Saturday, March 26, 2011

How to Make a Violent Movie PG-13

Many of you may see the exciting trailer for Suckerpunch, the newest action film from director Zach Snyder, and hope for another 300-like experience. Insane non-stop action, choreographed slow-motion sequences, and gushing blood are all things we have come to expect from the visual director who awed us with 300 and Watchmen. Unfortunately, Suckerpunch lacks the latter component which leaves something to be desired to its adult audience who had grown accustomed to seeing blood to become immersed in the action.

Suckerpunch tells the story of a girl who is framed by her stepfather for the murder of her mother and stepsister and institutionalized in a mental facility where she is doomed to receive a lobotomy. Before her terminal treatment, she learns to delve into her imagination and create a fantasy parallel universe where she can be the hero and save her fellow female inmates  from their nightmarish situation (a videogame fantasy in many respects). At a first look, the movie appears to have everything one would desire in an action movie: guns, dragons, robots, Nazis, zeppelins, and gorgeous girls (in their twenties despite their schoolgirl looks). For a thirteen year-old, this movie is perfect, but for an adult the action is insufficient to make up for a lack of blood. For example in one fantasy, Babydoll, the protagonist, needs to steal a map from a Nazi courier before he makes his escape on a zeppelin. Standing between her and the map is an army of Nazi infantry, and killing them would be sufficient in an R-rated movie. In an PG-13 movie however they are not living bleeding people, they are undead. "Brought back to life by German engineers and doctors and powered by steam. So don't feel bad about killing them," says Scott Glen playing the good-guy general, before he proceeds to head shot a couple of Nazi Zombies with his sniper rifle. Instead of blood, injured German spew steam from their wounds which is interesting, but ultimately not satisfying. These Germans are also incapable of harming the girls. No matter how hard they hit, the girls bounce back up and hit twice as hard without even a bruise or scrape on them. A steam-punk's wet dream perhaps, but to an audience expecting to be drawn in by Sin City-like violence the movie feels superficial. 

All in all, the movie contained enough violence for a PG rating, like The Chronicles of Narnia. The rating of PG-13 was mostly attributed to the dark and suggestive themes. Had Zach Snyder been willing to go for the for the full R rating, I feel that the movie could have been a greater success by adding a little blood. Blood is a powerful image in movies and the lack of it in the most pivotal moments of the movie makes the characters look dry and empty. Without blood, we might as well be watching barbie dolls fighting in a PG-13 Team America.


  1. I think one of the most striking points of the movie is that she used her imagination to build a universe for escaping violent trauma. People do that in real life too - imagining a new reality that allows their brains to ignore the violence around them. Often classified as a mental illness, it really is a sophisticated coping mechanism.

  2. I find it interesting that the lack of blood is able to detract so much from the appeal of the violence in this movie. This after all, seems a little counter intuitive, especially considering how dramatic irony happens to be so effective because it teases the viewer or the reader, denying what they already know will happen at some point. So my question is why blood and not irony or suspense?

  3. I never really thought of that but now that you address the issue of blood, I really do think it takes away from the movie. I understand that it is her imagination and therefore we shouldnt be surprised by anything surreal, but not having blood causes the violence to lack credibility. I guess putting the fact that they "bleed" steam on paper makes it sound much less cool than it actually is, but I think a little blood in this case could have gone a long way.


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