Friday, September 23, 2011

A Sucker for SuckerPunch

As you probably guessed by the name of the RPG, WILD is based in the world of dreams. I always imagined it as if Inception and SuckerPunch had an evil child, but there are plenty of other inspirations that I'll come to over the course of writing the game and this blog.

Besides Inception, the other big influence is Zach Snyder's incredibly flawed masterpiece of fandom, SuckerPunch. A film that I hated when I first left the cinema. As the hours passed, and I thought more about it, I realised (a) it wasn't as bad as I (and everyone else) initially thought and (b) it could have been fixed with a few simple changes and explanations.

So here we go with my "How to Fix SuckerPunch"... (there will be spoilers if you haven't seen the movie and are intending to):

1) Lose the middle level

SuckerPunch is a little like Inception in the way that it takes place upon multiple levels of "reality". In SuckerPunch, there are three clearly defined levels.

Level One - Reality - Where Babydoll has been institutionalised into Lennox House, an asylum where she is sent by her abusive stepfather and where she's destined to have a lobotomy.

Level Two - Escapism - Where Babydoll reimagines Lennox House as a brothel, and the inmates are all burlesque performers and prostitutes.

Level Three - High Fantasy - Where Babydoll escapes to when she has to do any of her "dances", where steampunk nazis and orcs battle in her twisted imagination.

The events of each level mostly effects the other (which I'll come to later). That is, they need a map to escape the asylum, which is also there in the brothel, which is being held by steampunk nazis, and stealing it in steampunk nazi-land steals a copy not only in the brothel reality but also in the really-real world.

So my first fix is to lose the middle level - Level Two - completely. From what we discover, Blue is taking the girls off to have his wicked way with them in the asylum anyway, and he may be allowing people to do this for a small fee anyway. This is scary enough that Babydoll would want to escape into a fantasy world. We don't need her being forced to dance saucily in front of strangers. With what Blue has set up in the real world, she'll want to escape mentally anyway and it makes more sense.

2) Have consistent rules.

That said, the rules of how things work between the levels don't entirely make sense. Sorry if this gets a bit spoilery...

Towards the end of the movie, Blue shoots Blondie and Amber in Level Two. They weren't really necessary as characters, and they had absolutely NO BACKGROUND or motivation at all. If they had some background, just some additional dialogue to explain why they're there, and who they are, we may have felt something when they were shot, but alas... no.

However, when we return to the real world (Level One), there's no mention of this at all. Blue still works at Lennox House, there's references to the escape and we see how the Level Two escape effected Level One, but there's no mention of what happened to Blondie and Amber. Did Blue kill them in Level One as well? If so, how is he still working there? Did they survive? Did they exist at all? If they were figments of Babydoll or SweetPea's imagination, surely we should know about this?

Also, the Wise Man turns up but only in Levels One and Three. If the Wise Man was imparting wisdom to the girls, giving them missions and stuff, how is he there in Level One? Is Level One actually reality at all? Maybe even Level One is a fantasy... a fantasy of Zach Snyder...

3) Don't make the audience side with the Dragon.

The third big fantasy trip into Level Three (after Babydoll's samurai encounter and the steampunk nazi mission) is to fly a bomber over a castle, being attacked by Orcs, to break into the castle to kill a dragon to steal its "fire-making" crystals.

Now, my big problem is that (like a lot of the film) the motivation was missing from this whole sequence. Was the dragon a threat to anyone? No. It was asleep, in a castle, under a load of Orcs, being attacked by another load of Orcs. Was the mother dragon a threat? No. It was just pissed off that some scantily clad girls broke into the castle and killed her baby, just for a light.

At that moment, I should have been cheering for Babydoll and her swishing short skirt and ninja powers, but instead I was more sympathetic to the dragons. The baby one was just a baby, and she cut its throat open, and the mother was visibly upset by having her child killed.

Sure, it worked in Aliens as the children were plentiful, had been shown to be a threat and had killed 90% of the marines. Also Cameron had made it a battle of mothers both protecting their infants.

If Snyder had shown the dragons to be evil, terrorising villages and burning houses, the whole Dragonslayer sacrificing virgins thing, then we wouldn't feel so bad when both dragons are killed unnecessarily.

If the whole thing is just symbolic of the loss of innocence by making Babydoll slaughter something innocent, surely something more should have been made of it? Or is the typical audience so used to dragons=bad that we're expected not to question it, just as we're to expect steam-nazis to be evil (or shiny robots for that matter - though at least they had a bomb and were going to blow up a city).

If the baby dragon is just symbolic of the lighter, and the big dragon is representative of the mayor, then the stealing of the lighter is shown by killing the baby dragon, surely we should end Babydoll's dance with her kneeling on his head with a big knife through his skull?

Maybe I'm thinking about this too much.

4) When does this all happen?

There's a bit that throws me - didn't notice it first time. When Babydoll is being shown around Lennox House (Level One) we have a little musical montage of her doing chores, crying, few more chores, therapy, then the dude from Mad Men turns up and it's lobotomy time. Cut to - on stage (Level Two) with SweetPea dressed as Babydoll, complaining that this isn't exactly erotic entertainment.

We then get the rest of the film up until SweetPea's escape, and then we're back to lobotomy time. Implying that the whole of the film takes place in that fraction of a second before the hammer drives the nail home.

Now, I read this as the whole of the middle of the film is her head, in that fraction of a second before the lobotomy takes place. Babydoll is gone in her fantasy land, but actually, her fantasy land is being SweetPea, and she's escaped to safety.

But, then Zach Snyder starts with the whole "This was never my story" thing - but this implies that everyone and everything in the middle bit is a part of her mind. I guess Babydoll has taken their physical appearances from those she sees at Lennox House in Level One, which means that each of the "team" represents a different aspect of her personality -

Babydoll - going by her name, is how people see her. Pretty, fragile, like a doll.
SweetPea - is the person she wants to be. Capable, leading, in control of her life, if damaged by her past.
Rocket - again, I guess the name implies that she's fiery and rebelious, but kept in check by her controlling side (SweetPea), and being SweetPea's sister, again partly what Babydoll wants to be.

Okay, so that makes sense... which means that Blondie is the part of her persona that trusts authority, cries a lot and has no personality, and Amber is the part of her persona that flies planes and has no background.

And the weird thing is, thinking about this while I'm writing this blog has actually made me like the film a bit more... It just could have done with a bit more... of... something.


Don't get me wrong, I do like SuckerPunch. It looks amazing, the visuals are astounding, and the soundtrack is fab, but it could have been so much more. Maybe another draft of the script, or maybe an even more extended edit than the BluRay.

Though nothing forgives the deleted scene with the High Roller they added back in. That's just sensualising a medical procedure. Ew.

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