Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Big Picture: "You Are Wrong About 'Sucker Punch' - Part II

This is the part with the SPOILERS...

25 comments:

lemonvampire said...

Great video, Bob. Your first installment didn't do anything to help change my opinion of the film, as it was all stuff I'd heard before, but the points you made this time were all incredibly well thought out and valid.
This still doesn't change my opinion of the film, but now I can certainly understand yours. Great job.

Silver said...

Fantastic analysis of this extremely underappreciated movie.

Actually, I wrote exactly the same thing in my blog about a year and a half ago (sadly, it's in Bulgarian so it's pointless to give a link).

The only thing I could add is how the role of Zack Snyder himself as a director, transforms in the light of this meta-level of the movie.

Yeah, Sucker Punch equates the nerds that enjoy mindless geeky empty VFX-fests to cruel rapist pigs (hence the title). But also Sucker Punch is an almost absurd genre mix (zombie flick, war movie, martial arts movie, fantasy, sci-fi). Snyder, being producer and director mainly of this kind of stuff (zombie flicks, pseudo-historical war movies, comic book adaptations...) actually makes a striking sardonic confession with this film - "I am the pimp" and equates his attempts at making genre movies to prostitution.

I've never liked Snyder's work before seeing Sucker Punch. Ironically he convinced me that he is a very clever guy with his dumbest movie to date. And now I am actually excited to see what he will do to Superman.

Lee Kalba said...

"Katana sword"
I'm reminded of the Squidbillies moment where Earlie talks about his "gun bullet".

Mads said...

Well a katana doesn't traditionally symbolize a phallus, whereas a sword traditionally does.

It sounds silly, but it's a necessary expansion of the words used.

@Silver
That's a very neat perspective.

But it can be extrapolated. It can be understood to mean so much more.

If the movie is a self-confession - which it logically must be, to some extent - then the criticism is not directed towards the audience itself. As so many here have been quick to point out, what is the idea of criticizing people for being pigs if they don't realize it or don't care?

I still do think there's a decent number of people who can appreciate that criticism, but in this broader context, the meaning of the movie becomes viscious towards fans and critics who heighten the low-brow action flick to an artform.

If Snyder believes this is what his art truly is - low-brow fodder fed to pigs - then he is saying, you there critic, YOU who's about to write about my other movies and praise them for being works of art, you're _wrong_, my movies are low-brow sexist _crap_. Learn to recognize it. Call me a pimp, not an artist, call the actors prostitutes, not stars, and call your audience pigs, not connoseurs.

I can't decide if Snyder truly is that self-deprecating, or if he is merely hating on the action movies which have action but no context or meaning. I can't decide if his vitriol is directed at himself, or the rest of the business.

It doesn't really matter though; it's a cool perspective, and one I rather like.

Anonymous said...

That was fun and clever. So does it make me a bad person that I continue to like Sucker Punch because I think the action scenes are cool and the musical sequence at the end (or in the middle of the Director's Cut) is fabulous? And what about the deleted awesome scene with John Hamm where he and Baby Doll get it on right before the real J.H. character lobotomizes her and then that guy says it was clear that she "wanted it"? There are still a lot of questions here...

Silver said...

@Mads

On the surface, every Snyder's movie is just like Sucker Punch - a mindless spectacle with overblown visuals (and that boring slo-mo, which plagued even The Watchmen). Underneath however they are all full of neat (and sometimes cruel) bits and pieces. 300 is not just Gerard Butler screaming at people and kicking their asses. It can be seen as a homophobic pro-fascist propaganda (being at the same time ridiculously homoerotic). Even in a CG-animation about talking owls Snyder made unambiguous allusions to Hitler's regime. The other two of his films - The Watchmen and Dawn of the Dead are also very unconventional for the corresponding genre. (The former could have been easily one of the best comic book adaptations if it was less abrasive in its style.)

So, in a sense, the confession I was talking about can be seen also as a bit of self-irony. And also could mean that the sucker punch is directed towards the part of the audience that sees his films as shallow action flicks and nothing more.

It's actually very rare to see a filmmaker speaking so directly to the audience and criticising it. The previous such attempts (I am aware of) are Shyamalan's The Happening and Guy Ritchie's Revolver. (I think these two movies are much closer to Sucker Punch than Inglorious Basterds.)

