Predictably, I think A.O. comes off best in this she said/he said exchange.
SCOTT: I think the first Salander movie ran into a serious problem when it tried to translate Larsson’s anger about pervasive sexual violence into cinematic terms. It is in the nature of the moving image to give pleasure, and in the nature of film audiences — consciously or not, admittedly or not — to find pleasure in what they see. So in depicting Salander’s rape by her guardian in the graphic way he did, the director, Niels Arden Oplev, ran the risk of aestheticizing, glamorizing and eroticizing it, just as Gaspar Noé did with Monica Bellucci’s assault in “Irreversible.”
The risk is not dissolved but rather compounded when the answering, avenging violence is staged and shot in almost exactly the same kind of gruesome detail, since the audience knows it is supposed to enjoy that. In other words, even though the earlier violation can be said to justify the later revenge, that logic turns out to be reversible. You could call this the “I Spit on Your Grave” paradigm. It is definitely at work in “Sucker Punch,” which gains in sleaziness by coyly keeping its rape fantasies within PG-13 limits and fairly quivering with ecstasy as it contemplates scenes of female victimization.
Jean-Luc Godard posited that all he needed to make a movie was a girl and a gun. (Some of his later work makes me wish he had stuck to that formula.) To put the gun in the hands of the girl may be a way to cut out the middleman, as it were, and also, as you suggest, to maximize commercial potential by providing something for everyone. I think that calculation works best when the filmmakers show some interest in exploring the complex intertwinings of sex and violence, rather than simply mashing them up or using one as a substitute for the other. On the other hand, it’s sometimes just fun to watch Saoirse Ronan or Ellen Page — or all the other sisters of Angelina Jolie, our era’s pioneering and still supreme female action star — beat up some deserving Badman.