TV Review: Sucker Punch

by Eric Melin on March 25, 2011

in Video Reviews

Here’s my review of Zack Snyder’s “Sucker Punch” from KTKA-49.

With “Sucker Punch,” director Zack Snyder has taken his fetish for violence, overt sexuality and computer-generated graphics to a new level of guy-oriented fantasy.

His trademark is improbably choreographed videogame-style slo-mo imagery, but here he’s added Japanese anime, burlesque and every period of art design from the last century to the mix.

The depressingly bleak story is about five young girls forced into a mental institution where lobotomies are commonplace. They try to escape their awful reality by imagining themselves as scantily-clad warriors on an impossible mission.

‘Impossible’ means that giant samurai warriors, “Lord of the Rings” orcs, German zombies, zeppelins, bi-planes, robots and any other kind of war machine from any moment in time all inhabit the same virtual space.

The end result? Well, I can get that—and better acting—in a videogame.

It’s not that the story is bad so much as it’s downright insulting. “Sucker Punch” pretends to be about girl power, yet all the girls are running around half naked in a slave-driving brothel.

Tacking on a bunch of pretentious voice-over nonsense about angels and self-realization doesn’t get Snyder off the hook for a movie that doesn’t realize how wrongheaded, humorless and offensive it really is.

Eric is the Editor-in-Chief of Scene-Stealers.com and writes the Screen Stealers column for The Pitch. He’s President of the KCFCC, and drummer for The Dead Girls and Ultimate Fakebook. He is also Air Guitar World Champion Mean Melin. Eric goes to 11. Follow him at:

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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Blaquestarr April 4, 2011 at 3:44 pm

I think you missed the entire point of the film. The impossible isn’t facing samurai or steampunk Nazis. The impossible is getting out of the mental institution – or quite bluntly, being seen as more than objects for men pleasures. The impossible is for Babydoll to be free of being exploited, hurt, and having her life controlled by men. It’s quite the feminist film that throws the sexual fetishes back into men faces as these 5 women fight for their lives and their dignity, by choosing to stoop lower to get the drop on those that harm them.
It also shows how abused women deal with their lots in life. Choosing to go to a happier place while they are being raped…

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2 Gerry April 6, 2011 at 4:02 am

I have just seen it and the cinema was full of men. I think its a very clever movie, because all these boys out there are expecting just half naked sexy women and violence on the screen, but get half naked sexy women and violence on the screen (because it’s totaly okay to want that) plus jokes about them wanting that (because it’s totaly okay to make them).

There’s a “nice guys get more” and “no personal risk: no freedom, no good, no change” moral. There is more than only “girl power”, it’s not really about feminism just because the heros are all women. They are only all women because it’s totaly okay to have sexy women as heros if you are into them, like Snyder obviously is.

To me Sucker Punch is a nice work of art that many people just don’t find understanding for because they get distracted (or offended) by all the lipstick and the video game aesthetics.

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3 Eric Melin April 6, 2011 at 9:01 am

Blaquestarr and Gerry – It’s not that I missed the point, it’s that the movie Snyder made doesn’t support his intended theme. The premise that they are imagining themselves in a brothel undermines the whole idea of their finding their way to freedom. The events that happen later in the film in the backstage area are deplorable, and the fact that they take place in this male fantasy world makes it even more insulting. By the end, even as the voiceover tells us the only thing holding us back is ourselves, the events we are witnessing (trying not to spoil it for everybody here) are completely antithetical to that! If, in fact, it was Baby Doll that was meant to be the angel for Sweet Pea, then why did we witness all her abuse at the beginning of the film. If Scott Glenn was supposed to be an angel, why did the story end the way it did (which was decidedly bleak, not triumphant, let me tell you)? All of that stuff felt tacked on after he had decided to make a movie that mashed up different styles and design eras. I wish he would have kept the art direction and left all the “heavy” pseudo-fate stuff out of it completely. It would have been a pleasure to watch instead of a slog.

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4 Gerry April 6, 2011 at 11:56 am

“It’s not that I missed the point”, I wish I wouldn’t say that every time I miss the point :-)

Baby Doll imagines herself in a brothel because she gets sexually exploited! I mean, you know what really happens when she “dances”?

