‘Mayday’ is ‘Sucker Punch’ Without Zack Snyder — Sundance Review

When Zack Snyder made his original movie Sucker Punch, it became a controversial depiction of female empowerment. Mayday, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, deals with a similar story and theme. However, the indie drama trappings of Mayday may give it an entirely different reading than Snyder’s film. 

Mayday Grace Van Patten
Grace Van Patten | SundanceI Institute

‘Mayday’ vs. ‘Sucker Punch’ or Karen Cinorre vs. Zack Snyder

After an electric shock, Ana (Grace Van Patten) wakes up on a short. Marsha (Mia Goth) takes her into beached U Boat where she lives with Bea (Havana Rose Liu) and Gert (Soko). They send radio signals to wartime pilots to make them crash, and they finish off the ones who land on their island. 

Writer/director Karen Cinorre’s fantasy can be a metaphor for misogyny, just as Synder’s Sucker Punch fantasies were. In Snyder’s film, patients in a mental institution imagined themselves as superheroines. Without the Hollywood CGI, skimpy outfits and hospital setting, Mayday strips away some potential distractions from Cinorre’s metaphor. 

Zack Snyders Sucker Punch star Emily Browning
Emily Browning | Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images

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Training ‘Mayday’

The fact that the plane crashes are all implied over radio audio shifts the focus from spectacle to the characters. Granted, perhaps Cinorre would have loved to make an epic pseudo WWII plane crash movie, but the limited resources inform the drama well. 

Marsha takes Ana under her wing and teaches her how to shoot. Downed pilots can still attack the women, and sometimes Marsha rounds up pilots for her own firing squad. The danger of the pilots escalates as they pose increased dangers to the women. The male pilots represent misogyny in general against which Marsha wages her own war.

Goth is relentless and powerful in Marsha’s conviction. Marsha tells her to stop hurting herself and start hurting others. Van Patten portrays Ana’s struggle to retain some of her vulnerability when Marsha wants to teach her to fight back. Soko shows Gert as a practical pragmatist and Liu makes Bea an open-minded idealist and risk taker. 

A subtle Sundance fantasy 

Mayday pulls off ambitious fantasy without all the trappings of Hollywood. Filmed mostly on location, Cinorre creates a sense of a surreal world. The World War II aesthetic is distant enough from Ana’s modern world. Cinorre also throws in a whimsical dance number with the pilots.

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Cinorre also deals with themes inherent to stories where characters visit fantasy realms from the real world. The writer/director herself referenced The Wizard of Oz, but it also speaks to Narnia and, yes, Sucker Punch

However, Cinorre is able to give this dichotomy a different sort of resolution. Ana struggles between a real world in which she cannot be all powerful, but she is missing out on other positive experiences in seclusion with Marsha’s gang. On a purely literal level, Mayday is a cool action-adventure with powerful women.