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Sucker Punch (2011)

"Before viewing" talks don't have spoilers, but since there's no "After viewing" talk for this one, comments may have spoilers. More»» by Randy Heffner

Is the film worth your time?

With a mix of chagrin, delight, and mock ignominy, I must say that Sucker Punch really had something going on. Much of the film is pure video game in its construction, and the narration is heavy-handed in telling you much (but not all) of what the film is up to, yet looking closer, these are integral to what the film is doing. This puts these things into palatable perspective. Even Beautiful perspective. So, while it would be hard to call Sucker Punch a great film, it is a quite interesting and valid alternative exploration of what in life gives us the deepest satisfaction and self-respect.

Bad things happen in life — we know this. People do bad things that make it even worse — we know this, too. The harder questions are about what we do in response. Do these bad things define us? In response, do we play the victim: helpless, hapless, and controlled by the meanness of those around us? The pain of it is real and will not be denied, but must we allow the pain to take over our lives? What resources do we have, upon what can we draw to move forward in spite of the pain? And what about when others are caught in the same pain? Surely it should not be “every person for themselves” but do we place ourselves at risk trying to help others? Amid its elaborate computer graphics and against-all-odds gaming sequences, Sucker Punch talks to deeper things going on below the surface.

The visuals in Sucker Punch are indeed expansive and excellent. The video game battles are effectively contextualized and played to show our power of spirit and imagination to get above our circumstances. Other aspects of its filmcraft are certainly not slouchy, though there is non-trivial opportunity for improvement. If you’re in for the action and visuals, it’s well worth the time — but look closer for its deeper streams. If you’re thinking you usually avoid this kind of thing, it’s still worth it — but keep the title in mind all the while. Either way, if you do see it, I implore you to ask this question afterwards: “What exactly is the film’s sucker punch?” And, keeping asking it until you have multiple answers — and answers inside of answers. Yes, it has that much going on.

Baby Doll’s mother dies and her stepfather is intent on stealing her and her sister’s inheritance. She fights against it, but he gets the upper hand, destroys her credibility, and has her locked away in a corrupt mental institution. Her first introduction to this life is a theater-therapy technique run by one of the doctors. Completely entrapped and distraught, Baby Doll turns the therapy her way to fight the bonds of her oppression and the oppression of the other girls around her. Running time: 110 min.

Overall, the content is in line with the harsh themes that Sucker Punch explores. There is no nudity in the film, although sexual themes are strong. One of the main oppressions in the film centers on sexual slavery. Many women are presented sensually. Violence is heavy, though gore is not. At least two deaths are sudden and shocking. Language is moderate but prominent.

  • Director: Zack Snyder
  • Screenplay: Zack Snyder & Steve Shibuya
  • Leads: Emily Browning, Abbie Cornish, Jena Malone, Vanessa Hudgens, Jamie Chung, Carla Gugino, Oscar Isaac, Scott Glenn
  • Cinematography: Larry Fong
  • Music: Tyler Bates, Marius De Vries

I feel compelled to add a preamble in front of this list of links to various reviews of Sucker Punch. Most of the reviews are negative, as you might judge from the aggregate scores on Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic. Given what these various reviewers focused on, I’m not surprised at their reviews. However, I must say that, with the exception Tim Martain from The Mercury, I believe they all took Zack Snyder’s bait and fell for his sucker punch. I’m only hoping that there are many viewers that do not.

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NOTE: Although Before viewing talks don't have spoilers, comments below MAY have spoilers
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