In the wake of the brutal reviews for "Sucker Punch," writer-director Zack Snyder went on the defensive, insisting that people totally missed the point of the film and later announcing that he would include an R-rated cut with an additional 17 minutes of footage in the home-video release.
Unfortunately, even with the extra footage and a pre-packaged explanation of the film's message, the new cut does not prove significantly better. In fact, the new footage barely makes a dent.
The film follows Baby Doll (Emily Browning) as her evil step-father has her committed to an institution basically run by an even more evil orderly, Blue (Oscar Isaacs), and where a therapist (Carla Gugino) tries to use music to help the girl's work through their issues. When the music plays, Baby Doll retreats into a fantasy world where she battles all manner of demons as she fights to escape the confines of the asylum. And it's actually more confusing than that.
At one point my wife asked why Rocket (Jena Malone) was wearing a nurse's cap while fighting steampunk German soldiers, to which I could only respond, "Why is she fighting monsters in her underwear?" It's not that "Sucker Punch" is shockingly objectifying, or that it crosses some line, but rather that it's just so nakedly—or rather, scantily-cladly—objectifying. Snyder has defended himself against such accusations by pointing out that he didn’t shoot the women in a voyeuristic way.
"They might be dressed sexually, but I didn’t shoot the movie to exploit their sexuality. There’s no close-ups of cleavage, or stuff like that," Snyder told Film School Rejects.
Which is true, but when all the beautiful 20-something women are running around in high heels and lingerie, you don’t need to do much else to make them objects.
Snyder says his film is a critique of geek culture, a send-up of genre films, an indictment of the sexuality of cinema, and if you squint, you can see that he's probably being sincere. But the man's entire career has been built on the glorification of geek culture, from his "Dawn of the Dead" remake to "300" to "Watchmen"—geeks are his core audience, so why would he make a film that condemns his own people as sweaty perverts? Or, dumber still, why would he be surprised that his audience would recoil at such a film?
And the film completely lacks the self-awareness necessary for a critique to work. Yes, there are a couple of lines -- "The dance should be more than titillation," and “This is a joke, right? I get the sexy school girl and nurse thing, but what’s this? A lobotomized vegetable? How about something more commercial?” – where the charcters comment on the film's sexuality, but rather than taking action against the objectification, the women all march onward in their high heels and delicates.
The film looks great, as Snyder's strong palette and sense of action fill every corner of the screen. But the foes Baby Doll and friends fight are painfully derivative, coming straight from movies we've all seen and loved. And instead of just being a really great popcorn entertainment, the film is bogged down by a sense of self-importance that makes it painful at times to watch.
"Sucker Punch" fails miserably in its attempt to be anything more than what it is, an adventure about a bunch of pretty women in their underwear fighting monsters.