Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Snark Patrol goes to the Movies: Sucker Punch

I went to see Sucker Punch armed with the knowledge that all I was expecting was explosions and cool special effects, and that the critics hated it.  Usually that's all it takes for me to really enjoy a film.  The special effects are indeed stunning, and I now know that to be truly effective in combat you need stylish footwear.  The main character had an emotional range that consisted almost entirely of pouty suffering, but there were other, more worthy candidates for my attention so I didn't mind.

That said, it is a dark movie.  Bad things happen to good people.  I went to a matinee and it was definitely worth the money.  Not wanting the hours of my life back.  However, it could have been much better and I can see why some people hated it.  I'm not sure they knew the real reason why they hated it, but as a writer I have a suspicion.

(Further analysis below the fold.  I can't tell you why the movie failed without major spoilers.  You have officially been Warned.)

Sacrifice for a good cause is noble, and the Ultimate Sacrifice can redeem the most slimy villain or coward.  Death by itself, however is not sacrifice.  The death has to be deliberately chosen *in order* to save the orphanage, the kitten, whatever, and saving them not possible in any other way.

The movie has not just one, but *two* fantasy layers, the bordello and the world of war.  Events in the world of war have a definite and clear connection to the bordello world.  You can see how some elements of the real world were used by Baby Doll to create the bordello world.  However, events in the bordello world that are crucial to the plot, such as Baby Doll's sacrifice to save Amber, do NOT have a clear connection to the real world.

Baby Doll was going to get the lobotomy from the beginning, her evil stepfather had that already planned.  She helped Amber escape in the real world *before* the lobotomy, the putative sacrifice, so the lobotomy wasn't key to the escape.  Baby Doll was helpless in the real world to prevent her lobotomy so it isn't a true sacrifice.  Distracting the bordello guests so Amber could escape, but getting captured herself, *was* a true sacrifice but we only see that in the bordello world.  That's the big missing piece.  It is true that the consequences of the forged lobotomy order brought down the venal orderly and exposed the corruption of the mental institution, but again, that had nothing to do with any action on Baby Doll's part.  Other people acting ethically made that happen when the truth was revealed.  As a writer, this is not playing true to the conventions of the plot and the main character. Main characters can die but they can't be mere mute witnesses--they have to act.


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