Sometime over the weekend, as it became clear to number crunchers that puny Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules was going to win the opening-weekend bout against Sucker Punch, online movie conversation settled into some predictable grooves. First, blog posts on aggregator sites rounded up some of the choicer negative reviews from the large collection available. Then, contrarian individualist critics came to the movie’s/Zack Snyder’s defense.
Some readers who hadn’t yet seen the movie posted comments along the lines of, “Screw those stupid critics, I’m going to see it because if they say it’s bad, then it must be good.” (Oh, Inside Movies friends, don’t think I haven’t checked up on you and felt the outrage of those who conclude I don’t like Sucker Punch because I didn’t like 300 and, worse, because I’m a girl. An old girl. But deep in your hearts you know that I didn’t like Sucker Punch because it’s a dumb mess.) Then, readers who did see the movie dropped by to report that it wasn’t as terrible as they had heard, or as good as they had hoped, or really, that it was, as advertised, a dumb mess.
And then came the logic — the fatal logic — meant to end the conversation: “Well, you know, this movie is meant for fanboys.” Meaning … what? I think the implication is that there’s a certain aural and visual frequency for aficionados (aficionados, that is, of videogames, of comic books, and of comic-book-shaped babes wielding firearms) that’s inaudible to the ears and invisible to the eyes of civilians. And there’s a further implication that this audience will accept lowered standards of cinematic intelligibility so long as they are buzzed and rocked and jolted and otherwise neurally stimulated.
But now, after the box-office reaction to Sucker Punch (never mind the critical drubbing), I think a couple of Hollywood secrets have been exposed: Number one, the term “fanboys” is actually studio code for those kids who’ll spend money on anything if it looks like it can be played with thumbs. And number two, the studio guys who give the go-ahead to seizure-school stylists like Snyder don’t even really like or understand the footage they see, but hope that whatever it is is what the kids these days want. I think those guys are scared of fanboys. Eager for their money — and scared.
Don’t be scared! That’s my message to studio guys and audiences alike on the day after the number crunchers have been bruised by Sucker Punch. Don’t be afraid of asking reasonable questions of seizure-school stylists along the lines of, “What the !*&@$!” and, “Do girls in videogame-y movies always have to suffer sexual degradation before they’re allowed to kick butt?” Demand better stories! And always remember the words of the Wise Man, “If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.”