Saturday, 12 April 2014

One born every minute

I'll admit it: I didn't see Sucker Punch with my friends when it came out. I imagine I was busy. I wanted to see it, but they went without me because I was doing something or another at the time. And thus it silently slipped me by for a while. I was, eventually, reminded of its existence at Erotica 2013, at which I signed up for a trial of a kinky sexy dirty geeky cosplay porn site (I still have the videos I downloaded), and on said site lie people cosplaying as characters including, but not limited to, Babydoll from Sucker Punch.

Again, I let it slip me by, until I saw it tweeted about the other day. You probably know where this is going, right... so I watched it. The end.

Let me start by saying that I know it has its detractors. The critics hated it. Mark Kermode, in particular, really hated it. But real people I know loved it. Robinson was a big fan, but then again, Robinson likes EVERYTHING EVER COMMITTED TO FILM, so yeah, there's that. My sister, however, who is of more discerning taste, also loved it, to the point of theming her desktop around Sucker Punch, which both made sense and no sense at all to someone who'd never see it - see also: me.

Yesterday I watched the whole film from beginning to end and I liked it. I'm not ashamed. Well, maybe only a little.

The main complaint I see about Sucker Punch is that it's in some way torture porn disguised as feminism. I don't see it. For the uninitiated, Sucker Punch is set in three different worlds - a real one, in which the protagonist (nicknamed Babydoll) is institutionalised for a crime she didn't really commit, a fantasy one in which Babydoll visualises the asylum she's in as a mob-controlled brothel, from which she orchestrates a plan to escape, and a third one - a fantasy within a fantasy in which Babydoll and her friends from the asylum/brothel become animé-style action heroines with weaponry, with highly stylised fantasy/sci-fi action dequences and colourful CGI backdrops. Unsurprisingly, it's that final world that made it onto the posters (and my sister's desktop background).

And I suppose the first five or ten minutes may be torture porn. But I still don't see that - it's painful to watch and not pleasurable whatsoever. But once the fantasies start coming into play, there's very little of that left. The one genuinely unpleasant character who is the antagonist throughout the film is presented very clearly as a villain with no redeeming qualities other than he doesn't kill anyone (at the beginning, at least). Scenes which show signs of swivelling into darker BD/SM-esque territory always have the five girls, our heroines, taking control. Even during the dénouement, which is pretty horrific in places, there's nothing here that's really meant to turn you on by sick fascination in what's happening.

In short, I don't see why anyone could be turned on by this.

However, that's not what a lot of people have a problem with. Most people claim that Sucker Punch's main crime comes during the action fantasy sequences, in which Babydoll and her friends/allies (Sweet Pea, Rocket, Blondie and Amber - we never learn their real names, if they have them, indeed) are somewhat underdressed, with rather scant clothes and flesh on show, and that their combat is an excuse to show sexualised girls.

I disagree. There's nothing on show here any more than what you'd see in Cutie Honey or in any particular episode of Sailor Moon. The movie version of DOA goes out of its way to show crotch shots during fight sequences (something the movie poster itself picked up on), which Sucker Punch does not. And the outfits themselves aren't really that skimpy - they're outfits for fighting. And the girls fight. That's what they do. Moreover, Babydoll is clearly shown to be 20, with the other girls even older than she is. That's way above the age of consent. If there's any sexualisation here, it's of young ladies, not underage girls.

And is it anti-feminist? I don't know. But I don't think that's the aim, either. There's nothing feminist about leaping into the air and beheading three giant hulking ogres, slitting a dragon's throat, defusing a bomb on a runaway train, or fighting gaseous zombies in a World War I trench. Yes, the sequences are ridiculous. But they're fantasies. The girls here act as action heroines. It's kind of refreshing not to have a collection of men being tough guys... but is gender politics really needed here? The film, like so many others, is a continuous story. Shouldn't you be paying attention to the plot? At least, that's what I was doing.

Okay, so yeah, I thought I was going to like it and I did. But I can see why some people may dislike it. I don't agree, but I can see why. It's just neither the be-all-and-end-all of female-centric action films nor the worst film every produced. That honour's got to go to The Tree of Life.

And is it really any worse than 300? Or are half-naked men perfectly acceptable now?

Oh, wait...

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