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Sucker Punch – review (again) – spoilers

You know, I did a kind of mini-review (more of a blurb really) when this movie first came out and then blanked it from my mind. I also copped out on that review because… well, I don’t remember why. It was like 2 years ago. heh. In any case, songs from the soundtrack have been popping up on my pandora Paramore station and reminding me that I never got my feminist rant on about this movie. So I’mma gonna do it now.

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Ultimately, the best thing about this movie was the soundtrack. No, seriously. It was visually stunning and the directing was great, and the acting was great, but when the story SUCKS THAT BAD, well, the whole movie tanks for me.

Here’s my problem with Sucker Punch. It was advertised as a girl power movie and was in no way, shape, or form, as advertised. Yes, the girls knew how to fight, but what you can’t tell from the previews is that it’s all in their heads. What’s really happening is horrific abuse in a mental institution. And every one of the girls (if I remember correctly) was also sexually abused.

Now, if this had been a movie about abuse, then I could’ve maybe accepted it, and even gotten behind it, however sucky the movie ended. But it wasn’t. Or, that’s not how it started out at least. You have two orphan sisters. One of whom kills their guardian to protect her younger sister from being raped by the guardian. They both end up in the institution (although I can’t remember why both ended up there) whereupon things get even worse.

From there, we have ‘magical’ interactions between the girls already in the institution and the sisters. We see them as beautiful young creatures learning how to dance for the pleasure of patron clubs (not that they already haven’t been sexually traumatized at this point or anything) and woe betide anyone who doesn’t obey, even the woman who’s supposed to be in charge but is, in fact, just a puppet for (again) a man. Not that it really matters, since we get flickers that this is, after all, just in their heads. They’re really living a life of drudgery and further sexual abuse by the sleazy institution workers.

Then there’s a quest from some mystical dude that, if they succeed, they’ll all be strong and free, yadda yadda. Forget the fact that it takes a man to explain to the girls how to be strong and free in the first place… no, let’s not. That’s one of the first things that ticks me off, but, whatever. Mystical dude, fine. Happens in plenty of quest movies, regardless of hero’s gender.

So they go on the quest and in the end, most of them die. Not just that, but the lead girl, the one we all pin our hopes on, she gets lobotomized. Seriously. John Hamm comes in and shoves a needle where it don’t belong AND the girl’s kinda smiling just before he does, showing her acceptance of everything.

What the fuck about THAT portrays girl power?

Martial arts does not girl power make. What really and truly pisses me off is that this movie could have been so good! All they had to do was, you know, actually empower the girls to overcome the god awful circumstances. The writer/studio didn’t have to change the sexual and mental abuse, just have the girls win for a fucking change. It’s like, they got halfway through the film and suddenly panicked. Like, “OMG! We can’t do this! No one’s done that before. Girls don’t actually survive sexual abuse and become strong, independent women. Quick! Rewrite the ending!”

I guess that’s my main beef with the movie. It could have gone so much further than just awesome visuals and really dug into the heart of the journey from victim to freedom. It could have been so much more than it ended up being. Sigh.

Also, there’s no way in hell this movie should have been PG13, that’s how bad the abuse was. It should have been R, straight up.

On the plus side, the soundtrack really does kick ass. That, you should buy.

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About Nancy M. Griffis

Author and screenwriter who loves scifi/action/adventure/urban fantasy genres. I have two published novels, Mind Games and Eternal Investigations, as well as a short story published for charity called "Home Fires Burning." All are available through amazon.com and barnesandnobles.com.

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