Friday, September 9, 2011

Sucker Punch

When I first saw a preview for this movie, I was sure it was something I'd never watch. But when later previews revealed that it was more than just scantily clad women beating up monsters, I reconsidered.

Sucker Punch is actually about a girl trying to escape an insane asylum, using two fantasy worlds to do it. It's similar to Inception, actually, in that most of the plot takes place in one of these two fantasy worlds and you have to remind yourself that she's actually still in the asylum. Also similar to Inception, the fantasy worlds are like levels in the mind, one within another, time expanding as you go deeper.

In the real world, Baby Doll, as the heroine is called, is about to get a lobotomy. She enters the first fantasy world, which is just a glorified version of her bleak situation in the real world. In this fantasy world, she's been sold to a brothel, and there, she meets four girls who are willing to try to break out with her. These four girls are also inmates in the asylum. In the brothel, she's being saved for a high roller, and she is ordered to create a dance that will entice him. Each time she dances, she enters the second fantasy world, one where she wears leather, wields a sword, and kicks butt, essentially a video game world. We never see her dances, only her fights. Her four friends enter this world with her and battle monsters, dragons, and villains, searching for five items that will allow them to escape. These five items exist in each fantasy world and in the real one.

It's a very interesting concept for a film, and I was thoroughly intrigued by it. Having said that, however, I do have disclaimers. The movie is rated PG-13 for sexuality, violence, and mostly mild swearing. I would bump that rating up to an R. There is no actual sex, just the existence of the brothel with its scantily clad women, but the very idea that it takes place in a brothel seemed too mature to me for PG-13. But the brothel is not simply a ploy of the producers to get more viewers. Its existence makes sense in the context of the film, whether I condone it or not. Baby Doll is sold to the insane asylum by her stepfather after a series of tragic events, one of which is that he tries to rape her and her younger sister. This takes place at the beginning of the film and was impressive to me cinematically (not morally) because it's all told visually. There's little narration or dialog. As to the existence of the brothel, in light of this beginning and the lascivious asylum worker who takes the money, it makes sense for Baby Doll to imagine that the asylum is a brothel.

I don't want to spoil the end for you, but I'll say its bittersweetness worked for me. It's mostly sad with a ray of hope, and I would have preferred a slightly happier turn of events. Nonetheless, it wraps up neatly with some nice parallelism. As Baby Doll says, it's not her story, after all.

As fascinating as it was, the movie also disturbed me enough that I'm not sure whether to recommend it or not. The sexual element is pervasive, obviously, and that creates a moral dilemma for me. On one hand, you have a really creative movie with meaningful themes, something different from the norm, which as an artist myself, I really appreciate. On the other hand, the disturbing sexuality of this movie would normally have me ranting against it. I will say, this movie pushed the limits I would give it, but never quite far enough to lose me. There was never a moral ambiguity; the brothel was clearly a place of evil. You have to view it at your own discretion and certainly not with younger kids. I would steer teens away from this, too, except that many of them probably play video games that are far worse, unfortunately. The video game fantasy world of this movie, however, is probably the one safest for your kids to watch.

So, readers, as always, you are free to have your own opinions and make up your own mind, but I've tried to give you something to work with here. Two stars for pervasive scenes and themes of moral degradation. Four stars for originality and creativity.

1 comment:

  1. I liked the movie when I first saw it, but began to reconsider after thinking about it for a while and discussing it with a friend. Perhaps we can chat about it later.

    I did love the little reference to Fort Wayne at the end, though.


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