So, I guess this what me laying all of my credibility on the line looks
like. The movie is getting almost universally panned by critics, and
the Screened community appears to have taken a generally negative stance
on it as well. I think a lot of the negative reaction came from
expectations that people had about the film, most of which were left
unsatisfied. People saw the surrealist-fantasy-action sequences in the
movie and wanted to go see a cheesy, over-the-top action movie ala 300
or even Kick-Ass. What they got didn't resemble either of these things.
I'm not saying that this movie is a masterpiece, or that it
deserves any great praise, but I am saying that it is a good film, and
hopefully this blog will help people view it at a different angle than
they initially saw the movie.
SPOILER WARNING: For good
measure, I am not going to be censoring myself about any aspect of the
film, so it is inevitable my ramblings will go into spoiler territory,
just a warning for those who care.
Review after review
points out the same common complaints, and many are valid given the
reviewers' overall opinion of the movie, so instead of trying to counter
those, I'm going to go over a few of my own points based on how I think
people misjudged the film. Alright then, here we go
#1 Sucker Punch is more intelligent than audiences thought.
Once again, when people talk about this movie, almost all of their
attention is focused toward the action sequences, seen in full effect
above. What they don't say, is that these sequences may not even take
up a full-third of the films running time, as flashy and CGI-tacular as
they are, they are not meant to be the only focus-point of the movie.
really is the main focus-point of the movie is the theme of
oppression. The main character Babydoll is oppressed by both her
father, and later the asylum staff, and the film chronicles her struggle
to fight back against them. The way the film presents this is not
over-the-top in the slightest, in fact in the entire opening sequence is
presented as a sort of music-video, during which I audibly heard
audience members complain about their confusion.
Asylum turns into a Brothel (which I'll get into later), but the dark
tone remains there, the girls are still remain captive there, and their
danger remains very real.
I chose to bring up this point first
because it feeds into the other points I am going to make, so let the
remaining points serve as more proof to this initial one
#2 Sucker Punch is not misogynistic
This is probably the biggest controversy surrounding Sucker Punch.
Despite being a film that wants to promote itself as a
female-empowerment movie, the way it goes about it is sexist.
are people who stand under the idea that even if the film carries an
anti-sexism message, the fact that they still dress-down the
female-characters purely to titlate the audience kind of destroys any
point they had.
Well, we live in a world where first person
shooter videogames can carry an anti-war message, so I disagree with the
above statement in the first place, but I don't think that the way the
female characters were represented was purely out of a need to cater
to the pervy-14-year-old-boy audience.
The movie takes place
across three planes of reality. The first one, The Asylum, is
completely normal on the surface, it looks like a standard-issue mental
hospital where everything goes according to plan. Obviously, darker
things are done on the side, and this is what leads to the manifestation
of the second plane of reality.
The Brothel, which is
Babydoll's interpretation of the Asylum, is a much more literal
manifestation of what they do there. The women are dressed down because
they are completely under control of the men, and this is how the men
view them, as their pretty little toys to do whatever they want with.
It sounds dark because it is.
But this feeds into the third
layer of the film, the action-sequences. While it's easy on a surface
level to view the sequences as being everything the aforementioned
pervy-14-year-old-boy would find "awesome", they are what they are for
another reason. Think about the four setpieces they use in the film. A
snow-covered temple filled with samurais, a war-tarnished battleground,
a fiery dragon-lair, and, finally, a futuristic train/city. These
choices are interesting precisely because they are juvenile fantasies,
they are all setpieces that are representative of masculinity, and the
female characters are fighting against it.
action-sequences represent Babydoll dancing, and whenever she is about
to dance the film cuts to one of these. Earlier in the film the
character of Sweet Pea talks about how dancing should be a reflection of
oneself, and their inner-desires manifested. This is exactly what we
are seeing on the screen, Babydoll's inner-desire is to fight back from
this male empowerment fantasy and turn the tables on them, establish
I can't say the action sequences weren't intended to
appeal to a lower demographic, because from a marketing standpoint they
obviously were. What I am saying is that there is definitely an
intelligent reason why they exist in the format that they do, and are
not purely misogynistic testosterone-fests.
