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Sucker Punch (2011)
You will be unprepared.
Filmmaker(s): Zack Snyder

A young girl, institutionalised by her abusive stepfather, retreats to an alternative reality as a coping strategy and envisions a plan to help her escape.

Sucker Punch (2011)

Intersection as the Razor to the Eye

By now you will know that this is a box office flop, presumably because it caters to a demographic that gets easily confused, and the more engaged watchers can’t muddle through.

I will say that I admire the overall structure. By now it is not very novel, but there are some intriguing touches in the way the layers relate. The first is that of all the parallel lines, the commenting public seems to have all been taken in by the trick of assuming that the first layer you see is the base layer, is reality. In this case, we have an evil man, two susceptible stepdaughters, sexual advance, death and imprisonment of the surviving girl as revenge. She is sent to a corrupt mental institution and lobotomised.

In the few days between admittance and cranial invasion (by eye), we learn of a (woman) doctor that uses theatrical therapy.

We fully buy that on this foundation, other layers are built as fantasy, the next layer being that the asylum is a cover for a brothel, exploiting the girls, none of which appear insane. In this layer, the girls plot an escape. Most die.

A third layer is supposedly what goes on in the mind of our-girl-of-interest while she is seducing patrons in the brothel layer by her seductive, theatrical dance. This has what is considered state of the art CGI battles in different settings. (It is a blasphemy to relate this to Alice in Wonderland, as the PR machine does.)

The layers connect at more than a few points, preventing a clean, ‘Inception‘ like solution. Unless of course, the first layer is not the base layer. I believe this was an early decision in the structure, submerged as the thing grew bulk. In fact, I believe this is the ‘Moulin Rouge‘ influence. (The same curtain device is used in the beginning, and the same stage metaphor used to cross worlds. We have the same conflation of acting, inhabiting a life and whoring/dancing.)

So it would at least have been mildly interesting to me: a well financed hack using a folded formula with an intelligent heritage. The boring battles would have been tolerable, but what had me wanting to run away was the vile sexism. The first two layers (counting conventionally) treat the girls as amusing property. There is a disturbing tenor in the approach. Okay, we see that all the time and it can be used creatively to jerk us around. But not here.

Here we are solidly, inescapably, placed as the male in the audience, drooling over the extreme sexualization of the girl. There may be layers for her, but there are none for us. We are given permission because we are placed midway between where we presumably stay in life and the extreme stance of the pimp. His two-fold extreme exploitation gives us the designed room for simple leering, which we are tricked into.

Still, if we had nothing else but that first action scene, minus one trope, I would have been thrilled. This battle is set in a vague Yimou Zhang inspired setting. The heroism, and cuts are reminiscent of old Kar Wai Wong/Chris Doyle. It is not novel but it has some sweep and you do get swept up in it (assuming you have forgotten the prior stuff).

But even this has something that offends. I do not know the name of this pose. It is when the hero has jumped an extraordinary distance to enter a fray. He/she has one knee down, the same hand on the ground. The other knee is up and that hand has a weapon. This is the moment when you can see the glower in the hero‘s face where the environment is about to be justly destroyed. He/she has confidence that you as the viewer will not allow her to lose. Whenever I see this, I choke, just as when I see at the other at the end of an event calmly walking away in slo-mo while some profound conflagration erupts behind, gently blowing hair.

A perceptive reader pointed out what he saw as the Henry Darger connection. Look it up. A cool insight.

Posted in 2011

Ted’s Evaluation — 1 of 3: You can find something better to do with this part of your life.


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