[Note: This article series will contain spoilers, including ending spoilers. Also, please keep in mind that 1)this is only what I got out of the film; I'm not telling anyone how they "should" think and 2)this is based more on the director's cut than the theatrical release.]
Oh, Sucker Punch. Where to begin? In some circles, simply mentioning this movie is enough to start a flamewar, or at least release a deluge of ranting and ridicule. Some people say it’s misogynist, sexist, a terrible movie and/or may give you cancer; others say it’s a misunderstood masterpiece, and a feminist one at that.
I remember when I first saw the advertising. I just rolled my eyes and thought, “Here we go again. Attractive young women running around wearing skimpy outfits in some dude’s sleazy masturbation fantasy disguised as a ‘Grrl Power’ movie. If I wanted to watch porn, I’d watch porn, not this.” And I was content to dismiss it as just that.
For some reason, though, Sucker Punch stuck with me and I started looking up the reviews. Most of them were about what I expected: the movie’s a mess, it’s exploitation, pointless action with no substance and all that other jazz. What came as a surprise to me were the minority of positive reviews it got which, while often admitting the movie wasn’t exactly perfect, also claimed it was more intelligent than it looked at first glance and that it even expressed some legitimately feminist themes. Moreover, the people who liked this movie really, REALLY liked it at least in equal measure to the hatred of those who didn’t. Anything that polarizing was something I had to see. So, at my first opportunity, I watched it for myself.
I’ll admit I sorta cheated: I watched the Director’s Cut. It has eighteen extra minutes of footage that (to avoid an R rating) didn’t make it to the theaters… including some new scenes near the end that make the movie’s overall themes make a lot more sense. (It is possible the get the same substance out of the theatrical release. It’s just a bit harder to see.) That aside, I have to say it’s not at all what I expected. Yes, there are cute girls in sexy outfits. Yes, the action scenes are more flash than substance. But I think there’s a lot more going on here than the thinly-disguised exploitation film I was half-expecting.
To put it mildly, this film is complicated. It raises a lot more questions and themes than I’m prepared to address in one short article. Is it feminist? Is it misogynist? Does it actually hate men? What the heck did I just watch?! What was this movie trying to say about issue XYZ? And who was really telling this story anyway?
Over the next 2-3 weeks, I’ll get into all of those things. To give you an idea of what to expect, here are my short-version answers to some of the most controversial questions:
- Yes, I think it’s feminist. Just not in the way you’d expect.
- No, I don’t think it’s misogynist. Not by a long shot.
- No, I don’t think it’s exploitative. I think that exploitation is more than just short skirts.
I hope you’ll stick with me as I discuss my reasons why.