Tag Archives: Zack Snyder

Sucker Punch: What The Hell Happened?

(Warning: Hella Spoilers)

Some of you probably just think Sucker Punch is one of those smorgasbords for your eyes, but I’m here to tell you that there’s more. What more you ask? Well, besides being a complete overload of sensory input, this movie is also confusing beyond all reckoning. At least, it probably was to everyone who isn’t nearly as insightful as I. So if you’re wondering what happened, pull up a chair, sit forward, and let me tell you.

My Top 2 Sucker Punch Theories

Theory 1: The main character of this film is actually Sweet Pea. Baby Doll helps her escape, and Sweet Pea is able to start a new life.

Theory 2: Baby Doll and Sweet Pea are aspects of the same person.

Arguments for 1:

The movie opens with a narration by Sweet Pea, leading us to believe it’s her story. She tells us that angels may come in any form, including little girls (i.e. Baby Doll), but that they’re not here to fight our battles. They’re here to help remind us that we control the worlds we create. Baby Doll is Sweet Pea’s angel, and when she arrives at the asylum, her impending lobotomy reminds Sweet Pea how sacred a place the mind is, and she uses this newly rediscovered knowledge to create an imaginary world she can retreat to during her escape attempts so that fear doesn’t overtake her.

The entire burlesque layer is Sweet Pea’s creation, which makes sense, since Sweet Pea is the main dancer. We’re all the main characters of our own imagination. The question then becomes why we get a battle that contains only Baby Doll when she’s fighting those robot samurai. It’s a valid concern, but perhaps Sweet Pea is simply entranced by Baby Doll’s dancing and chooses to imagine it as a battle. If that’s true, why is it Baby Doll who meets the old man and comes up with the plan? Maybe Baby Doll really did come up with the plan, and to give it some more credence, Sweet Pea inserts a wise man into her imagined version of Baby Doll’s story.

What’s happening in the asylum this entire time? Baby Doll is brought in, rebels, and comes up with a plan. Her dancing might represent fits of mental breakdown, minor attempts at escape (like fighting guards or running through doors) or even actual dancing. But no matter what it represents, it’s powerful enough that Sweet Pea must fit it into her imaginative storyline.

Sweet Pea escapes. When we’re finally in reality at the end of the film, the female doctor tells us that Baby Doll caused quite a bit of trouble, including helping a patient escape. We should believe any information that’s actually presented in reality, for there’s very little of it. If a patient escaped, it only stands to reason that it was Sweet Pea, for she’s the only one who comes close to escaping in any of the imagined layers.

But if she really was set free, then why does the last scene look so imaginary. Whenever we transfer to another layer of reality, the camera starts on Baby Doll then does a 180º spin. In the last scene, Baby dolls closer her eyes, the camera spins, then we see Sweet Pea meet a bus driver who is none other than the wise man. If this is supposedly real, then how did any of the characters know the bus driver well enough to insert his face into their imagination? She couldn’t possibly have met him before, could she? And why did the bus driver lie, saying that she’d been on board the whole time so that the cops didn’t question her? It all seems a little convenient. Isn’t it more likely that Baby Doll is simply imagining this as well?

Arguments for 2:

The last scene of reality at the beginning of the movie is Baby Doll lying down in the doctor’s chair, about to receive a lobotomy. If we’re seeing this scene, it only stands to reason that Baby Doll has already failed to escape and we’ve reached the end of the film. In the next scene, Baby Doll wakes up in the burlesque layer, only it’s not Baby Doll. It’s Sweet Pea in the exact same position wearing a blonde wig.

Baby Doll receives the lobotomy, and her last shot at survival is to retreat into her mind where she creates Sweet Pea, the sexy, confident dancer. The rest of the film only covers a few seconds in real life, the small amount of time it takes to perform a lobotomy. In that time, Baby Doll fantasizes an entirely different situation and an escape, and as she loses her mind, the burlesque layer becomes even crazier, slipping into the crazy battle scenes we saw earlier. In this reading, we no longer have to try to match the fantasy imagery to the layer of reality, for nothing is actually happening in reality.

By sacrificing herself to help Sweet Pea escape, Baby Doll is able to find solace, realizing that though she, the physical version of herself, may not make it, Sweet Pea, Baby Doll’s imaginary self, is free, unable to be harmed by the cruelty of the world. Sweet Pea is Baby Doll’s angel, whispering the reminder that we have power over the world we imagine, and in that world lies freedom. If this is true, then who actually escaped? The doctor says someone did, so it must have happened. In this reading, we’re required to assume that we don’t know who actually escaped, just that it happened.

Also, if the whole film is simply a few seconds of a mind’s last thoughts before being erased, then how do we explain the other information the doctor gave us and its relevance to the movie. She tells us that Baby Doll started a fire and stabbed someone, actions that directly link to the fantasy world. Is it possible she accomplished all that in the 5 days before the lobotomy, including helping someone escape, and that we didn’t see any of it? That the movie flashes forward to the lobotomy, and we get to see Baby Doll’s twisted, imaginary version of the previous 5 days? That’s what I think.