#3 Sucker Punch is a much darker film than people thought.
As stated before, the main theme of the movie is oppression, so it's
naturally a dark movie, but let me just go down a checklist of plot
points real fast.
The first thing that happens in the movie
is the killing of Babydoll's sister by her father, which she is blamed
for and sent to the asylum, the father is able to pay off the head of
the asylum to have her lobotomized ASAP, which happens to be five days
from her arrival. During her time in the asylum/brothel, she is witness
one of her friends being stabbed to death, two of her friends being
shot whilst unarmed and crying, and she herself is lobotomized. If the
movie were presented in a darker light, this would be one of the
bleakest, most depressing movies ever, but it's not presented darkly.
It's presented from the viewpoint of a mind that is trying to cope with
tragedy in an unimaginable hell.
Thus, it's up to the viewer to
piece together what is really happening, and once you climb that wall,
much of the movie takes on an entirely new meaning. A lot of people
were put-off by the ending message of the movie declaring that our
struggle is futile, and it will only end in failure. I think the
message of the movie is that if we truly fight with all of our strength,
we can manage to make an impact in our situation, no matter how small.
Babydoll did succeed in letting Sweet Pea escape, and the head of the
asylum, as well as her father are in police custody by the end of the
As I have described, much of the extremely dark plot is
covered up by the presentation, which is done in an almost
playful-fantasy setting. There is a reason why it is done this way, but
I haven't read anybody get it right, so, with my final point, I am
going to give my interpretation
#4 Sucker Punch was not interpreted correctly
Mmmmmmmmm....I don't know what this is so I'm just going to hit the "brain-off" switch
The beginning of the film shows Babydoll going to the asylum. She has
literally no dialogue during these scenes. She looks into the asylum
and sees all of the future characters, as well as all the "items" they
will later need to obtain during the films plot. The film then
time-lapses to her actual lobotomy, up until the pike is literally about
to go into her eyeball, and she grabs it and says "stop." This is her
first line of spoken dialogue in the entire movie, and is how the movie
transitions the asylum into the brothel. She literally gets up, walks
into the other room, and it is a brothel.
How were people
willing to just forget about that moment? How can you accept an entire
shift of setting and not question it? I don't know how, but they
apparently did, I really want to read someone else's interpretation of
what they thought that scene represented.
My interpretation is
fairly straightforward. I believe that the film skipped over her five
days spent in the asylum as a whole ,and at the very beginning of the
film she was lobotomized. In the moment of the lobotomy, she flashes
back to the last five days and all the events that brought her to the
table, with John Hamm's steely gaze upon her. These memories are not
how the events actually transpired however, and are crude re-imagining
of them, mainly because while she's imagining them she has a fucking
pike piercing her brain.
What I am suggesting, is that the
movie did not show us events in real-time, we were not with Babydoll
during her struggle to survive the asylum, we were with her after her
plight had already failed. In short, the entire movie is a fragmented flashback
explained a lot of the movie's surrealism to me, and I think if the
movie did a better job at letting you know this is what actually
happened, a lot of people would have appreciated it more, but they
decided to play it more subtle. There is no doubt in my mind that this
is the actual intention of the director however, there is too much
symbolism that this is the right interpretation.
Take the action sequences. If I recall correctly, each of them ends with her stabbing the last enemy in the brain
. This isn't just for flair, it's her actual situation, and her fleeting desire to turn it around to the opposite side.
the twist in this movie, I was comparing it to the likes of Kill Bill
and 300. After, I am seeing more elements of Brazil and Jacob's
Ladder. I'm not saying that Sucker Punch is as good as either one of
those films, but I think people need to view it as more of a
psychological-action movie. It is certainly different than anything I
have seen before, and is far from the run-of-the-mill CGI-fest people
are making it out to be.
It may not be the greatest film ever
made, but if people asked me if I got my eight dollars worth for the
movie ticket, I would say hell yes.