“The events that happen later in the film in the backstage area are deplorable, and the fact that they take place in this male fantasy world makes it even more insulting.”

I haven’t been insulted so I can’t identify the part of the story you mean by that and almost all actions of the male characters are deplorable. But anyway I think that a movie can depict deplorable things without becoming deplorable themself.

“If, in fact, it was Baby Doll that was meant to be the angel for Sweet Pea, then why did we witness all her abuse at the beginning of the film.”

Even if many think so, life is not only about one self. It was a twist in the movie to enforce its moral: Be an angel and take risks. If all the patients in the asylum would only think of themselves and would take no risk on themselves, than they can’t help others! That’s why it is hard to do good when it is needed, it means to bring yourself in the line of fire. You may die doing so but another ones story might go on.

“If Scott Glenn was supposed to be an angel, why did the story end the way it did (which was decidedly bleak, not triumphant, let me tell you)?”

I found it to be very triumphant. Sweet Pea, Dr. Vera Gorski, and the stop of the ongoings in the asylum. And 4 other woman had started to fight for themself. That’s a triumph in itself because, again, without trying no success. (As a depressed person I really value that message.)

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5 Helen April 6, 2011 at 10:37 pm

I thought the same thing, that the bullshit at the end about how the “KEY IS INSIDE YOU!!” Trying to empower the viewer (especially female viewer) after sexualizing, and glorifying every kind of abuse. These girls “overcome” their oppressors in scanty clothing while handling obvious phallic symbols, and what do they get? Stabbed, shot, nearly raped, a labotomized, and one escape on a bus- WOW. Where is the triumph here? In the visual fantasies strung together as rather to put on the directors resume than to assist in any sort of plot? Misogynistic, offensive, disgusting. So what is the message here? As women, let us fight against violence, oppression, and abuse, but at the same time be sexual enough to get the audience off, and then end up brutalized and dead? SWEET COUNT ME IN!!!!

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6 evan April 7, 2011 at 6:23 pm

This film didn’t work for me. I liked it, but found it lacks value. Great visual style, and I liked the intent of the story, but the narrative was too obfuscated and ends up not having a real point. Because the narrative is not strong, the film ends up having less value. Rather than confuse with allegory and layered meaning, the experienced writer starts with a strong story and adds layers on top of it. The decision to not have any character development also undermines the film.

Baby Doll might be dancing as a way to disassicate from rape, but without showing the audience any hint of that, I found little impact. I think the decision to not show the asylum at all was a mistake. It means that everything is very abstract. It means that the story has to be summed up in lines like “This girl was trouble, she started a fire, stabbed someone etc” without letting the audience understand that. It’s lazy writing, I think, and shows a distinct lack of ability to hold a story together.

It’s a shame, since I was waiting for something that would be the key to the story, but Snyder never gave it to us. Although I can see a theme of atonement and victory in Baby Doll’s lobotomy and Sweat Pea’s escape, the real problem is that Snyder hasn’t given us a clear story. The main character is really Sweet Pea? Huh?

Stories like Alice in Wonderland and Narnia exist as stories without the deeper allegory. They can be viewed as simple good vs evil stories, but the intelligent author layers other themes that overlay the basic story. Sucker Punch doesn’t do this. The story is too weak. All the focus is on the style and it ignores the basic, essential concept of telling a strong story. Because of this, Alice in Wonderland and Narnia have been around for decades if not longer, while Sucker Punch will be forgotten in weeks.

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7 Eric Melin April 7, 2011 at 10:49 pm

Helen- You put it more directly than I have been able to. Nice work.

Evan – You bring up a really good point about the decision to never show the asylum reality. It’s a huge misstep and the fact is that Snyder has proven again (after “Watchmen”) that he can’t tell a story with a coherent theme.

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8 Smith April 9, 2011 at 9:47 pm

Why the hell are you reviewing films when you’re a completely horrid at it in every way..what the hell have you been recently that is of any importance?Snyder created a film that will forever be a part of pop culture and remembered fondly..the only thing you will be remembered for is being a complete selfish prick!

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