Sunday, July 29, 2012

Sucker Punch Explained

This was a single article which got split into two. This is the spoilers section. The review of the movie Sucker Punch is here.
By the truck loads. There is no way to explain how to see the movie Sucker Punch without giving it away entirely. Which makes it hard for word of mouth promotion or any promotion at all. So you end up with the focus on the action and the girls.
The best way to understand the movie is to accept that what you have seen most through the movie was the imagination of Baby Doll on two levels. This is like the Kaiser Sozey myth of the Usual Suspects. Whatever you watched, you saw, never really happened. Or happened in a different way.
In the beginning of the movie, as Baby-Doll was being brought into the asylum, she saw the elements she needed to escape. She knew she only 5 days to escape and went about getting those items quickly. She was also befriended other girls who were with her on the scheme. The asylum was run on the inside by the orderlies led by the orderly called Blue in the movie. The escape plan went wrong and the girls were hurt badly but in the end, Baby-Doll realized she had to sacrifice herself so that Sweet Pea could manage to escape. As she was about to be lobotomized, she imagines a dream world. In this world, she replaced the asylum with a brothel. Baby-Doll probably had been able to build dream worlds to replace reality during the times she was molested by her father. This is what she did and what we saw during the brothel sections of the movie was a mix of her reality in the asylum and her imagining it as a brothel. This was her final escape before being lobotomized. You could see the world of the asylum crept in her dream world like the visions of the kitchen, the dorm and the grimy hallways. Whatever was replaced by the brothel imagery (of lights and stages and costumes) were probably pushed out by Baby-Doll from her mind. When she began dancing and entering her dream sequences, she was basically replacing her experience of stealing the items with her fantastic imaginary worlds, only keeping the memory of the excitement and the rush of adrenalin pumping through her. So like a Russian doll, the movie begins with the real-world (asylum), goes into the dream world (brothel) with the imaginary worlds (action scenes) at the center. The movie re-enters the dream brothel world and ends in the real world.
The title of the movie is spot on. Even at the most basic level, the ending will leave you wondering whose story is the movie really about. Despite of what the movie narration alludes to, it is still Baby-Doll's story. Since Baby-Doll goes catatonic, she never really sees Sweet Pea get on a bus. That probably is part of her dream world, too. The return of the wise man, is probably an indication that the vision we see is hers, justifying her sacrifice in exchange for Sweet Pea's escape.
Although the structure of the story seems unique, it has been done before but better. In comparison, the sucker punch was truly delivered by the Sixth Sense.

While both movies offered endings that made you want to watch again, only the Sixth Sense delivers the blow cleanly enough to make you do so. It wraps it in a single sentence to describe what the sucker punch or final twist is. Sucker Punch tries to do the same but chooses a fairy tale ending which muddles up the message and leaves you satisfied enough to not want to watch it again. It made the movie easier on the audience (fairy-tale ending) but didn't land the blow hard enough (Baby-Doll doesn't escape). It could have easily gone the other way, with an ending that forces you to go back and watch it again (e.g. right after the police take Blue away and dropping the whole "bus escape" ending) but it runs the risk of ticking everybody off. So they might have had irate moviegoers who won't watch it again because they were disgusted by the ending and  irate fan-boys who loved the actions sequences but won't bother understanding the movies mult-layer story. In the end, the movie didn't get enough of both.
If anything, this is one movie that horribly needs a book. The narrative was too deep for a movie to deliver or delivered by the director of Zack Snyder's vision. The movie was written by him and Steve Shibuya but that doesn't necessarily translate into a great movie. To see how a director can expand on existing fantasy universe, ask Mike Mignola about what Guillermo del Toro brought to Hellboy. But a book may not do the action sequence justice. Maybe a graphic novel would add the depth required in understanding the story.
Which is the sad fact about this movie. The depth of the story is deep and intriguing and can be interpreted in many ways (how about this: none of the girls really existed but were really facets of Baby-Doll's personality. In the end she couldn't escape but at least one part of her did).But in the end the depth of the story was simply too much for the average moviegoer to understand.

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