What do you think? Who teaches us what’s real and how to laugh at lies?

Written by Russ Nickel


Filed under Opinion

Sucker Punch – Mindbending and Awesome

Reality is a prison. Spring break 2011: trapped on the island of O‘ahu. The streets overflow with prostitutes, the destitute denizens of a corrupt city. I stand on the balcony of my hotel; below me, a fight breaks out, and soon cops flood the scene. Desperate to escape, we drive to the theater, situated between an abandoned warehouse and a broken-down cannery. We see some mountainous Samoans, tattoos rippling along their muscles as they load pieces of bikes into a truck. Undaunted, we ask them about parking—

Wake up. Somehow, this place is a penitentiary no longer, though it’s still not without its trials. Inside an IMAX theater, we take seats on the stairs, all too aware of the glares of those around us, disdainful of our audacity. Theater employees walk into the room and head toward us, grim looks of duty spreading over their compassionless faces—

Overwhelmingly loud music, images so forceful they tumble from the screen. Suddenly everyone is gone and I’m alone, drawn into the movie, disconnected from pain and worry and self.

That’s basically how Sucker Punch worked. The film starts off with an incredible sequence entirely devoid of dialogue (my second-favorite opening in recent memory—right after Star Trek). The music pounds with a driving rhythm, and Zack Snyder’s signature slow-mo is used to great effect. The artistic style is stunning, and some of the crystal clear IMAX shots are beyond entrancing. I was immediately sucked in, and I simply wondered how long the movie would be able to sustain my adrenaline-fueled sense of total immersion. The answer was “the entire time.”

At the beginning, Baby Doll’s (Emily Browning) mother dies, and when her stepfather receives nothing in the will, he turns murderous. In an attempt to defend herself and her sister, Baby Doll shoots her stepdad but only clips him, and somehow her sister ends up dead. Things look grim for Baby Doll when she’s committed to an insane asylum run by a corrupt doctor who agrees to have her lobotomized so she can never tell her story. She lies down in the doctor’s chair and—

Wakes up. After that, none of the remaining scenes take place in reality until the last five minutes, and the rest of the time, it’s up to you to use your imagination to fill in what’s happening. So if you didn’t like it, it’s clearly because you’re uncreative (winky face). But seriously, while some films may be a metaphor, this is one in which every single scene is metaphorical, and the task of deciphering their meaning is placed on the audience.

Like Inception, this movie takes place in layers of reality. The lowest layer is the insane asylum. Then comes the imaginary world in which all the mental patients are dancers in a burlesque house. This world mimics the asylum in ways that are relatively easily linked, but the layers don’t stop there. Any time there would be a scene of conflict, drama, or action, instead of actually seeing it occur, we are whisked away to a chimerical world of pure fantasy. For those of you who doubt Zack Snyder’s screenwriting ability or level of intention, there are a few scenes that make it clear we’re supposed to read deeply into this layer system. At one point, Baby Doll is dancing in front of the cook, but some water is spilled, and it’s slowly flowing toward the radio. In the battle layer, the girls are trying to disarm a bomb, and some high-tension intercutting lets us know that if that bomb goes off, it’s equivalent to the water shorting the electricity. The way the stakes are heightened in one level through what you see in another level is an undeniably creative conceit that, in my opinion, was executed nearly flawlessly.

But don’t worry. This movie isn’t some plodding allegory that exists purely to enlighten us. It’s got more eye candy than a deranged, cannibalistic optometrist confectioner’s sweetshop. The cast is composed entirely of beautiful women, and as if that weren’t enough, they’re clad in sexy schoolgirl outfits in the burlesque layer, and during the battle sequences, they don hot femme fatale outfits and run around firing guns and wielding swords. What’s not to like? And my sci-fi and fantasy desires were more than sated. First we get to see a martial arts fight against gargantuan robot samurai with spears and Gatling guns; next a WWII battle against zombie steampunk Nazis that plays like a level of “Call of Duty”; then a fantasy castle siege in which the girls have to slay an army of Orcs, only to face a powerful, fire-breathing dragon; and finally a futuristic sci-fi thriller sequence on a high-speed train filled with robots guarding a ticking bomb. This movie was a combination of all the best action scenes from all the best genres, and it wove them together under the veil of a psychological mind-bender.

All the while, the film was artsy and stylistic, epic, and driven by a soundtrack so compelling that I downloaded it as soon as I got home. If you approach this film with the right mindset, you’ll be blown away. Make sure to see it in IMAX, because it’s imperative that your senses be bombarded as overwhelmingly as possible, and don’t forget that it’s up to you to decide what happens.


Despite all the layers and metaphors and everything, the most confusing thing about this movie is the title.

Written by Russ Nickel


Filed under Review