A friend recommended the other day that I watch SUCKER PUNCH. I’d mentioned how a certain violent nature in fictional women could make them more attractive (though even the violence in KILL BILL couldn’t do it for Uma Thurman) and he thought I might like it.
I only watched about the first fifteen minutes or so; just enough to see where the movie was going and decide that I didn’t like it. It was enough to make me curious how other people reacted to it, though, so I checked out quite a few reviews. The reactions to SUCKER PUNCH are actually more interesting to me than the movie itself.
My initial take on the movie, with its supposed overlapping layers of fantasy and reality, is that the last ‘real’ thing shown in the movie is when ‘Babydoll’ sits down in the lobotomist’s chair for her transorbital lobotomy. Everything shown after we see the orbitoclast (the pointy thing that looks like an ice pick) approaching her eye socket is her desperate fantasies in the few seconds before her higher brain functions are destroyed. It’s “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” with CGI and barely-legal barely-dressed girls.
Other interpretations are that the bordello/burlesque hall scenes and fight sequences are just metaphors for the real actions that the girls are taking for their escape. It’s not Babydoll’s story, it’s Sweet Pea’s. Some people even seem to think that the bordello scenes are ‘real’ and that the mental institution is just a front for high-class prostitution.
On reflection, all the various interpretations make an equal amount of sense, which is to say none. Even my own interpretation doesn’t make any sense. I found myself nitpicking the lobotomy scene, (The technique shown is wildly wrong; the orbitoclast was worked carefully between the eyeball and socket then given a gentle tap with a hammer to break through the thin bone at the back of the socket, not held inches from the eye and smacked like a railroad spike.) as well as its rationale, and just about everything else shown in the opening music videos. (There was no need for a massive bribe to get the girl lobotomized; in the 1950’s lobotomies were handed out like aspirin, if the girl is 20 and an adult, how come her stepfather can have her committed? Etc.) The bordello and fight scenes have been criticized as fantasies that few, if any, young women would have, but it’s even worse than that. The fight scenes are ones that no one in the 1950’s would have; they rely too much on 21st century memes.
The movie, in short, doesn’t many any sense at all, on any level. It really, truly, is a more-or-less random sequence of music videos and fight scenes. There’s no there there. It’s a 110 minute Rorschach test, a movie that’s so absolutely shallow, so utterly lacking in meaning, that nearly everyone is unconsciously compelled to create a structure for it, and fill that structure from their own imagination.
The people who don’t try to find any meaning in it, who just enjoy watching an hour and a half of hot girls fighting giant robot samurai and such, have the right idea. Alas, I found the fight scenes too emotionless, heavily processed, and CGI-dependent to even enjoy on that level, but it’s still a fascinating study in how our desire for story is so great that we will create one out of any raw material presented to us, no matter how nonsensical it may be.