One of the writers has submitted this review of Sucker Punch. This is Part one of two.
I love it when a movie makes me think. I really enjoy the act of trying to break a movie down figure out the points behind it, if there are any. I’ve read many great analyses of The Matrix and Inception that really impressed me with their thoughtfulness. I can’t say I agreed with them 100% (or in some cases at all), but I thought they were worthy of the time I spent on them and they raised some interesting observations and questions.
Along comes the movie Sucker Punch by 300 alumni Zack Snyder which has stirred quite a bit of controversy about its depiction of women, amongst other things. It has gotten some pretty bad reviews but I do not agree with any that I have read, save for one thing noted by Andrew O’Hehir of Salon.com, who wrote:
“…vertiginous thrill ride [that] gives us what we want (or what we think we want, or what [director Zack Snyder] thinks we think we want).”
I agree with this part of his review wholeheartedly. I think just about all of the critics whose reviews I have read missed the whole point of the film including the New York Times.
The film is about one thing – life.
Everything in the movie is a mechanism for Steve Shibuya (co-writer) and Zack Snyder to explain life. Even in the interpretation of the film I am going to put forward I countered several variations that are possible and I gloss over some smaller points intentionally.
*** Mandatory Spoiler Warning – If you have not seen the movie, my analysis will ruin it for you! ***
In the beginning of the film, Babydoll is still living at home with her mother, father and little sister. Babydoll’s mother has just died and her mother represents the safety of home and our childhood, all of that is now gone, taken away by reality.
Babydoll’s father then tries to attack or rape her little sister. Her father represents the cold cruel real world and her sister represents Babydoll’s childhood being destroyed by the real world. Babydoll tries to stand up to her father, nearly killing him with a gun, but she fails. This is very reminiscent of leaving home and trying to stand fearless and proud out in the real world and being beat down by it.
The father then puts Babydoll into an insane asylum and puts the fix in with an orderly to have her lobotomized. This represents life being unpredictable and turbulent and our choices being taken away by unforeseen things. The asylum also represents another aspect of the reality of life beyond the home.
In the asylum Babydoll has no friends and she encounters a therapist who represents the teacher or mentor in our early life. The therapist tells Babydoll that the reality in our mind can be as real as we want. The therapist/mentor is trying to help her (us) realize our dreams can be true and to not let go of them during our lifetime no matter what happens.
The following stages can be viewed as many different things including the US education system – primary, middle school, high school, university, and finally life after the university. This is how I chose to interpret it.
Babydoll then it taken to the room for the lobotomy and she realizes what the dream she wants is. She immediately takes command of her life in her dreams and wakes in a brothel on a stage with the other girls. The other girls in the brothel represent her friends throughout life, however I should not here that Sweat Pea represents our unborn children (and possibly our dreams) at this point. We’ll get into this more later.
When Babydoll first must dance for the pimp and other girls she goes into her first dream state and the first story within a story starts. She wakes in an Asian-styled courtyard and encounters Scott Glenn’s character, who in all of his incarnations is the “mentor/helper/teacher of the moment”. She is told to get the four keys to life and that the fifth is not known but she must discover it.
The four keys are –
Immediately after getting this information she has to fight 3 big samurai statues, this represents her first experiences in the real world as a child. She fights each in turn and each fight becomes easier for her as she discovers how to use her body and weapons. This represents developing not only physically but our knowledge and skills for use in life, school and the workplace. It could also represent primary/middle school, high school and university times in one’s life.
Babydoll wakes up from this story and starts to make friends in the asylum. She makes friends by saving one of them from the lecherous cook, this represents us making friends in life by helping other and making friends through shared circumstance.
She then explains to her friends the plan to escape the brothel by acquiring the four objects that Scott Glenn’s character told her to get. She can’t do this alone and they agree to her plan. They plot to distract different people by using Babydoll’s awesome dancing to get the items they need to escape.