14 October 2012

Sucker Punch

Zach Snyder, director of 300, Watchmen, Sucker Punch, and the forthcoming Man of Steel, has a terrific eye but a shallow mind. His adaptation of Watchmen is exactly the soulless, ham-fisted misinterpretation of Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ novel which I might have made had you put me in the director’s chair when I was nineteen years old. His adaptation of 300 managed to take the implicit fascist sensibility of Frank Miller’s novel and make it worse.

A while back, I succumbed to curiosity and caught his film Sucker Punch, a stylish, bizarre mishmash that’s sort of about hot chicks in fetishy outfits getting into cartoonish action movie battles ... and sort a horror story about a young woman trapped in an insane asylum. It is a strange film. It is not a good film.

For obvious reasons, it has taken a lot of criticism for its sexism. On the other side of that link, the wonderful Anita Sarkeesian of Feminist Frequency says:

Sucker Punch is nothing more than a steaming pile of maggot-filled, festering, misogynist crap trying to masquerade as female empowerment.

I agree with Ms. Sarkeesian that Sucker Punch is indeed a steaming pile of maggot-filled, festering, misogynist crap. But, unusually for me, I disagree with her about something important. She’s wrong about what the film tries to do, and so she's wrong that it there is nothing more to it than its misogyny. Sarkeesian also says:

Snyder is nothing but a parasite trying to leech of the gains of feminism to satisfy his own personal, pornographic, adolescent boy fantasy, which just serves as another example of the male driven backlash against women.

I understand and respect the heck out of that reading. It’s an easy conclusion to reach, given the film. And obviously I have no love for Snyder. But I think that it’s dead wrong about his intentions.

It was vividly apparent to me, seeing the film, that Snyder was sincerely trying to make a film critical of the misogyny it manifests ... but utterly failed at that project due to his limitations as a filmmaker, his male privileged boneheadedness, and his general stupidity.

Now even if I’m right that Snyder had some positive intentions, I don’t want to claim that the good intentions I imagine for him redeem the film. They don’t, either in terms of its sexism or even as an artwork. But if we do want to talk about the film Snyder was trying to make — and I think that is a conversation worth having — then we should get it right. Indeed, if I’m right that Snyder was trying to make an actual feminist statement but screwed it up and produced the opposite, it should be very interesting to talk about the disjoint between the intended effect and the actual effect.

I’ve never had the patience to try to assemble the argument about the movie Snyder was trying to make. So it’s a good thing that Bob “MovieBob” Chipman at The Escapist has come along and done it much better than I could have.

If you have ever suffered the misfortune of seeing Sucker Punch, I cannot recommend highly enough checking out what MovieBob has to say. And if even if you haven’t, you may want to look at Mr. Chipman’s work in general. I’m a fan.

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