Sunday, 3 April 2011

For those who fight for it, life has a flavor the sheltered will never know

Sucker Punch (2011)
Chosen by me as I like to go to the cinema a lot and this has dragons and robots and clockwork zombies. And blimps, I love blimps.

'You will be unprepared' says the poster's, rather boring, tagline. There was, to be fair despite all the cool things listed above, small chance of me liking this film. Snyder is a director who just makes films that are like a nail down a blackboard to me.

The first half of this wasn't bad
But the tagline was correct. I was unprepared. For just how angry it made me.
Much has been made of how like Inception it is. And indeed with it's multiple levels of reality (4 by my count; the 'real' world, the brothel and the 'action' world are the ones on screen, the 4th I will get to as it solves and causes a whole load of problems) but actually I find it more like Pan's Labyrinth in which a young girl retreats into a fantasy world that is as abusive and lacking in cathartic escapism as the real one. Of course that film works because it spends much more time in the 'real' world, so you have a sense of who everybody is and makes the fantasy have an actual connection to the character imagining it.

A film whose fantasy sections actually have
resonance with character and plot
Taken on a surface level Sucker Punch makes no sense. Leaving aside the anachronistic fantasy elements (even the cast have referred to the villains as Nazis in one section despite it being based on World War One) why would she imagine worlds like this? There is no connective tissue that makes it all work on an emotional or intellectual level.
'So what?' Some people will say 'I just want to see some cool shit' and yeah that's fine. But Snyder's visual style is so mind numbingly dull. All desaturated colours and extremely bad slow motion (it's hard to call something slow motion when the whole film is basically at that speed but still). His action scenes have no verve to them, she spins in the air a lot to little effect and because there is no inherent dramatic backbone the movie undoes itself at every turn. Most shots seem designed to look cool as a still, or a frame in a storyboard or comic but don't hang together as film.

But man, some of these ideas would have
made awesome album covers yeah?
Now all of that would have made for a bad film but one I would have been bored by rather than angered. It get's into some real problems in it's portrayal of woman and how it thinks of a way to excuse that.
Leaving aside the whole peadophile's wet dream look to it (the film makes care to mention the main character is 20 but dresses her up as a schoolgirl and calls her Babydoll, even the only woman with a modicum of authority is referred to as a girl) it trades in the rather annoying trope that empowering women means abusing them first (there's no reason why this film couldn't have just been a bunch of kick-ass women fighting cool shit without having to defend from multiple rape attempts - as the backbone to why they fight matters so little anyway) but this goes one horrid step further by suggesting that the woman want it to be that way.

A kick-ass female who didn't need to be
sexually abused to become strong
Over the opening of a wicked stepfather salaciously clawing his way at two young woman the film has The Eurythmics Sweet Dreams (are made of this) scoring the scene (in the first of some really good songs being appropriated for this dreck, later we get Army of Me, Tomorrow Never Knows, White Rabbit and Search and Destroy), the buttons of her dress ripped off whilst the music is telling us 'some of them want to be abused' and then we get a bit of dialogue from Jon Hamm at the end that had me wanting to throw something at the screen.
It even builds up to this moment, delaying the line itself, but I felt a mounting dread that I knew what he was going to say which basically amounts to - 'she wanted it to happen'. Not just a male wish as his doctor is positioned sympathetically at the end and the fantasy sequence confirms this view. Unbelievably offensive.

A film with a much better use of
Search and Destroy (and music in general)
The mental gymnastics Snyder goes through to defend this worldview are troubling. It is here that he really tries to be clever and the 4th level of reality comes in. We are the 4th level. The film starts with the Warner Bros logo projected on a red theatre curtain, the whole film is a fantasy (we are constantly reminded - which of course removes any dramatic thrust and leaves me time to think of shit like this). Snyder genuinely believes he is commentating on genre fiction as a whole. But where is the critique, the satire? He doesn't so much comment as just regurgitate it's worst excesses. Is he trying to blame the viewer for projecting this fantasy? That doesn't really work because it's set up as something artificial we are watching, the fantasy is his even if we have chosen to look at it. So where is the ironic level he claims? The hidden 5th level of reality.
Well, at least that is more interesting a mystery than whether a spinning top falls over or not.

1 comment:

  1. I saw the trailer for "Howlin' For You" that Tricia Helfer has done which annoyed me for similar reasons.

    It really struck me after rewatching Princess Monanoke how good the female characters in that story. They have depth and complexity and are not second string to the male hero. They all have respect for each other as well and are not blandly painted as good and bad and there are no damsels to be rescued anywhere in sight!

    I want more Zoe's!