So, apparently I’m the only person on the Internet who actually liked Sucker Punch. (Jennifer at TheGloss hated how strangely personal the various tortures were.) Note that I did not love it: The messages about female empowerment and male possession were at times heavyhanded and incredibly confusing. But as I said to my friends when I left the screening, “I wish I had thought up this story.” To have time to play in the world that Zack Snyder — in his first wholly original work — created would have been a thrill.
But the video-game aesthetic of the worlds-within-worlds comes second in criticism to the hyper-sexualization of the five female leads. That was the part of Sucker Punch that made me uncomfortable, because it was often difficult to tell if this blend of sultry strip dancing (more on that in a minute) and ass-kicking were for the girls’ benefit, or for the men who were invariably watching.
Despite their shortcomings, the female characters — Babydoll, Sweet Pea, Amber, Rocket, and Blondie — deserve to be celebrated in their own right. Especially because they could be perceived as extensions of just one girl’s mind. I won’t delve too deep into spoilers, but you should have a solid idea of the story before moving forward. Traumatized 20-year-old Babydoll is sent to a mental institution in 1960s Vermont after the accidental death of her sister. There, she has five days before she will be lobotomized. For the rest of the film, she retreats into her mind and recasts everyone in the asylum as the inhabitants of a strip club — the men as twisted caretakers, and the young women as virtual slaves.
Babydoll then learns that when she dances, she can enter yet another dreamworld, where she’s a near-invincible warrior who does battle with dragons, robots, and Nazi zombies. (At this point, we decided that the movie could be best described as “Moulin Rouge-meets-Inception.”) But she’s nothing without her four female allies, who want to escape as badly as she does. I’ve included the actresses’ names so you know who is who, but note that I’m actually talking about the characters.
Rocket (Jena Malone)
Why I’m crushing: Of all the girls, Rocket best knows her way around the institution — both of them — and is incredibly adaptable to any situation. As her nickname suggests, she’s hotheaded, yet she has a remarkable grasp on her emotions. To get attacked by the greasy, overweight cook, then shrug and pull herself together is fascinating to watch.
Why I’m not: In some situations, she didn’t rise above her cliche as the fiery member of the group. Had we more time, we could have seen an interesting dynamic emerge: Whether Rocket rushes into battle because she doesn’t think, or because she needs it.