Yes, it’s not a CGI-fest for 13-year-old guys, but a very smartly written film with deep philosophical implications. Zack Snyder is not an idiot. People criticized the film because it apparently fell short of what they had come to expect out of the man who directed ‘300’ and ‘Watchmen’. Sucker Punch may actually feel very drab and incessantly loud on the first viewing. But then I saw through its intricate layers of self-effacing lessons on belief, power, life and death.
I’ll start off slowly by pulling out its elements for justifying my claim. The ‘Sweet Dreams‘ opening was killer. What it does is: a) make you aware of its dark, brooding universe; b) hold your attention to the point that you start inhaling and exhaling rhythmically to its hypnotic allure. And throughout the film, the soundtrack (Where Is My Mind?) continues to nourish the dramatic importance of the scenes. Baby Doll’s struggle is a fundamental one: it’s a struggle for freedom. And freedom, like every other abstract quality, means different things to different people.
Five things. Five steps. Five journeys ending in redemption. Snyder’s masterstroke lies not only in disguising these journeys into a fantasia trip, it lies in the scalding sheet of meaning which he chooses to cover with them. He wants us to be sensible and dig a little bit more. So while his film’s narrative is skipping back and forth, he’s behind the curtain waiting to unveil his last trick: the one trick that was criticized because the conjurer decided not to dress it up. Try to look a little further into the film and think just a little bit more, you may end up loving Sucker Punch as much as I do. The SFX-heavy battles are not just there for eye candy, they actually serve as vehicles for the film’s spiky metaphors. The fight for freedom, the objectification of women, the use of sexual power for one’s own sake, the dying hope, the dystopian towns shimmering like a dream: every little detail is a small piece of gift-wrapping paper. The guns and planes may drown out more important voices in the film, but the trick pays off in the end; a neat little bow on the painting which now echoes a hundred sentiments through one piece of wizardry.
And there’s that ending monologue. I still have trouble sometimes when I try to process the sheer rawness of its weight and vigor. The gravity of that monologue’s soul-spinning simplicity was hard to believe at the time; it drove me to love the film even more. Here was one film which acts stupidly when in fact underneath its outer layer, there was a firestorm of powerful ideas swimming. Needless to say, I remain a Sucker Punch fan till date.
I watched the film on the big screen on 25th March, 2011 (yes, I remember the exact date). I was completely smitten. I came home and read reviews of my favorite critics who were panning it as the ‘worst film of the year so far’. Over the years I watched several times again, and each time there was an increase in the amount of affinity I felt for the film. It would be pointless for me to recall just how many times I’ve gathered my strength from the ending monologue of the film when my life seemed shattered. I have revisited its exhaustively compelling world many times, and there’s a light inside me which turns a couple notches brighter when I’m in that world.
Sucker Punch hides away its merits and asks you to do your part and dig it out. So if you have some free time to spare and reject this movie on the grounds of your former dislike or widespread criticism, have some faith and take the ride.
And thank you, Mr Snyder. Your inspiration touches me even when I’m not aware of it.