The Critics Agree: Sucker Punch Is A Video Game

Sucker Punch, the new movie from director Zack Snyder (Watchmen, 300), opens this weekend. It's a big budget, special effects-stuffed action adventure featuring four young girls doing battle against giant samurai, winged serpents and zombie soldiers. Critical consensus hasn't been good.

While the movie is being largely panned by critics - hovering around the 30 per cent mark at Rotten Tomatoes - some critics seem to enjoy its visual spectacle. The one thing they all seem to agree on, however, is that the easiest way to describe it is... "video game".

Here's a small sampling of critical reception, in which Snyder's "Alice in Wonderland with machine guns" popcorn flick is summed up so succinctly by another medium.

"Sucker Punch" is certainly the strangest dance musical of all time. Each time the female protagonist goes into her bump-and-grind, the routine is depicted as a video gamer's fantasy of violent combat against zombie Germans in World War I, or cyborgs, or dragons. It's like Roxie Hart of "Chicago" ran off for the weekend with some pimply adolescent Xbox fiend.

- Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

The blurring of reality and fantasy is there in every frame and echoes the grim storybook quality found in the graphic novel world and the fantasy look favoured by gothic video games - a sort of "Guernica" of comic-book chaos.

- Betsy Sharkey, LA Times

Some have complained that Sucker Punch feels like a video game, which is a weird complaint to make. Yes, it does feel like that, and very much on purpose. The structure of the film – Baby Doll and friends have to find a map, a flame, a key – is lifted entirely from video games. But more than that Sucker Punch feels like PLAYING a video game. Earlier this year I hated Battle: Los Angeles for giving me the feeling of watching a video game over someone's shoulder; Sucker Punch's action scenes succeed by making me feel like I'm pushing the buttons. Yeah, they might all be Quicktime Events, but they're immersive and complete, as all great video game experiences are. When you're playing a truly great game the distance between you and the action melts away, and that's what happens in Sucker Punch.

- Devin Faraci, Badass Digest

OK, if you're a 15-year-old boy (or a 30-year-old boy, or a girl with a '50s pinup jones), there's no denying that the girl-gang casting of Sucker Punch - pouty, pigtailed Browning; the regal, Nicole Kidman-esque Abbie Cornish; punky Jena Malone; plucky Vanessa Hudgens, and the exotic Jamie Chung - has a certain allure. But even with the strip-club fantasy costumes and the drop-downs into video gamelike alternate universes, the eye candy quickly gets stale.

- Stephen Rea, Philadelphia Inquirer

An unerotic unthrilling erotic thriller in the video game/comic book crossover vein, "Sucker Punch" is " "Last Airbender" with bustiers. […]These furies in fishnet stockings are neither convincing substitutes for Uma Thurman in "Kill Bill" (plainly an inspiration) nor involving characters. At times, their digitally enhanced battles look like state of the art (circa 2005) video game graphics. Scantily attired, they still aren't sexy. In mortal danger, they still aren't sympathetic.

- Roger Moore, Orlando Sentinel

it's merely a lazy technique for Snyder to reduce his already exceptionally thin story to its lowest plane. Why shoot for meaningfulness or subtlety when a narrative can - with the lamest of ploys - simply be turned into a bloody video game level?

- Jake Coyle, AP

Sucker Punch is a girl-powered Sailor Moon anime crossed with a Russ Meyer sexploitation flick. It's Shutter Island, Inception, Kill Bill, a video game and your worst nightmare mashed up. It provides sporadic seconds of splendid eye candy separated by minutes of muddled exposition and flat acting.

- Peter Howell, Toronto Star

It's Snyder's first stab at original material (with help from Steve Shibuya), and you can't fault him for ambition. He quotes from classic Hollywood movies (like "The Wizard of Oz"), and wants to pay homage to their transportive power. But with all of his green-screen, CGI, treated-image technology, all Snyder does here is transport the audience into the middle of a pretty lame video game.

Gary Thompson, Philadelphia Daily News


    Some people sure do still love to look down at video games, don't they?
    *shakes head*

    I find it amusing that they list things they consider negatives while I see them as positives.

    I'm still UBER-keen to see this.

      They list the things as negative because it's a movie, not a video game. They expect narrative, quality acting, quality cinematography. When I play a game, I don't want ridiculously long exposition with short sections of agency thrown in to make me feel like I'm in control - that's bullshit, and that's why the last act of Battlefield Bad Company 2 is so amazingly awful. Each medium has something they do best, and movies trying to be video games is just plain lazy.

    I'd play it, if you know what I mean.


    I'd never heard of this movie until now. GIANT ROBOT SAMURAI WITH MINIGUNS? COCAINE IS A HELLVA DRUG


    Homefront got shit-canned by "The Consensus" then went on to do 1 million sales in just over a week, with 2.4 million copies shipped.

    Who cares what the critics have to say, they're just spouting their opinions....which usually betray their wanky-elitest position on movies.

    It looks like a sweet film, and I'm gonna end up seeing it.

    What's wrong with videogames...? Are these critics scared of losing their industry to videogames - is that why they're so eager to play to stereotypes and talk down games?

