To whom it may concern: A Sucker Punch
Now that I’ve spent my $7 and seen Sucker Punch, I can work on a letter I’ve been meaning to send out. Well, a series of letters, if you will. Sucker Punch is not the only film plagued by certain media problems, but it is one of the most recent. If you want, you can imagine this for other films. I definitely have ideas for other letters, too, based on the form of this one.
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To the PR people at Warner Bros.:
You guys have done a great job with how you all cut the trailers and promotional spots for Sucker Punch. You managed to entice people with the idea of femsploitation and high adrenaline action wrapped inside scifi-fantasy world of excitement. People will no doubt see the movie based on that, without an inkling of realization about the plot. That’s how Hollywood works, and I’m fine with that. Those who want to know will research deeper and be turned on or off by the actual plot of the film. Your job is just to present them with a taste of things to come.
But I’m disappointed in how you handled the people actually involved in the film. Letting Zack Snyder talk is like letting a 16 year-old ramble about why his book report was missing and what he definitely was going to include in it. Snyder is definitely a good director when it comes to visuals. I get the feeling that he sees life as an interactive graphic novel. That’s good when it comes to certain still shots, but it becomes annoying when he thinks one scene needs several moments of slow motion. Still, he has an eye for filming his chosen genre. But he doesn’t have that genius when it comes to words. Case in point, a paragraph I will borrow from an io9 article:
They start out as cliches of feminine sexuality as made physical by what culture creates. I think that part of it was really specific, whether it’s French maid or nurse or Joan Arc to a lesser extent [laughs], or schoolgirl. Our hope is we were able to modify them and turn them into these power icons, where they can fight back at the actual cliches that they represent. So hopefully by the end the girls are empowered by their sexuality and not exploited. But certainly that’s where they come from, the journey is asking, “What do you want to see? Well, be careful what you want to see.”
I’m pretty sure that he was just saying words. Oh, those are cliches that we built, but the girls are fighting back and turning them into power icons? Is that it? I’m supposed to think that they have reclaimed these things? In another interview, he described these as archetypes and not cliches. He even mispronounced the word the same way I did when I was sixteen and didn’t know better. (Thankfully dictionary.com can fix that for everyone.) He’s a mess of words. Don’t let him do an interview without a prepared statement. I know the story was partially his, but work as a sounding board so as to help him understand what he’s trying to say.
Along those lines, don’t let the stars of the movie talk about the movie unless they actually know what the movie is. I saw Vanessa Hudgens on Conan O’Brien. She did not come across very well when asked about the actual movie. It sounded like a vague promo piece, which I am sure you prepared for her. How about next time you prepare the stars with a plot synopsis and its actual meaning. It doesn’t take away from the magic of the film when people know what it is. It simply makes the performers sound like they were involved and invested in the film, not simply collecting a paycheck and proving they can do more than High School Musical films. Prepare them for these questions, or simply keep the interviews to the topics of personal life and what it was like to perform in said film. (We know you control the talk show interviews. Why else are the hosts surrounded by teleprompters and index cards? Thankfully, at least Craig Ferguson thinks it’s all crap.) Otherwise your stars sound like vapid nobodies who are coasting on their indistinct Hollywood looks.
Speaking of which – Emily Browning. I enjoyed Browning’s performances in Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events and The Uninvited. I understand that she was not the first choice for the part of Baby Doll in Sucker Punch. That would be Amanda Seyfried, who couldn’t make the time due to her involvement in Big Love. (Instead of staying with the very popular show, she managed to reduce her involvement in the last season to one episode so she could film things like Red Riding Hood.) Slapping a really bad wig on another light eyed, pouty-lipped female is not the answer – and to those of us who have read about the casting decisions, it proves that looks are generally sought over talent. Not to take anything away from Browning’s performance, mind you. She is certainly talented, but she is not great yet. This is obvious because you didn’t cast her to be the star. You cast her to fill the starring role. There is a difference.
PR people, you’re probably asking why I put that paragraph in there. Well, the general audience shouldn’t know these things. Snyder revealed his ideal cast back in 2009 to Cinema Blend. Of his ideal five woman cast, he only managed to get two. It means that the three he didn’t get were replaced by second, third, or fourth tier – or beyond. And again, based on what? Looks or acting?
While saying all that, I have to tell you that I unabashedly enjoyed the movie. I enjoyed it for more than the superficiality of the stylistic visuals and the skimpy outfits adorning the women in each layer of the fantasy worlds. In fact, the outfits weren’t even sexy – mainly because the women do not have bodies that can be boasted as incredibly sexy. To be honest, though, they have bodies that seem appropriate for action-oriented women, though, so kudos. Anyway, I get the film. From the beginning, Baby Doll projected onto the other wrongfully committed blonde, Sweet Pea. She gave her the second chance that she knew she couldn’t receive. Of course this hinges on a scene that I must admit I found confusing. In the beginning, was the step-father responsible for the death of Baby Doll’s little sister, or did the property damage from the gunshot result in shrapnel that killed her? If the latter, then the accepting the lobotomy makes sense because it would free her from the pain of having ended her sister’s life – not to mention the ruckus she caused in the asylum. If the former, it’s a copout that somewhat weakens the movie. Either way, that confusion means that particular scene is the worst in the movie. Make sure there’s an extended cut of the movie with that scene fixed. People will be thankful.
While I’m at it, do not let Snyder try to explain that scene. If he tries to pull the subjectivity card, he will lose the respect of those who actually like him. He is not David Lynch, and as such does not quite understand how to make a film brilliantly obtuse. Just put a lid on that one before it happens.
In this day and age, good PR for a film is simply visibility. If the people working on the film are visible, then it means the film is getting advertised. I understand that. But how about this – stop it. Let the trailers increase visibility, and then let the films speak for themselves. Everyone else involved is just turning potential art into crap. If your job is to promote the film and make sure it looks good before people see it, you’re failing when you let these people open their mouths.
Meanwhile, I look forward to buying the extended cut DVD edition of the film. This time around you’ll only let the commercials promote the film, and I think it will be much better received that way.
Posted on March 28, 2011, in advertising, Bechdel pass, fantasy, movies, review, science fiction, scifi and tagged advertising, Bechdel pass, fantasy, movies, review, science fiction, scifi. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.