Sucker Punch

This page written circa 15 March, 2020.

I could not disagree more with Rotten Tomatoes' critics' assessment of Sucker Punch.

In the last couple of months I have been considering Peter's comment that films mainly appeal to him if they have "moral ambiguity". I certainly adore that quality, and it shows in my most favourite films --- the likes of A Clockwork Orange, Blade Runner, Tempest (Jarman or Mazurski), Forbidden Planet, Closer, and Watchmen. But there are other properties that create appeal for me.

The next most obvious attractor is sharp, witty dialogue with a degree of situational relevance with which the viewer can identify. There are so many quotable lines and deftly handled issues with which you can identify in Notting Hill, so many situations you can feel in A Good Year.

This moral conflict leaks into some other films I like, albeit in a watered-down way. Films like Pretty Woman and Top Gun have an element of moral disconnect (more than ambiguity or conflict), some sharp dialogue, plus a decent amount of sex-turned-love, a classic tool to boost appeal.

You may have noticed that The Bard appears in these titles. It should come as no surprise that he knew a thing or two about making a drama appealing. (Upstart Crow is good for a behind-the-scenes laugh, BTW.) Yet when his plot offered no moral tension, he could deliver a worthy experience with nothing more than words of sharpness and common emotions in silly and romantic progression with sex-turned-love for a happy end, As You Like It, All's Well that Ends Well, etc. He had a good line in tragedy, but that appeals to others more than me... never had time for characters that don't wise up. In truth I prefer my Shakespeare delivered in anachronistic wrapping... the essence with less effort?

Apart from stunning fantasy sequences like the temple golems and the Nazi steampunk zombies, there's a lot of female body in Sucker Punch, so it easily gets ahead of Top Gun. But next the RT critical summary says "...without characters or a plot to support them", which is demonstrably wrong. The plot is there... the escape of the wrongly-incarcerated character from the asylum, a plot seen through the view of a serious schizophrenic (hence the fantasy sequences), but a solid plot nevertheless. The crunch is there too, with the truly insane still possessed of enough character, sacrificing themselves to free the sane victim, knowing they are there for good reason yet recognising that one of them is not. It's a hard plot to follow, I grant. Morally fierce.

Like most of the films I love, many of which I have cite here, SP requires the viewer to have their brain in gear to pick up all the value. The Man from Earth may be very quiet but it bears much rewatching; Spirited Away has a lot going on in a heroic, intriguing story with a lot of deep connections and sacrifice, plus it is beautiful when you have time to notice. I need Brain food, at least as much as moral stress and skilled dialog.

Plus sex, of course.

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