s a lot, I know.
First off, the version I watched on Netflix was not the extended director’s cut (what’s a Snyder movie without one?), so a scene where Babydoll has sex with the High Roller was missing. It takes place right before the finalization of the lobotomy and was supposed to explain why the doctor felt so conflicted about the finished procedure. But after watching it on YouTube I thought it suffers from a problem the rest of the movie has: it thinks it’s so deep, but it’s really not. Levels 1 and 2 are where the interesting, plot stuff happens, but we waste so much time on Level 3 action sequences that are too long and have nothing to do with what the girls are trying to accomplish. Distracting a cook to steal his knife? Time to fight faceless robots on a train! And the presentation just feels… off. Snyder has Babydoll kicking ass in a midriff and short skirt, and the girls fight against sexist men by dancing sexily for them. Any themes of “yay feminism!” ring hollow, like companies using “female empowerment” to sell their products while not doing anything to address the sexist reality they live in, and oftentimes perpetuate. The movie would rather show off what it thinks is a cool action sequence rather than take a bold stance (although I’m sure Snyder fanboys would argue otherwise).
Now after having said all that, I don’t hate the movie. The story isn’t bad, but it’s just annoying how it basically changes the channel to different action movies several times. I’d say this was my favorite Snyder movie, but I’d have to go back, rewatch Watchmen and 300, and ponder how I feel about those movies to be sure.
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