Okay … ‘Sucker Punch’ has been slammed by some of the worst reviews I’ve seen this side of ‘The Last Air Bender’ and its box office takings in the US have fallen off a cliff but I still have the feeling that ‘Sucker Punch’ will, in twenty years or so, be seen as a seminal movie.
Let me explain …
Hollywood – filmmakers generally, actually – are periodically blindsided by cultural/technological change. They were sniffy about TV and found themselves adrift in the 50’s when they were hit for six by this ‘new’ entertainment format. They were similarly nonplussed by the commercial success of games in the ‘80’s and were left floundering in gaming’s wake. And now they are struggling with the impact of the Net. All these formats Hollywood should have owned … but they didn’t. But I suspect that there are a few visionaries in La La Land who recognise a challenge when they see one and rise to it. And one of these is the director of ‘Sucker Punch’, Zack Snyder.
Until I came to ‘Sucker Punch’ I hadn’t been much of a Snyder fan: ‘Watchmen’ I thought an overblown mess and ‘300’ suffered by being too slavishly enraptured of Frank Miller’s original. It seems to me that unencumbered by fan demands that he ‘honour’ original source material, Snyder’s imagination has been given a real chance to soar. And soar it most certainly does.
‘Sucker Punch’ tells the story of a young girl – Baby Doll – incarcerated in an asylum and facing a lobotomy, who retreats into a fantasy world as she tries to engineer an escape. Now the plot has been lambasted as escapist trash but I actually think it works. The lunacy of the three levels of reality Baby Doll populates intermesh well and I thought it convincing enough to suspend belief. And the sheer visceral excitement of the adventures Baby Doll and her pals experience is astonishing: the steampunky artefacts Snyder brings to the screen are mind-blowing. This is some of the most exciting film-making I have EVER seen.
Much has been made of the girls’ costumes, that they have a near-pornographic aspect designed to titivate teenage boys. All I can say is this is hokum. Kit, my elder daughter, is a great manga devotee and she explained in detail that the costumes were manga-esque in their conception. Neither she nor Ellie (both intelligent and sassy teens) had any problem with the girls’ outfits. Sure I could see where some viewers steeped in knee-jerk feminist thought could take affront but for kids used to wearing this stuff there was no problem. In fact they saw the adventures of Baby Doll et al as quite empowering: here were a gang of girls fighting hard for their freedom and handling the knocks they got along the way pretty stoically.
On a more mundane level the colouring of the film is marvellous, the soundtrack terrific, the camera work (especially the close-ups) as good as any I’ve seen and the editing simply wonderful.
But to me, what ‘Sucker Punch’ does supremely well is conflate all the elements of modern entertainment – film, music, video, internet and gaming – and mash them up into one piece of amalgamated entertainment. It’s the first time I’ve seen this accomplished with such panache: it knocks ‘Tron’ into a cocked hat. And this is why I believe it will be cited in twenty years as the film which was the first to successfully bridge the divide between all the entertainment platforms.
I’d urge you to go and see ‘Sucker Punch’ but only if you can leave any cultural or intellectual sniffiness you might be carrying outside the door of the cinema. If you can, prepare to be amazed.