    I like a The Fighter, but I bet this movie will be more fun.

      The Fighter. hehehe

    If critics hate it. it must be good!

    Not every movie needs to be a philosophical tour de force to be considered "good" by me.

    I'm going to see this the day it comes out, because any movie with dragons, cyborgs and chaingun wielding zombie samurai is FUCKING AWESOME. Critics tend to hate the movies that my goofy teenage self would love to see.

    Just look at the trailer. you know what you're getting yourself into. This is marketed to people who like to put the Matrix's lobby scene on loop.

    "dragons, cyborgs and chaingun wielding zombie samurai is FUCKING AWESOME"

    I agree. However, what is it that has made these things awesome? Why do we find such fantasy icons most compelling?

    Certainly a large part of it is due to their aesthetic presentation. A well draw depiction of medieval fantasy or shiny metallic science fiction robotics, certainly appeal to the eye.

    Yet really, there's more than that. Usually the reason these icons stand out as 'cool' for those so inclined to enjoy them, is because they've originated in far more complex contexts than simply their visuals.

    A dragon, a beast so large and ferocious, breathing fire and guarding a golden treasure trove, or majestically flying across open skies, laying waste to the lands below. A seemingly insurmountable monster, which dwarfs any of the obstacles we may face in our own everyday lives. It gives us hope, when we can allow ourselves to believe that if the hero can slay such a giant creature, then overcoming our own mundane challenges is certainly within reach.

    The cyborg. A complex Frankenstein's monster. That which is more than us, and yet has lost a part of itself in the process. The constant reminder of the ever forward march of technology and the risks inherent in going too far, or in what we may one day become. A killing machine, yet also a reminder of our own humanity. The cyborg offers us reflective re-assurance in a package of terrifying fear and concern for the future.

    Zombies. Life. They serve to highlight how much we have, and how much we have to lose. They are what we would be if we did nothing with our lives but move and eat and sleep. They are ourselves, as a collective mindless mass, the fear of crowds and the fear of the unknown in all the faces of all the strangers we pass everyday. They are the exposed banality of our own internal organs, reminders of what we're made of and that our mortality, while making our lives most fragile, is also most dear to us.

    And finally, the samurai. The warriors. Historical heroic figures from the past. Steeped in stories of sacrifice, betrayal, honour, loyalty. They are the soldiers, the tools, the weapons. Even as enemies they are respected for the choices they've made, for defending and remaining true to a code, to an ideal. The cultural refinement of an art and a discipline. Even when outdated, or replaced by new technologies like the chain gun, we cling to these characters from bygone eras, as they are where we have come from. They allow us to hold true to where we are going. Lest we repeat ourselves. Lest we forget.

    These are just a few possible interpretations of the meanings behind the icons.

    So why do these icons evoke such awe for us? They do so because we have seen them in the contexts in which they've resonated so well.

    And then from there, they have become shorthand for the emotional responses others wish to evoke, without needed to re-hash the original environments in which these icons evolved.

    And there's nothing wrong with using such shorthand, but misusing these images can often result in a much shallower experience than the ones in which they were first introduced. Meaning that although we may enjoy seeing a dragon and having our emotions resonate and be reminded of the awe we felt when they were first encountered, we may not be quite as in awe the second time around, and instead we look to the new context for new meaning, a new interpretation, or an extended examination beyond the original experience.

    There is also something to be said for the cumulative gathering of nostalgic touchstones of 'coolness', where the combinations of familiar icons, thrust into a new context can often produce new thoughts and perspectives that were never possible in the original instances. Like combining candy and ice-cream for the first time!

    However in most cases, where even the best presented representations of old favourites are brought together, the sum of their parts is instead diluted, rather than enhanced. Yet an audience may still enjoy them just the same, individuals will slowly slip away if the repetition is just that.

    Where lies Sucker Punch, I cannot say. Does it simply leverage the iconography we hold most dear, with stunning visual presentation and nothing else? Or does it offer to provide deeper more complex interpretations of the familiar favourites, allowing them to be re-discovered anew?

    My expectation was that these awesome touchstones were merely the backdrop for what was to be a more compelling tale... but after hearing some of the recent reviews, it sounds more like they're attempting to hide a less compelling tale behind a curtain of awesome coolness.

    In the end, I think I will have to go into this movie with expectations lowered, and anticipate nothing more than eye candy... without the ice-cream.

    And there's nothing wrong with that.

      If you weren't holding a skull with an outstreched hand while typing that exposition, it weasn't worth it.

      Why go through all that typing for a thread about a movie on a video game news site.

    The critics also hated the silent hill movie but i loved it. I dare say i'll probably end up loving sucker punch as well. =]

    I saw this today and I have to say...rubbish. I'm 13 and a girl and I love video games. But this was a rubbish movie. Everything the critics are saying is 100% true. I found this movie absolutely pointless. Yeah at first I thought it was interesting "Oooh cool combat scenes and pretty nice Special Effects." Then I got tired of it. It was not good.

    Yea I don't listen to critics... ever. I think this movie was fun, out there, mind bending... and strangely inspiring. I highly recommend it! P.S. Critics need to get their heads out of their asses. Lousy people.

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