After her father commits her to a mental asylum, Babydoll (Emily Browning) creates two elaborate fantasies. one that she is in a brothel the other that she is a warrior, to try to escape.
There is a lot of derision out there for the film Sucker Punch that I don’t understand. I have watched this film four times since it’s release, three times the Theatrical Cut and now this Extended Cut, and I can honestly say that I like the film for what it is. Is it a great masterwork of modern cinema? Not at all. Is it entertaining eye candy? It certainly is. Does it deserve the harsh criticism that the online community and critics lambasted it with? I suppose that depends on your view points on female empowerment and whether you can see that what is here is a dual layer of empowerment while being incarcerated.
After her mother dies, our unnamed heroine known only as Babydoll, is committed to a mental asylum by her stepfather after she accidentally kills her sister while trying to save her from the lecherous old man. Once inside, she constructs this fantasy that the asylum is actually a burlesque where the girls are forced to dance and prostitue themselves out for the owner, Blue (Oscar Isaac). Once inside she meets Sweet Pea (Abbie Cornish), Rocket (Jena Malone), Blondie (Vanessa Hudgens), and Amber (Jamie Chung). When Babydoll is forced to dance (her dance is never shown), she escapes into a second fantasy world where she meets The Wise Man (Scott Glenn) who tells her that she must find five items to escape. A knife, a key, fire, a map and the fifth item she will have to figure out on her own. She then recruits the others to her cause of trying to get the items to escape, and they are then characters in her second stage elaborate action fantasies.
There are a lot of interpretations that this film is open to. I personally see it as a battle of good versus evil, angels versus demons with The Wise Man character as a guardian angel of Babydoll. Of course, there are other interpretations that you could glean by watching the film.
Directed by Zach Snyder (300, Watchmen) the film is a gorgeous bit of eye candy. The scenes in the second fantasy world involve Babydoll fighting giant samurai, the group fighting in a World War 1 battle where the German soldiers are reanimated by clockwork and steam power, a Lord of the Rings style storming of a fortress while a B-52 bomber plays tag with a dragon, and a battle on a train with robots. And every one of those scenes is as cool as you can imagine. Snyder pulled out all the stops in filming these scenes, and while they are a majority CGI, they are very impressive to watch.
While the scenes in the actual stage one fantasy aren’t quite as elaborate or exciting, they do provide a sense of how deep Babydoll’s anguish is. The fact that she can’t cope with the reality of her world and needs to create this first fantasy world to survive speaks volumes to her character.
I’m not saying the film is perfect. No where near it. The characters are given very little room to grow and are only characterized in broad strokes. This leads to a lack of dramatic tension near the end of the film when Blue finds out about their little scheme. You find that you just really don’t care about the supporting cast of girls that assist Babydoll. Babydoll is not characterized any better than the rest. She is just the docile leader of this group trying to escape.
This also leads to the empowerment issue of the girls. While some could argue that this is nothing more than female exploitation or objectification, I would argue that the second stage fantasy segments, and some of the first stage, are nothing short of full empowerment. When you look at what the girls do, I find it hard to argue that they are being exploited. They are taking control of their own destiny and fighting against their incarceration. They have empowered themselves to do what is necessary to survive this horrific situation they find themselves in.
There is always a little bit of suspension of disbelief when you watch a movie. There is a whole lot of suspension while watching this film. It was never meant to be a realistic film, though, and should be taken as such. It never plays realistic and shouldn’t be viewed as such. It should be viewed as a fantasy/action film and if viewed as such, you will find a lot to enjoy here. It is not a great film, and certainly not Snyder’s best. But it is entertaining and is a visual treat. The second stage fantasies are simply stunning and exciting to watch. I won’t go on record saying I love this film, but I will say that I like it and that it doesn’t deserve the harsh criticism that everyone seems to lambast it with.
**1/2 out of ****
*NOTE* If you want to watch the film, I recommend watching the Extended Cut. It is a better film than the Theatrical Cut and makes a little bit more sense.
- Re-cut Man of Steel trailer with iconic John Williams score (bizzam.wordpress.com)