When the Sucker Punch billboards first went up in my neighborhood, I felt conflicted. It seemed, on the face of it, to have a decent checklist of things I would like in a movie, but I instinctively lizard-brain hated it. Upon reflection and now that the uniformly negative reviews of the movie are in, here is the problem with media like Sucker Punch.
I might be a little unusual, a little bohemian, artistically-oriented, and a bit disenfranchised. Sometimes the nail which sticks out gets hammered down. Anyone who is a bit different from the norm has most likely experienced being hammered down at some point. (Disclaimer: I would point out that I am about to post a spoiler, but it is impossible to spoil a movie as cynically bad as Sucker Punch.) It doesn’t take an insightful genius to figure out that someone with purple hair might not have sailed through life 100% effortlessly, but having others attempt to hammer one down is not what makes an unusual person interesting. Sucker Punch panders to victims and tries to sell their victimhood back to them. Being unusual doesn’t mean you should embrace victimhood. Ew.
The gist of the movie is that this altporn-looking chick is unfairly institutionalized and scheduled for a lobotomy, in order to rob her of her birthright. So the altporn-looking chick fantasizes that she is actually some sort of stripping prostitute and not a mental patient. Then, when her stripper whore held prisoner in a brothel fantasy gets too sexually specific, she fantasizes that she is a hero in a video game. She is given a quest. Her questmates are raped, tortured, and/or killed. Then the altporn-looking chick hero is lobotomized. But, see, she is still free in her fantasy life, so it is a happy ending. Because chicks, especially alt-y looking ones, cannot change anything or make any kind of difference, even in their own lives, but fantasy can ease our pain.
Uhm, seriously, fuck you, Zack Snyder. Fuck you and fuck the cynical studio that backed this travesty. I note that opening weekend grossed less than $20 million, so I sincerely hope that Sucker Punch’s $82 million dollar production budget is a fiscal sucking chest wound.
It is unusual to find a movie with as consistently terrible reviews as Sucker Punch. It is amusing to note that even aggressive astroturfing is no match for the relentless ungoodness of the movie. For example, Rotten Tomatoes allows anyone at all to write a review, but it also flags some people as Top Critics. Top Critics include known reviewers, either from major partner publications or superfans. Everyone knows that a lot of the unknown reviewers on Rotten Tomatoes are studio shills, so most people take the Top Critics ratings more seriously. Sucker Punch is rated 21% overall and 10% by Top Critics. Sucker Punch was astroturfed so hard that, before release, supposed random fans (how did they see the movie pre-release?) were making posts about how they were in the target demographic for the movie and they just looooooooooved it and thought it was meaningful too.
Annalee Newitz at io9 wrote an article entitled, “Sucker Punch” goes beyond awful, to become commentary on the death of moviemaking, so you can guess whether she gave it a thumbs up or thumbs down. She insightfully notes, “We’re supposed to ponder the artificiality of Babydoll’s fantasy worlds, and perhaps question our investment in cartoonishly sexed-up female heroes. But the problem is that you can’t comment on artificiality by deploying more artificiality. At some point, there has to be something real for us to believe in.”
Annalee Newitz’s comment on artificiality cuts to the quick of the problem with these astroturfed alt-marketed monstrosities. Is writer/director Zack Snyder supposed to be porning up teenage mental patients ironically? At some point, to be an artist — or even a decent member of any community — a person needs to own what he or she does. I am sick to death of fake media from these creepy losers who are still angry that nobody liked them the first time they went out to some goth club over a decade ago. I don’t know Zack Snyder personally, but I would bet money I couldn’t afford to lose that he fits the stereotype of the angry uncool rejected guy who never got over it.
Dear Zack Snyder and other geek rage losers, instead of stewing in your own furious sense of rejection, you might try working on being better people. Everybody gets rejected sometimes, but it is not healthy to make that one’s reason for being or, worse yet, reason for creating. You are not only making other people unhappy, but you are hurting yourselves as well.
Dear target-demographic-for-products-from-Zack-Snyder-and-other-geek-rage-losers, fantasizing about being a sex worker is not actually cooler than your real life. Doing something is better than just fantasizing, even if what you can do is not as awesome as what you can imagine. Nothing wrong with fantasy, but never let some marketer convince you that what is cool about you is how fucked up you are. They are trying to disempower you and you have to be strong enough to prevent your lobotomy.