I never write movie reviews.
I typically hate movie reviews. Why? They’re usually very specific, in regards to the genre mindset of the writer or one’s personal bias towards film. It’s one of the last perceived havens of “Ecumenical compliance with a rote expectation of execution” on the director’s part. Movie reviews are not art and science – they’re gut and perjurious intent. That said, this is not a review – it’s a dabbling in postmodern exploration.
For several years I’ve been watching the evolution of the word hipster as something quite different from the construct “hipster”. The word, a mundane modicum of demagoguery for a cultural subset that is either friend or foe versus the construct which is altogether far more interesting.
The construct builds on a postmodern concept that all old can be reinvented within a “simulacra” of one’s mind’s eye. What’s a simulacra you ask? Simply put, it’s your perception of something old or unfamiliar within the context of your ability to describe and discern it. It’s interpretation, but it’s more than that – it’s the design of a new cultural idiom.
The construct “hipster” as I see it is this new amalgam of fashion, art, culture and now film that has evolved over the past decade. It takes and borrows from a myriad of places, races, cultural contexts and experiences. It renders the past experience associated with whatever is being discussed moot and builds on a completely new, modern interpretation. This modern interpretation allows one to love animated art; be entrenched in video games; be a pop culture maven; have or have no religious identity or practice; be educated to a deep level but not grasp who the B-52’s are or what a monocole is and be comfortable juxtaposing things that were once guarded concepts within one’s social experience, as easily as one changes a pair of pants.
No longer is there the deep learning and sage experience associated with learning, say Japanese culture. There is the postmodern interpretation and identification. This is “hipster”.
Sucker Punch is the first true embodiment that I’ve seen of this cultural shift in psycho-social norms from the learned culture and experience to full on perceived culture and experience. It weaves a simple tale of a girl cone mad in the most creative way possible while mashing up genres in a way that only the construct “hipster” can. It’s pure entertainment for entertainments sake that tells the tale but postulates a solution that is within the hands of the viewer , not the movie’s key actor at its end.
It’s clever in that way.
I will however warn you that if you haven’t lived through the experiences of Gen-X’ers and Millenials that the notions within this movie could prove completely alien to you.
Sidebar: If you never listened to and loved a woman who loved Bjork – parts may not make any sense. (It’s a lil Bjork heavy – in a good way).
So, without looking at it from a postmodern eye – it may come off as confusing. Therefore, I say look at it as constructs not hard concepts. Leave much of it at the emotive forces that it tries to rais and understand it for the pure visual orgy that it is.
An Analysis of the Film
The film itself is a three level layered story.
Layer one is the girl gone mad and orphaned at the hands of a her father and a fateful mishap. The girl carried off to the Asylum. It’s a role Emily Browning (Baby Doll) has played before in “the Uninvited” but develops quite differently.
Layer two is the view of the lay of the land from Babydoll’s mind’s eye. To cope with surreality of her situation, she takes on a reality that is a prison / dungeon scenario. A modified version of prisoner’s dilema from a game theory perspective. This story ends with her losing the “game” in the traditional sense and is a throwback to a Shakespearian concept of sacrifice for the other, without the double negative of a Romeo and Juliet ending. There is tragedy that’s predicatable – just not in the traditional sense one would expect.
Layer three is where all the fun is. This is the eye within her mind’s eye – the pure postmodernism or construct “hipster” where she develops an id like character that moves her pawn in life through a phantasmagorical video game quest for a map, fire, a knife, a key and something mysterious that she will have to “lose something and gain something for”. This level is the bulk of the film’s charm. It weaves us through a construct “hipster” view of a myriad of historical contextual situations as a quest. Baby Doll flutters in between this id layer of reality and layer two in sorting the quest and getting to the the film’s culmination and it’s denouement.
It dabbles in steampunk, “Kill the Nazis” and cyberpunk while having a Dragon Age / Wolfenstien / Gears of War feel and a ridiculous attention to detail (look at the sizing and detail on Baby Doll, Sweet Pea and Rocket’s guns and accouterment or the painted Bunny Rabbit on the dreadnought in the middle of the steampunk battle with the Nazi, walking-dead, Kaisers.
The styling is evocative of the 50’s and a sort of “Rat Pack” feel. It’s not over the top T+A, but is fueled with enough cuteness to keep anyone interested. Half the time I kept thinking .. “you could replace all of these girls with Ubisoft’s FragDolls..”.
The magic of where this is where construct “hipster” could take film future forward. If we relase our notions of time and place within the context of the pre-internet – we find ourselves in this brave new world where the experience that was typically associative from a time / space period to become purely postmodern. You didn’t have to live in the 70s and participate in the Disco era; you don’t have to expect to know the history of Japan and forget historical context of quotes “you better stand for something, because if you don’t you’ll fall for anything” was said by Peter Marshall in 1947 – not Carradine playing the sage / guardian.
So take Sucker Punch for the Post-Modern simulacra bag of tricks that it is. Enjoy how it’s developing “hipster” as a construct and understand the impact that this can have on film and art to come.
Lastly, expect to get entertained with a message. A message that while contrite to a boomer or a pre-war persona – makes plenty of “go get em” sense to those of us living in this pre-web 3.0 era.