I recently read an interview with a game designer. Among other things, she talked about how, in many computer games, your avatar is often in mortal peril, and how such a situation is not only an option, but the very point of many computer games. You might die, so your main goal is to survive. She called that the stress of dying. I am very much a non-gamer, but I know what she means. Although the drama of life vs. death, whether it be your avatar’s or any other character’s in a game, is higher in a potentially fatal scenario, it might take your attention away from the intriguing story, the elaborate graphics or the well-written characters themselves. Sometimes it’s about exploring and going places, about living in a new universe, not just surviving it. Or about admiring the craft. Continue reading
I am the guy who thrashed Eden Lake and The Social Network. I am the guest author of this blog, so I am not really behind most of the interesting and well-informed entries around here. That is someone else, and he is in no way responsible for the whining and whingeing about how bad this or that movie is. In fact, he is much more careful in choosing his drug of choice.
So, hey, part three. You’ve been warned. And since you’re still reading after the warning, here’s a promise: I’ll find a movie that I like, and will write about it. So much disregard for your own mental well-being must be rewarded.
Sucker Punch is all style on the outside, and evil smut at its centre. It’s like that golfball that’s supposed to contain poison. There’s that girl, played by Emily Browning, whose mother is dying of some unknown disease. Shortly after, her uncle or stepfather goes after her younger sister, and she dies, too, but I am not sure how, or whether there was any paedophilia involved, as the scene seems to suggest – I think someone became jittery about a possible NC-17 rating and screwed up the stylish display of kiddie abuse by re-editing. She is carted off to a mental asylum, where, strangely enough, the inmates are all teenage girls. Maybe there are other wings, one for old men, one for…
Hang on, where am I? Oh yeah, the staff. There is one half-way sympathetic character, their therapist Dr. Gorski, played by Carla Gugino. There is also the janitor, a shady guy named Blue, who recommends to the stepfather that the girl get a lobotomy, because then his visits would require only one consenting adult, while she will be no longer consenting to anything, nor ever see adulthood. Stepdad agrees, and so the doctor, who looks deceptively like Jon Hamm, points his tool at her forehead. I am talking about that metal needle they use for the lobotomy, and I take exception to the way you think, but it’s Zack Snyder’s fault, not yours.
And just when he wants to insert the needle into her eye, someone says stop, and we are in the Browning character’s psyche, where the asylum is a brothel ruled by Blue the pimp, and the girl orphans, who are all dressed in skimpy school uniforms that would break any school unform rules anywhere, take dancing lessons under Madame Gorski, the dance instructor. The girl, who is now called Baby Doll, is by far the best dancer, but we never get to see her dance, because when she does, the movie switches to yet another level, where a guy who looks deceptively like Scott Glenn tells Baby Doll about a quest she and the girls must go in order to be free: They have to recover a map, a lighter, a knife, a key and another mysterious object. It was at this point that I remembered that whenever a movie goes into cheap CGI mode, it is a good idea to think fondly of the fact that the whole of the Muppet Show is out on DVD.
Baby Doll has to distract the staff by dancing so the other girls can steal the items they need. The second dance shows the girl gang in some sort of super-Gothic bombed-out Dresden. I guess Baby Doll must have liked 20th century history, but got confused on the details, because the real Nazi soldiers were not zombies powered by steam and clockworks. This scene is so ridiculous that it made up for the rest of the movie. I mean, the Third Reich could have used zombies without the machinery, if only to save on the overhead, but never mind. So the gang kill a lot of the steamheads and shoot down a lot of fighter planes, although their mission is to steal a map from a messenger on foot.
And so on. At some point, the music for Baby Doll’s dance stops, and they are discovered. All of the gang except for Baby Doll and Sweet Pea (Abbie Cornish) are shot by Blue, who finds out about their plot. It is here that the movie definitely is confused and confusing: We are still in Baby Doll’s mind, so why oh why does she allow for Sweet Pea and herself to be saved, but let the others die? Horror vacui is a real, real thing, people. In the very end, Baby Doll allows Dr Hamm to go through with the lobotomy so Sweet Pea can run from the asylum and board a bus driven by someone who looks like… oh, forget it. Dr Hamm, right after his umpteenth lobotomy, realizes that lobotomy is… WRONG! He will have a great career in advertising. Blue is arrested, but poor Baby Doll is lobotomized. Ha! Didn’t see that one coming, but maybe she did. The movie shows her slightly smiling, suggesting that she has won. But won what?
Sucker Punch has a feminist message, and it is this: Girls rule, especially those with the semi-automatics and the samurai swords, and never mind the skimpy dresses. I have a message for Sucker Punch: show me a kind of feminist statement that involves names like Baby Doll and Sweet Pea, where the female protagonists have to do what their fatherly mentor tells them, and I suggest to you an improved kind of feminism involving spirited debate about equal rights and passionate demands for the improvement of the women’s cause, free of charge, and I don’t even have to try too hard. Because you see, even I, a guy, can see that all that fighting and killing while flashing your cleavage and gusset can wear even the angriest girl out. Me, too.
It is beyond me how Abbie Cornish, who stood up for herself in Bright Star and who impressed me in a small gem of a movie called Somersault, could have said yes to such a piece of guano as this. And Emily Browning is not a moron, I’ve gathered from a few interviews. There will be a movie with her called Sleeping Beauty that seems to feature those sexual politics that Sucker Punch relegated to its own screwed subconscious. Seems like Baby Doll wasn’t the only one lobotomized.