In any case - the moral of the story here is that movies are not good or bad. Movies are functional or not. Even a bad movie can be functional. Moreover - its "badness" can be necessity to make the movie functional.

Omegalittlebob said...

I was always really meh on Sucker Punch. I never agreed with the majority of reviews, saying that the film was one of the worst films of all time and was completely worthless, I always felt like there had to be more to the film. But I couldn't agree with near glowing reviews like Bob's.

Before though I never felt compelled to go watch it again, I didn't feel like I'd get anything more out of it. Now, I know I'll be able to more out of it, and I'll be able to better determine how good I think the film is.

Thanks for that Bob!

Silver said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Silver said...

"Oh, an one more thing..." :)

Speaking about katanas, I can't help but notice that the entire opening sequence (one of the best cinematic moments of 2011 with almost perfect sync between the music and the editing) is full of references foreshadowing things to happen. 1) The cruel stepfather opens the will with a miniature katana (then we have a fight with katanas in the "martial arts level"); 2) when Baby Doll shoots at him she misses and breaks the light bulb (the heads of the androids in the "sci-fi level" explode in the same manner); 3) the second time she shoots the pipe and the air starts hissing (as the clockwork soldiers from the "war level")... All these little connections may seem completely unimportant, but they also show that Sucker Punch is made with great attention to details.

Anonymous said...

Just so we're clear:

The Baby Doll 'dance' sequences were just her having sex with the abusive moustache man, right? Makes a lot of sense based on the limited dialog he gets in the core reality. Also makes sense how Baby Doll was able to lure him into such a vulnerable position that she could beat the crap out of him.

Anonymous said...

I've never actually cared about Sucker Punch aside from 'oh hey that movie that bombed right?' until right now. Bob, thankfully, has given me a good enough synopsis that I now can file it in my list of actually hated movies.

Above everything else I can never forgive a media, ANY media, That puts words in my mouth. That is to say any story where a message about the audience is put in place with no admission of the finer details of said topic or at the least acknowledgement that some different viewpoints (for moneys sake even Atlas Shrugged had SOME nuance).

This, however, is also why I dismiss most art house viewers saying I didn't "get" something. Much like criticism of outcry after the ME3 ending claiming people just weren't happy with the context of the ending. No, the content for things like ME3 or Sucker Punch are objectively bad, pompous and self important and the mass markets flat out rejection of them serves only as proof that they were wrong. Acting as if some message somehow went unnoticed that makes everything better is not an excuse and often only serves as more proof of inferior work.

milanjeftic1992 said...

The Feminist Frequency chick will still won't she listen

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Graham said...

It looks like the guys who run Steam are a fan of you, Bob.

http://store.steampowered.com/bigpicture

Rolf Hut said...

although I liked these 2 episodes, deep analyses like these always give me flashbacks to my (dutch...) literature classes in high school. My teacher always demanding from me to identify the "meaning of the writer", because stories have to mean something on a deeper level. And than me waving a newspaper interview with the writer in which he stated "no meaning was implied, I just like to tell good stories". And me teacher not accepting that...

I always wonder how much of the deeper layers that we see in narrative art are "in the eye of the beholder" versus how much was put in there by the artist.

Don't get me wrong: if some deeper meaning is evident in a narrative piece of art (inc. movies) that was not put their by conscious effort of the artist(s), it doesn't invalidate the meaning. The fact that someone sees it, says a lot about the person doing the seeing, but the meaning isn't any less "real" to that person. That's is why art can mean so different things to different people. It is also why a piece of art can take a different meaning over time. Different zeitgeist leads to different views on imagery / narrative structure that leads to different interpretations of the meaning of a piece of art.

That is why I am always interested in the word of the artist on this, but only after I formed my own opinion. So: is their a commentary version (dvd) or an interview with the director / producer / script writer of SuckerPunch in which they explain their intensions and how they saw the meaning of the layers in the movie? I understand people don't want to give away those details on the theatrical release date, but for the directors cut it would be a nice additive. Since I don't own a copy of SuckerPunch: can anyone answer that?

thanks again,

Rolf Hut

Anonymous said...

Honestly though, none of this matters.

The movie didn't flop because "people didn't get it". Half the people I talk to about Inception "didn't get it" on practically any level and yet they still loved that.

