For all of you budding cinephiles out there, I’m sure you were not eagerly anticipating the release of Zack Snyder’s trippy girl-power mind-vomit, Sucker Punch. You probably didn’t pay attention during television ads, and after watching the trailer you probably felt like your retinas are on a bad acid trip. When the movie dropped and it scored an abysmal 21% on Rotten Tomatoes, you probably weren’t surprised because you knew it was going to suck. You probably high-fived your cinephile-best-friend (but not your real best friend), when he made an ironic joke about seeing Sucker Punch. You probably also high-fived your cinephile-weed-dealer (but not your real weed dealer), when he jokingly suggested you get high and go see Sucker Punch. You probably did all of these things except actually go see Sucker Punch (though your weed dealer did end up going).
I’m here to share something with you…it’s not that bad.
The above trailer, for those who didn’t watch it (all of you), is simply scenes of the movie cut to music. Obviously, this was to spare any interested parties from hearing the terrible dialogue and changing their minds. But it’s also an accurate representation of what to expect. Snyder isn’t really concerned with plot, he’s more concerned with experience, and there are lots of moments when the movie reaches maximum-levels of awesome. Machine guns, zombies, orcs, robots, etc. all meld into feverish amalgams of geek fantasy. It doesn’t homage any particular sources, but draws from the collective well that inspires all of them. There will be multiple moments when you say “yea, that fucking ruled.” You’ll say it out loud, and the guy in front of you will get angry. Then you’ll realize it’s your weed dealer and give him a high-five.
However, there are issues. Serious issues. Sucker Punch won’t be winning any Academy Awards for Screenwriting, and I don’t think the National Film Registry will ever choose to preserve it for being “culturally relevant” (if it ever does, move out of the country). It’s brainless fun, but not the kind of brainless fun where it feels like the filmmaker is trying as little as you are. Snyder is one hell of a director. He raises the film to a thrilling level it wouldn’t have reached with someone else. The problem is his script. He needs to let somebody else draft his stories before becoming the next Shyamalan. Everything else, though, was pretty spot on. Here are three misguided criticisms that appear frequently in negative reviews of Sucker Punch.
1. The plot is too simple/like a video game.
In most reviews, people say this film’s plot is too simple, and that the “prison escape” plot has been done to death. This criticism exposes the hypocrisy of most film critics. Sure, there are “simple” and “complicated” plots, but just because one is more complex doesn’t make it better. In today’s age of film criticism, you need to appear educated and deep, which means you like movies that don’t have straightforward plots. This is, to put it eloquently, a steaming pile of horseshit. In reality, people crave tangible plot, they need it, they just don’t like to admit it. They want to feel like they’ve watched something complicated even if it’s a pretty basic story.
In fact, most “complicated” plots can be boiled down to a very basic sequence of plot points. Nobody criticized The Dark Knight for being a typical “superhero vs. bad guy” movie, and nobody criticized Scott Pilgrim for being EXACTLY like a video-game (though, if you criticized Scott Pilgrim at all, you suck). Movies have been rehashing the same basic stories for decades. The key is making it feel fresh, and Sucker Punch mostly succeeds. There’s nothing else like this movie. The problem is an underwhelming lead, flat supporting characters, and an uninspiring resolution. You know, those kinds of things. The plot’s simplicity, though, has nothing to do with it.
2. The action is too cheesy/CGI oriented/underwhelming.
To this I say: “Have you seen an action movie!?!” The action is simply astounding. If you don’t like CGI, that’s a matter of personal taste, but underwhelming!? One sequence, where the girls blast their way through a train filled with robot guards, is edited into one take, and it’s mind blowing. The camera pulls and pushes back and forth, jumping in and out of slow motion, even exiting the space of train and reentering, all while keeping to the beat of the music as the three girls annihilate an army of robot guards with machine guns. The scene is entirely “Snyderesque,” and that’s high praise. It’s difficult to imprint personalizing features onto a bunch of girls with machine guns, but he manages it. Execution of this scene requires an intensely focused vision. Imagine if the physics-bending movement in The Matrix had glorious, mind-blowing sex with the awesome eye-juice of 300. Yes, eye-juice. Sweet, delicious eye-juice that flies and punches people in the face. The best eye-juice.
In 2011, action movies are a dime a dozen. Exploding cars and Gatling guns have become stale. Thankfully, there is a small group of elite filmmakers attempting to restore auteurism to the commercial end of filmmaking: Christopher Nolan, Edgar Wright, J.J. Abrams, and absolutely Zack Snyder. No, not Michael Bay. Anyone can point a camera towards a flaming bus. He can join once he provides more forethought than “Blow up the truck. Now, do I want mayo or mustard on my sandwich?”
3. It’s a boy’s fantasy that is degrading towards women.
I’m not going to touch the feminist aspects of the movie. There are obvious problems with the role of females within Snyder’s universe. There’s the issue of male gaze, exploitation, etc. I’ll leave that to the people who are more equipped to explain it. However, the claim that it’s a “boy’s fantasy”? News flash: females can be geeks, too.
I get that nerd-culture is overwhelmingly male. The cultural stereotype always defaults to male characters for a reason. But as the presence of females grows in practically every social and professional circle, nerdism isn’t exclusively unchanging. These girl-geeks inherit all the daydreaming fantasy of their male counterparts, and with pleasure. Have you seen cosplay events? These girls dig short skirts and samurai swords. It’s actually more sexist to assert that girls should only fantasize about “girly” things. People assuming the depth of characters based on their appearance is just as bad as judging actual people based on their appearance. Kind of. I know one is real and the other is a movie character, but tom-ae-to tom-ah-to, right?
What Snyder needs is a writer. Somebody he can count on to make his ideas become awesome reality. Christopher Nolan has his brother Johnathon. He’s the guy who’s written all of Chris’s great movies: Memento, The Prestige, The Dark Knight, and partly Inception. Chris gets inspired, shares the idea with John, who then writes the amazing script that Chris then directs. Snyder needs his own brother to has ideas out with, somebody who can actually write. He needs a Johnathon Nolan. What I’m trying to say is…
I CAN BE HIS JOHNATHON NOLAN.
It only makes sense. I love action movies. I love writing movies. I love Zack Snyder. Has there ever been a more perfect job? I’m going to write this next part in big letters so that he can see it from far away:
DEAR ZACK SNYDER,
LET ME WRITE YOUR MOVIES. I’M PRETTY GOOD AT IT. WE COULD CREATE BEAUTIFUL, ASS-KICKING ART. WE COULD BE BEST FRIENDS AND GO EVERYWHERE TOGETHER. PEOPLE WOULD SAY “THERE GOES TWO BEST FRIENDS WHO MAKE BEAUTIFUL ASS-KICKING ART.” THAT WOULD BE AWESOME.
I CAN WORK THIS SUMMER. I’M A DECENT LOOKING KID. I CAN RUN REALLY FAST AND GIVE GREAT BACK MASSAGES. I’LL EVEN GET YOUR COFFEE FOR YOU SO STUPID INTERNS DON’T FUCK IT UP. IF THEY DID, I WOULD KILL THEM. I WOULD KILL THEM FOR YOU.
I LOVE YOU,