Wait... What? Explaining Why Sucker Punch Makes No Sense

By Mack Rawden 2011-03-27 18:10:33discussion comments
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Letís say the two of us are looking at a Robert Mapplethorpe photograph. I like it. You hate it. The picture is of a naked man stretching with his back to us on some sort of table. After a few seconds, you walk away disgusted. I continue to stare. My visceral, gut reaction tells me itís beautiful; yours thinks itís nothing more than high brow pornography. At this point, neither of us are wrong. We looked at the same final product and had two totally different responses, but if you then tell me itís exploitive, of little artistic value and essentially a retread of the work of great sculptors, and my response is well, I think itís great, Iím the one who comes off like an idiot. Itís not enough for me to say itís great. What the hell kind of rebuttal is that? In order to maintain pace in this fake argument, I must say I like the shadowing, the symmetry and that clearly too much thought and time have been put into this to merely be pornography. In the words of Will Ferrell, thatís how you debate.

Many people like to write off critical opinions by saying movies come down to taste. This is both true and misleading. There is no scientific algorithm to measure greatness, nor is there one to condemn failure. We like what we like, but that doesnít mean you canít effectively explain exactly why you think something sucks. I hate Zack Snyderís Sucker Punch. I hated it while I was watching it, immediately after I watched it, and I still hate it just as much, if not more, two days later. It makes no sense. Itís easily the worst film Iíve seen this year. But thatís not good enough. You can just as easily say you think itís awesome, and then weíre at an impasse of foolish, polarized and shortsighted opinions. Like Mapplethorpeís photograph, too much effort went into Sucker Punch to simply call it violent pornography and move on. So, here is my explanation of exactly why it makes no sense whatsoever.

Warning: Sucker Punch spoilers follow.

Letís start with the basic premise. Baby Dollís parents have died. Infuriated over being left out of the will, her step-father has gotten drunk, attacked the girls and Baby Dollís little sister has ended up dead. Why this douche bag assumed Baby Dollís parents wouldnít provide for their children is anyoneís guess, but letís just take that at face value. Greed and strong drink have driven men to do reckless, illogical things before. So, the sisterís dead and this asshole decides to put Baby Doll into a home where sheíll get a lobotomy in five days because he ďdoesnít want the cops coming around and asking questionsĒ. Thatís right. The police have apparently not interviewed her about the homicide of her sister which they know she either committed or was a witness to. Letís just let that one slide too. Everyone gets a few stretches.

So, Baby Doll is being led through the home and her step-douche and one of the orderlies are openly talking about how much money will be exchanged for the lobotomy. Theyíre not hiding it. Theyíre not whispering. Theyíre just going about their business as if this information isnít secretive whatsoever. Fine. Iíd be willing to buy the patients and other workers are hip to whatís going on, except, the end of the movie tells us theyíre not. Main therapist Dr. Vera Gorski blows the whistle after she finds out her signature has been forged on a lobotomy order. Just so weíre clear: the main therapist, the woman in charge of the counseling at Lennox House, has no idea whoís given the order to permanently alter one of her patientsí brains. Sheís apparently just assumed it was someone and never bothered opening Baby Dollís medical records. Wait... what?

All this underhanded tomfoolery passes at the beginning, of course, and Baby Doll adjusts to her new surroundings by elaborately fantasizing itís actually a brothel. Not a real brothel, of course. Thereís no nudity, sex or clientele beyond one high roller. That would have required an adult imagination and an R-rating, neither of which Sucker Punch has, but hey, traumatized people cope in different ways.

This is the fantasy Baby Doll chose, which is strange because she hates it. In fact, our protagonist invents another fantasy just to escape the original fantasy. Every time she dances, the PG-13 strip club melts away for an elaborate video game world where her and four friends battle hideous people, creatures and robots. Itís like Baby Dollís take on Happy Gilmoreís Happy Place, except she doesnít go to the same place every time. Once sheís fighting Nazis, another time giant statues come to life and another time harmless dragons just trying to mind their own business. Wait... what?

Thatís right. During one of these imagined sequences, Baby Doll and friends break into a castle, find a sleeping dragon and slit its throat to receive two crystals. This awakens the firebreatherís mother who attacks and is also slain. Imagine for a second youíre a traumatized girl creating a dream world to maintain sanity. Clearly, youíre going to be the hero, the main character, the one who saves the little children from the burning school bus. Now, letís say, for whatever reason, you decide you must fight a dragon to claim your prize. Why in Godís name would you make the creature docile and sleeping? And why would you then give it a mother to get upset after you callously slit her babyís throat? What kind of sick, vicious antihero do you picture yourself as? Are you even angry or surprised the mother is attacking you? You canít be.

Nonsense like this is why people join PETA, but no one here seems upset in the least. They celebrate themselves like conquering heroes, just like they did stealing a map from mutant zombies in another fantasy sequence. Thereís no rhyme, reason or cohesion to any of it. Sometimes what Baby Doll does directly affects or mirrors whatís happening in the fabricated brothel which affects whatís happening in the insane asylum. Then again, sometimes itís as if Baby Dollís just at Dave And Busters, unable to jam another token in during the allotted ten second gap Resident Evil gives you to continue. Game over. Guess itís back to the brothel. Wait... what?

Whatever. So, weíre back in the MPAA-approved peep show, and the girlsí plans of escape have gone up in smoke after Blondie has informed Blue and Dr. Gorski of their escape scheme. Blue storms in all mad as hell about the Hoganís Heroes shenanigans, and he proceeds to murder Amber as a lesson for the rest of Ďem. They freak out for a few seconds until he then shoots Blondie because he "doesnít like snitches". What the hell warden or boss wants to let the inmates know if they come forward with proposed schemes theyíll be shot on the spot? Iíd complain more, but thatís not even the most idiotic thing happening at that moment.

Thereís a show about to start. The high roller is in attendance, and apparently, Blue thinks nothing of firing two gun shots in the next room. Thatís a quick way to clear out business immediately. Maybe they were in some kind of bulletproof vault though. Technology was a marvel in the fifties, and besides, two of the girls needed to be axed so ultimate vindication could come for not the main character. Wait... what?

When redemption finally comes for the tormented and incarcerated girls, itís given to Sweet Pea alone. The most annoying and frustrating of the five who wasnít even on board with escaping to begin with walks out the front door while Baby Doll sacrifices herself. Then she boards a bus, gives viewers a happy little send off and disappears into the distance. The ladies thought they had a brilliant plan. They started a fire, crept their way through the unlocked doors and ended up outside. Unfortunately, everyone outside is calm as a cucumber. The fire hasnít panicked them in the least. In fact, theyíre very surprised to see girls outside. This is where the trick comes in. Youíd think Baby Doll would simply reiterate the fact that thereís a fire inside and cause a distraction, but she decides to continue with the dancing sequence. Might as well give viewers more allusions to slutty stripping without ever showing it. Wait... what?

Thereís no actual dancing in Sucker Punch, just as thereís no point, purpose or direction. Itís a circle jerk of half-conceived ideas, sophomoric fantasizes and idiotic musings. Its final voiceover is incredibly anti-climactic. Itís costuming is third rate steampunk. Its characters are hollow and stupid. Its dream worlds are frequently without consequence. In short, it makes no sense whatsoever. Itís two hours of repeated wait---whatís, and while I canít tell you for positive it sucks, I can certainly argue my case.
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