This movie flopped because it actually manages to be boring. Simple. I'd have rather just watched Babydoll dance for the entire movie.

Anonymous said...

It's interesting to hear you talk about the different "interpretations" of the movie, because I think that may be what ruins it for me as some sort of deeper commentary about geek culture.

It reminds of the phrase "good art is interpreted; good design is understood." You can praise this movie for all it's artistic value, but if this movie is trying to make a finite political comment about the shameless objectification of women's bodies by geek culture, then the vagueness of symbolism that lends to multiple interpretations means there are multiple "understandings". Which means the message is being lost somewhere, and therefore it was not very well-designed. To quote Roger Ebert, "If you have to ask what something symbolized, it didn't".

So while I guess you can praise the movie for trying to tackle an oft-overlooked problem in geek culture, the real reason this movie fails has everything to do with how it's designed/structured, and very little to do with all of us being "wrong" about it.

Pyrian said...

Anybody else think that Sucker Punch would've done much better box office with a Hollywood ending?

Anonymous said...

Will next week be a Eulogy for Charles Xavier?
http://www.chroniclejournal.com/news/cp/entertainment/50-years-after-forming-x-men-professor-x-dead-0

Dead Trencher said...

I always love how people are so centered around the scantily clad women in this movie. I was curious if anyone else wanted to see it for any of the other stuff they were lauding in the trailer.

I went to see it for the WW1 German zombie-soldiers and how our media loves slaughtering them without remorse.

Anonymous said...

Did Bob say the girl who plays Sweet Pea was 6'8"?

Anonymous said...

F%$k you anonymous at 11:23PM... did it ever occur to you that comic other readers may see this blog? and that we may have not read avx11?! Bob... you should hide that comment. Some of us go for our subscriptions on weekends and don't expect to find comic spoilers here!

Anonymous said...

Here's my criticism of your review, Bob.

Firstly, I think the medium comes first, and the message (if there is one) has to be told through the medium effectively. A good song has to be well composed, written, etc... to get you to listen to it, and only then are you able to look into what it's trying to say, or feel what it's trying to make you feel, etc...

Likewise with books, a poorly written book may contain the best, most relatable story ever conceived with groundbreaking character development and intense imagery -- but if it is cluttered with grammatical mistakes, spelling mistakes, and generally sloppy writing style, I'm not going to get past the first chapter.

And so, with a movie like Sucker Punch, I don't care about the meaning or the message if I'm bored -- or even a little put off -- by the way the director is telling the story. You claim that this movie was just a little too deep for me... well I'm not digging a hole to find out just how deep it is if I have no interest in what's underneath.

As a comparison, consider another one of your favouirtes that a lot of people disagreed with you on -- Scott Pilgrim vs The World. I loved that movie. It was fun, engaging, the dialogue was delivered very well, I cared about the characters, etc... Because it succeeded (to me) I am able to look at it and agree with you that, yes, it does have a fair bit to say about Gen Y relationships that most other love stories about my generation fail miserably at grasping. Moreover, when I think about what it does have to say about relationships between people who are roughly my age, I can still have fun and enjoy myself while doing that because I am remembering all of the good things about the movie. With Sucker Punch, I can't do that. I could barely sit throuh this big picture because I was bored just watching the scenes as you were talking about the. There was nothing interesting, nothing familiar, nothing to say "Ohh shit that was awesome... and wow I never thought about what it meant in that way! Neat!" You glossed over this breifly in part 1, but I think that's the central complaint most people have if they really thought about it.

Most of us here like to overanalyze, but we're not going to do it with shlock that we don't care about (well, maybe now and then purely as an excercise).

wewatchmoviesfree said...

This is a great movie full of action and adventure. I loved that movie. It was fun, engaging, the dialogue was delivered very well. It is good to watch WW1 German zombie-soldiers to fight.

Anonymous said...

You are all wrong about "You Are Wrong About Sucker Punch"

This video series was clearly a metacommentary on pretentious assholes who think they're the chosen one who finds hidden meaning in turds. I can only doubt that Bob was serious about this alleged hidden meaning when much more seasoned movie analysts than him said absolutely nothing about it.

Or, who knows, maybe I'm as wrong about Bob as his moronic, self-critical alter-ego is about Zack Snyder.