I have a different take on this from many others. I…enjoyed certainly isn’t the right word…but I *appreciated* the film. I have to use a completely different set of standards to judge Sucker Punch because the director, Zack Snyder, eschews the traditional way of telling a cinematic story to get his point/theme/subtext across. By any storytelling yardstick it looks a mess at first glance – strange logic, cardboard characters, frankly baffling narrative lines. But I found when I stepped back from that and looked at it from a different perspective I thought it was very, very good indeed.
As background, I’m always hooked by films, TV shows and books where the viewer/reader has an important part to play in deciphering the story. Muholland Drive (or any Lynch film, really), Inception, The Prisoner, House of Leaves. Cracking the code gives me as much of a thrill as what’s playing out before my eyes.
Sucker Punch has a lot going on in its warped Wonderland. There are very few touchstones where you can connect with the real world. And that’s part of the director’s theme. (SPOILERS AHEAD) One reading is that *nothing* in the film is real – it opens under the proscenium arch with the curtain drawn back on what is clearly a stage. I can understand how that would turn a lot of people off.
The movie connects with a zeitgeisty theme that runs from BSG, Lost, Ashes to Ashes, Inception, through Sucker Punch and, possibly, into Source Code. One suggestion is that the whole film is a view of hell or purgatory (many critics would agree!) ruled by a devil and many demons from which one girl is trying to escape – the final scenes suggest this to be true. The characters are cardboard in the way that Alice in Wonderland’s characters are cardboard – what it is saying is more important.
Part of the problem for the reception must be laid at Warners’ door. The trailers missold the film to an epic level. Most of the scenes in these trailers come from four sequences amounting to…what…20 minutes? of the film and are the least interesting parts. They’re all symbolic. Sucker Punch is truly a grim film, dealing with the brutalisation of women in a male-dominated society. It’s not empowering as such, more a comment, which does make for a difficult watch. The only escape comes through death. No wonder Warners had trouble selling it.
Nor is it exploitative – one thing several critics have picked up on. I have no idea how they can say that having seen the film. The women may wear fetishistic clothing, but the grimness of their experience strips away any titillation. Their sexualisation becomes truly sad in the end.
I can understand how Sucker Punch won’t appeal to a broad audience. But I’m sure we all have films we love that everyone else hates (I will defend Southland Tales to the death). For me this is a singular if flawed vision that I will revisit many times.