Tuesday, April 12, 2011

SAINTS PRESERVE ME, I AM STILL THINKING ABOUT SUCKER PUNCH: Thoughts from a second viewing, crossposted from my Tumblr:

Thoughts on a second viewing of Sucker Punch: I think it’s fundamentally about the limits of fantasy. It’s Snyder saying, all those old Heavy Metals and girl action movies and comics and games you loved when you were younger—it’s all right to love them! They’re awesome! But know that there are limits to how far escape can take you. And the root of them is a very male need to control things. I look at the brothel level as “Baby Doll’s” (whoever the lead character was, as I very much subscribe to the theory that all five girls were part of the same mind) literalization of Blue’s pervy, fetishy, can-only-get-turned-on-by-subjugating-womeny consciousness. She keeps trying to escape to the high fantasy level but Blue makes sure she stays rooted in his world, even at the expense of parts of her mind (Rockey, Amber, Blondie, and eventually Baby Doll herself.) I think Snyder intended the end to be a true victory of the main character over Blue, where some part of her gets to escape, but at a cost of the rest of her self.
Now how much mileage you get out of that ending is up to you. If any part of Sucker Punch is misogynist, it’s that it’s a story about woman seeking annihilation, who at least in part embraces partial brain death in the end. In the original version apparently the High Roller has a scene with Baby Doll where he tells her if she gives himself to him willingly, he’ll set her free (which explains Hamm’s “almost like she wanted me to do it” dialogue afterwards—again, it’s a shame this movie was cut apart so much.) Never mind equating lobotomization with sexual penetration here—it’s just not the most feminist thing in the world to have a female character seeking loss of self. Of course, she had to sacrifice herself in terms of the narrative so some part of her could survive. And Sweet Pea obviously chooses to live, and they’re both part of the same mind, so…yeah. Maybe it’s only problematic on a surface level. And of course the surface level of Sucker Punch seems to have stymied the great majority of critics.
A lesser thing I was bothered about in my second viewing was (still) the deaths of Amber and Blondie. The first time I was like “jeez—that was brutal, Snyder!” The second time, I think Snyder was trying to interject some real menace into the brothel level and there just isn’t enough leading up to it to justify two cold-blooded executions out of nowhere. I also think maybe Amber and Blondie were just there to get killed later, so there would be some “real” menace in the movie, which is sort of cheap, especially since they had little in the way of characterization previous in the movie. All I can get out of those two is Amber represents safety or something like it—she’s always removed, piloting or in a giant mech, safely away from the ground level action. Blondie is…just the weak link? The main character’s cowardice or impulsivity? Rocket is her confidence, so when she dies, it’s her confidence going. Baby Doll is her sense of self, so I guess Sweet Pea is her strength and, in the end, her reborn self. But yeah, Chung and Hudgens, the Real World refugee and the High School Musical refugee, needed more to do. Maybe they did in the earlier cuts…they’re both prominent in the musical numbers that were cut but reappear in the credits.
Anyway, yeah, this movie is both the live-action Heavy Metal and a meditation on what your relationship to Heavy Metal and Heavy Metal-like things is, should be, should not be. In Snyder’s opinionz.

Wondering if I'm giving Snyder too much credit for actually thinking about this stuff, some of the other Team Sucker Punch people think it's an unintentionally interesting movie. But listening to Snyder's interviews about the movie, he definitely was trying to play with genre expectations.

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