That statement alone should be enough, like you don’t need to justify why you like anything because you don’t exist to be compliant to the status quo, but this movie is so universally reviled that I kind of do feel like I need to justify liking it. I don’t care if you hate it, trust me, I know you do, but perhaps I can at least give you a grain of a different perspective to chew on.
I will discuss the elements of sexual assault in the film so if this is a subject matter that upsets you, please be aware and click back.
Conceptually when Sucker Punch was announced it seemed to have a pretty solid foundation – badass women who were also good looking (and super cosplay-able!), a solid cast list, a funky soundtrack, the plot wasn’t super apparent from the trailers but it looked unique and had that Snyder color palette (look, after 300 and Watchmen we were still into it, okay? Everyone knows it sucks now you don’t have to say it).
When it came out it became a lot more apparent the film was really exploitative. I don’t have a problem with pulpy film featuring thin, beautiful, flimsily dressed young women (I mean…I have a problem with it being the only thing, but not a thing), but Sucker Punch did fall into the Whedon Trap. The “beautiful broken doll” trope, where a woman’s strength derives from ownership of the things men used against her and of course, she has to be very tiny and young to emphasize how amazing it is that she can kick so much ass. I am totally on board with this criticism, it’s spot on, and yes that does suck. On top of that Snyder is really, really into rape as a plot device and since he was in complete control of this IP, he got to fall back on that…a lot.
- This was a blockbuster film with FIVE FEMALE LEADS in ACTION ROLES and holy shit, as a young recently-out-of-college woman that was extremely my shit. Not just that, two of five women were women of color. What other action movie in my lifetime (to that point) had multiple women in the lead, fucking Charlie’s Angels?! Bad Girls?! (side note, WTF Drew Barrymore) “But their fairy godmother is a man!” yes, that’s true, but their inside man is a woman (mothafuckin’ CARLA GUGINO), they get the keys, they beat the baddies, they “win” (partially), Sweet Pea gets to tell her story.
- Their motivation has nothing to do with a romantic partner or their child. Like do you have any idea how obnoxiously rare that is in action film (and books)? And before you list a bunch of stuff, yes, I do know of many films and books that meet this criteria, but my point is that you have to search for them whereas you can probably name ten action films featuring male leads who’s motivation has nothing to do with a spouse or kid that came out in the last month.
- I feel like there’s not an acknowledgement of escapism as a coping mechanism of being a real thing. Like, yes, it’s a bit of a stretch to suggest someone’s escapist fantasy is conveniently also functionally a straight male masturbatory fantasy, but I daydream about batshit insane action scenarios all the time and as far as mentally taking off in a bad situation…yeah, I’ve been there, and I found “the dance” very relatable. Speaking of…
- …the soundtrack was phenomenal. With exception to the We Will Rock You/I Want it All mash-up all the songs (largely covers) were sung by women, several by the lead Emily Browning. I am such a sucker for electronica and orchestral remixes and covers of songs, like inject this soundtrack directly into my veins. How the music is incorporated into the plot is fun; Sucker Punch used soundtrack in a really great and interactive way that, IMHO, wasn’t really beaten until James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy (who did it even better).
- I see a lot of complaints about the ending not making sense, but I disagree. I think that Babydoll sacrificing herself for Sweet Pea was her personal way of making up for not sacrificing herself to save her sister. I do not think she “deserved” to have to sacrifice herself for either, we’re playing in a Snydererse where everything is terrible, but I think as he intended for the character to perceive herself she wanted to make up for not saving her sister. She had nothing to make up for, yes. But people blame themselves for shit that isn’t their fault all the time and an older sibling ~feeling~ like they had a debt to pay over their younger sibling’s death is not an unreasonable characterization. “That sucks though,” yeah it does, for her. I’m not going to be all smug like “well not every story can have a happy ending,” because most stories that aren’t based on a true story should (or at least have a satisfying one), but sometimes the happy ending isn’t for the character you want it for and that’s fine. I think that’s more interesting than having an edgelord, “rocks fall, everyone dies,” ending.
- Judged against other Zach Snyder films, this one seems to almost be critical of Objectivism (which, for him, is pretty shocking). Babydoll routinely acts against her own best interest to the benefit of others (or attempted benefit), the characters that are completely self-motivated are not portrayed positively and the inherent evil of selfishness is clearly shown through the actions of Blue and the Stepfather, the consequences of a society not having morals that require or encourage selflessness is displayed in the High Roller/The Doctor. Objectivism straight up ruined Watchmen and the Snyderverse DCEU (not going to get into it, just watch Movie Bob’s episodes about it) so for this film to not be in that same bend is, to me at least, really fascinating. I do think Snyder has talent, I don’t think his particular type of talent and personal outlook (/how he impresses his personal outlook onto his work) are remotely appropriate to a character like Superman, but I do see how he handled selfishness versus selflessness in Sucker Punch to be way more compelling than how he’s handled it in literally anything else he’s done.
I’m not saying all or any of this outweighs the (many) faults, but for me, it’s enough to look past them.