THAR BE SPOILERS HERE! This isn’t a review per se, it’s more of my thoughts on the movie. If you’re reading this, I’m assuming you’ve already watched “Sucker Punch”. You’ve been warned. Also it’s a bit long.
So I watched Sucker Punch last night. I had absolutely no idea what to expect, even after watching the trailers, reading the interviews and watching the featurettes. I knew it was going to be visually stunning; that’s a certainty from Zack Snyder. Even Dawn of the Dead had moments of beauty in the way certain scenes were filmed amidst all the gore and brutality. But the story… hmm, it could be an Inception or a Tron: Legacy. I was hoping for something in the middle. Us moviegoers, the majority of us are a fickle-minded lot, lol. Kalau too smart tak paham, pastu cakap boring.
And after watching it, I was confused. No, make that troubled. It was an amazing experience, no doubt. The story is definitely not as shallow as people say it is. There is another layer in the narrative but I couldn’t really figure out what it was, and it took Naoko’s piece for the movie to start clicking for me. I generally agree with what she says, but I’m just gonna touch on a few points.
I would say that Sucker Punch is a pretty dark and disturbing psychological movie. Sure, the action scenes were amazing, and seeing five girls beat the shit out of enemies with a raw intensity that is rare in movies nowadays is a welcome bonus, but the story of this film is pretty damn disturbing, especially in a few key scenes. The slo-mo is a nice gimmick to gloss over those scenes, but you know what’s being implied here. I’m surprised it got a PG-13 in the first place.
The structure of Sucker Punch is very much like a novel, like Naoko says in her post. The story of this movie is entirely from the point-of-view of Baby Doll and no-one else’s. It’s a first-person narrative where each line of speech and body movement is presented as how she sees and imagines it. The reality becomes so hopeless and bleak and gruesome for her that the only way to get some semblance of control is within her own subconscious. It’s where each dance becomes a battle and each gyration of her hips becomes a killing move. Her dances are not shown to us because they are irrelevant to Baby Doll. She doesn’t see it as a dance to satisfy horny-ass guys. It’s a battle against nearly impossible odds for their survival, and ultimately freedom.
The general consensus by silly Americans is that the dialogue is atrocious. That’s just bullshit. Why write lines of text describing a certain emotion or an inner thought or what-have-you, when you can just show it in its entirety in just one shot? This is why I say Zack Snyder is an unabashed otaku. Storytelling like this remind me of the riverboat sequence in Ghost in the Shell and the parade sequence in Innocence. For Zack Snyder to attempt storytelling in this way is pretty fucking amazing, especially considering that this is a big-budget triple-A Hollywood production. There was one point when I thought that maybe Sucker Punch should have been a big-budget theatrical anime instead. At least then the expectations will have already been set. Non-linear storytelling and meanings within meanings within meanings will be appreciated by the correct audience.
Thing is, most people will forget that the bordello is in her mind halfway through the movie. The reality of the mental asylum will be long gone by then, because it keeps coming back to the bordello, and the story continues there. However, if the connection between her subconscious and the reality is shown, the story becomes too easy, too predictable. People can spot the twist a mile away. It’s just me, but I think it’ll lose part of its charm. So it becomes a question of which narrative style to choose.
A lot of people won’t get Sucker Punch. They will love the action and the girls in skin-tight outfits kicking ass. The titillation will unfortunately be the major selling point. And they will just leave it at that. Some of the female audience members will go “fuck yeah female empowerment woohoo!” and that’s fine, because one of the points the movie made was about utilizing what you have to take control of your own destiny. But it’ll just end there. If you take literature, gaming and anime seriously, you will get Sucker Punch. And I don’t mean Naruto or Bleach here, I’m talking about works like Ghost in the Shell, Paprika, Perfect Blue, Millenium Actress, and Kaiba. The similarities are too strong for me to ignore. I think the fact that I take anime seriously as a storytelling medium helped in my understanding of Sucker Punch. I would even go so far as to say that it is live-action anime done right, and proof positive that it is possible to make an awesome Hollywood adaptation of anime.
In fact, a live-action adaptation of Ghost in the Shell will work if Zack Snyder directs it.
So yeah, that’s how I viewed Sucker Punch. It’s an amazing experience that will be misunderstood by most people, just like Speed Racer and Wanted. If you’re like me (subscribing to the school of thought of storytelling being as much a visual medium as it is a literary medium), then I highly recommend you watch it.