Sam feels it's proper to warn you now: you are most likely not going to agree with anything he says here, but he also feels like after reading this, you could maybe walk away viewing something from a different angle than just blindly accepting the mass opinion on the things he's writing about in this feature. So give it a shot, it may pleasantly suprise you. Or make you angry. Either works for him.
It's 4:40 AM. I've got a mix of Gutter Twins, Nine Inch Nails, and Led Zeppelin playing. I watched Truck Turner earlier tonight. All of this has come together to build towards this one moment, this beacon of inspiration, this...epiphany of culture I'm about to spackle into your gray matter. Also, bear in mind, this will most likely contain SPOILERS AND I THINK ONE OF THE PICS IS A TAD NSFW:
Every review you've read or heard calling Sucker Punch the worst movie of all time was written by a bald-faced liar out to prevent you from having fun. I'm seeing people judge this movie without having watched it. I'm reading reviews where people absolutely demolish it without actually stating anything substantial about the film they allegedly watched. I say allegedly because from all outward appearances, it looks like most professional critics actually sat in the theater during a screening and just spent an hour and a half scoffing at anything that showed up on screen. They call it bland, they call it a patchwork movie made by a hack, they call it all sorts of names and epithets that honestly have no bearing in a review of the movie's use of technology and choreography and music.
All of this, then, leads me to one conclusion: the people in charge of attempting to tell us whether a worthwhile movie was made have all been caught up in some idiotic fever of just hating Zack Snyder because he's Zack Snyder. They hate 300 because it's historically inaccurate. I have some bad news, it was never marketed or implied to be the real thing. And all of these selfsame people are going to be sorely disappointed when they find out that Marvel's version of World War Two involves men with primary-color skulls for faces and magic super muscle juice. They hated Watchmen because it was boring or meandering. Tell you what, you go read that voluminious monstrosity of a graphic novel without the rose colored glasses of Alan Moore devotion over your eyes, and you will find that, meandering or boring, that movie is a damn accurate representation of those comics.
This leads me to Sucker Punch. It's got the same moral of Network, essentially, though there's no scene of William Holden screaming the movie's point in your face followed by dozens of others doing the exact same. Now, don't get me wrong, I love Network. I love it dearly. But subtle that movie is not. And Sucker Punch is definitely more underspoken than Network. As for the clothes and women's statuses as dancers (not strippers, dammit; every freaking time a dance sequence ends, everyone is still wearing their clothes. NOBODY STRIPS IN THIS MOVIE) Well...so what? They are shown to be, for the most part, self reliant, except when the bad guy, the villain, treats them like a villain does. Does he threaten them at gun point? Yes. Does he act like a Grade A John Waters -level creep towards them? Absolutely. And you know why? Because he's the villain. This is how villains work in a story: they pick at the hero's weaknesses until the hero fights back. You are not supposed to like the villain in a story. If you do, then you need your head checked. So, we see the women terrorized, though they are never shown to be helpless. In fact, that was dispelled when a rapist had a knife at his throat at one point, and it's not a man holding the handle of that blade.
So, we have women that are fighting their deplorable situation, much like the men in The Dirty Dozen or Great Escape do. We have a moral similar to Network that is given to you at a much lower-key volume than that deservedly lauded film. Now on to my next gripe:
This movie is not exploitation. I watch exploitation movies, because like Punk rock (and I mean real punk, before any of you jerks even dares to think the name Green Day) they provide a fascinating snapshot of an artistic movement that was so intense and grim it was doomed to fail under the weight of it's own reason to exist. Anyone that I know that watched Sucker Punch and decided it was exploitative, you have an open invitation to come over, and we'll sit down and watch the original versions of I Spit on Your Grave, Last House on the Left, Mondo Cane, or Cannibal Holocaust. That's exploitation. Those are movies that torture and degrade their female cast members for absolutely no other reason than to see a woman get hurt. Should those movies exist? Debatable. But the fact remains that they do, and at this point, it's not even a matter of opinion: if you call Sucker Punch exploitative and you really mean it, you need to get out of the house more.
Now let's get on to things directly related to Sucker Punch itself, that I also happen to be right about. The green screen sets are wonderfully done, with a scale and attention to detail not yet seen with someone using soundstages and computer graphics outside of Avatar. This movie asserts its right to use fictional settings to its heart's content, with gusto and a little bit of flair. We see nice little shifts between a depressing, crushingly gray madhouse and a dirty, broken down theater that suddenly turn into outstanding planetscapes, or a snowy, bone-cold temple in some stylized robotic feudal japan, or the grittiest, bloodiest trenches I've seen in a war setting in a modern movie in a long time. Because let's face it, we don't actually see a whole hell of a lot of World War One set pieces anymore. But aside from all that, we're given soul-less android soldiers, we see steam-powered Central Power Germans, and we see 20 foot tall Samurai cyborgs, one of which shakes in fright at the mere sight of the frail woman-turned-badass in front of him. Snyder uses his slow motion techniques quite a bit here, but we see it all in the action. We don't see nudity, we don't see superfluous fanservice at all, really. In fact, I have a hard time seeing how anyone could objectively hate the costuming in this thing more than, say, Burlesque or Chicago. Yeah, Babydoll has a schoolgirl outfit on. And it stays on. Coy rips and tears over suggestive areas are never shown on any of the women.
All this said, I am now full circle at my original point: having genuinely disproved any misconceptions about this movie's exploitative nature, having explained how a villain in a movie is supposed to work, having explained the difference between titillation and simply wearing a miniskirt, and having explained how to spot good cgi, I am left with one conclusion: the professional critics, as I said way at the top, are lying about how bad this movie actually is. They hate Zack Snyder because they cannot have people succeed nowadays with a genuinely fun movie. Acknowledging that Snyder made a fun popcorn movie for no other reason than he felt like it bursts a bubble in this bizarre pop culture that has been created around irony and false postmodern sensibilities. He didn't make this movie with a wink and a nod about the ridiculousness of the premise, he didn't make it as a commentary on the state of the modern blockbuster, and he didn't make it to teach us a lesson. He made it, as far as I can tell, because he figured out a more or less sensible way to tie Don Draper, dragons, blimps, robots, samurai, and the 1920s together into one movie. And he's easy to pick on because he's not Michael Bay. He's not out constantly defending himself for the choices he made. He finished the movie, and now he's working on his next one, because he has a job to do, and he has better things to do with his time than argue with a bunch of people that hate him for no reason.
All that said, the one thing I encourage most is just see the damn movie. Don't think that because you like to frequent metacritic or rotten tomatoes that you actually have a handle on the experience this film gives you. And for my shortened 2 cents on this thing: do I think it will or should win an Oscar? Nope. Was it the greatest film I've ever laid eyes on? Absolutely not. But I enjoyed it, and I don't regret spending a few bucks to be entertained by it for a couple hours.