Sucker Punch is the quintessential escape movie. Here’s what you missed and why you should love it.
No one admits to liking Sucker Punch. I’m not sure why that is. The soundtrack kicks ass, the girls are beautifully costumed, the men are all delightful mustache-twirling tools, and the action sequences are gorgeous. Most people point to the inherent misogyny of the plot or the ridiculous comic book styling of the action sequences as reasons to hate it. For others, it’s because they need that triumphant ending explained. It is one of my favorite movies ever, and one I have watched so many times I can quote the dialogue right along with the actors. Love it or fake hate it, everyone knows it. Here’s everything you missed, and all the reasons Sucker Punch is an escapist dream.
In case you needed warning………Spoilers Ahead
It is actually very woman positive
Yes, I know the girls are literally exploited, and Baby Doll gets lobotomized at the end, but it is a woman who saves them. Or in the less literal interpretation, a woman saves herself. Sexuality is nothing to be ashamed of or hidden. Just because you dress provocatively doesn’t mean you are asking for it. Sucker Punch capitalizes on that idea by making the girls sexiness a liability for the men. In the film, with the exception of the Wise Man, the men are all horrible. They are also slaves to their libido. The idiots can’t see past their peckers most of the time, and it makes them vulnerable. The women fight inconceivable battles in heals, sparking tights, gravity-defying bustiers, and eighty pounds of eyelashes. That takes some doing.
The messaging all the way through is find your strength, believe in yourself, and work together. That is 100% what women should do. When they don’t work together disaster strikes. Blondie(Hudgens) is terrified and eventually cracks. Her and Dr. Gorski(Gugino) confess to Blue and he kills Blondie and Amber for their part in the scheme. The women may not start powerful, but by the end they are formidable opponents. Eventually, Blue is defeated.
The Soundtrack Tells You Everything You Need To Know
All of the songs were produced and arranged by Marius de Vries and Tyler Bates. Director Zach Snyder wanted a rock sensibility to add to the urgency of the action sequences. He also wanted the themes of pain, rebellion, strength to ring out. The music is as much part of the emotional journey as the fantasy segments. The opener, Sweet Dreams originally by The Eurythmics and performed by Emily Browning(yes Sweet Pea herself), is a throbbing, hypnotic anthem of grief.
Where Is My Mind also by Browning this time with Yoav is so heartbreakingly sad you miss the message. It isn’t about where the Hell am I, but rather where am I going and who with. The Smith’s Asleep, again sung by Browning, is a haunting Hard Knock Life anthem interrupted by Requiem In D Minor by Mozart Amadeus. Army of Me by Bjork is the perfect bizarre backdrop for an impending sword battle and beginning of a personal awakening.
If you didn’t know already, White Rabbit by Emiliana Torrini clues you in that you have fallen down the rabbit hole. I Want It All Queen never fails to elicit emotion and Search and Destroy by Skunk Anansie drives the action with it’s thumping drum beat and ethereal vocal. Tomorrow Never Knows by Allison Mosshart is a clever mix of techno beats and ’70s synth that speaks volumes. Forget your past; focus on the future.
Evil Men Are Portrayed As Complete Morons
Dudes behaving badly is hardly a fresh theme. These particular men are pretty much the worst of the worst. Oscar Isaac(Blue) is especially adept at playing the smarmy chauvinist. Alex Garland’s Ex Machina would not work without the slime he oozes into every scene. He is the ultimate gaslighter who manages to rationalize his bad behavior as someone else’s fault in both films. There is no sugar-coating the depravity of most of the men in Sucker Punch. They are either actively abusing and oppressing men, or complacent out of ignorance or fear. These men are not redeemable. Snyder doesn’t write them that way.
The Names Have Meaning
Sweet Pea and Baby Doll are two sides of the same coin. Both ultra-feminine, they represent the docile side and the make-believe side of Sweet Pea’s personality. Her sister, Rocket, is the catalyst for all of the events. Blondie is neither fair-haired or skinned, but she is the side that wants to please others at all costs, even if that means changing herself to do it. Amber is the innocent. She has to be told how to seduce The Mayor. Each girl’s name suits who they are as individuals. It also is another clue they are all part of something bigger.
That Is What Fantasy Action Sequences Should Look Like
There are robotic giant Samarai’s, some of which fire rocket launchers, dragons, steampunk Natzi’s, and Saturn moon futuristic speeding trains full of mirror faced Terminators. In every case, the women are victorious. Yes, there are some casualties along the way, but the group always wins the day. Better still, they do it in style. The ladies wield massive weapons and machines. They don’t need a man to do any heavy lifting. It is the ultimate in escape kink. Nothing should work but does. The Laws of Physics have no place here. The fantasy world of Sucker Punch includes everything you ever wanted to defeat in every dream setting imaginable and gives you a way to win. All of that is done with unbelievable costuming, and full-on women power. What more could you ask for?
It is All An Allegory For Fighting Your Demons
Some of those are physical demons in the form of men who abuse young girls and commit others. Some of them are harder to visualize. In all likelihood, there is no Baby Doll, or at least not in a sense we see her in the movie. Baby Doll is just the part of Sweet Pea’s personality who feels as if she couldn’t defend Rocket, who may not be there either.
The clues to what is really going on are everywhere. The viewer misses most of them because there is already so much fantasy, we suspend reality and take it all at face value. That is a huge mistake. Abby Cornish’s Sweet Pea is the one we first see on the bed with a sister she thinks she has failed. The parallels between Sweat Pea and Baby Doll are too similar to be ignored. They both are big sisters who feel they let their younger sister down. It’s not a coincidence.
It is Sweet Pea who says she is the star of the show. It is also Sweet Pea that eventually escapes on the bus. A billboard as she leaves the bus station reads Paradise Diner. She tells us she is going there from the beginning of the film. “Send me a postcard from Paradise.” It’s easy to write that comment off as a nebulous paradise instead of an actual place. It shouldn’t be, though. Sweet Pea advertises early precisely where she is going and how.
The second time we see sweet Pea, she is again on stage and this time being lobotomized. For some reason, that is sexy. She stops the rehearsal complaining that there is nothing sexy about it. Chalked up as foreshadowing to Baby Doll’s story, it could be ignored but seen through the lens of Sweet Pea, and it has a more significant meaning. Either Sweet Pea is trying to control her own narrative and avoid lobotomization, or she has already had it done, and everything is in her mind. A coping mechanism of a destroyed consciousness.
In the second group action sequence, the girls fight an actual dragon. I mean obvious much? The girls are both slaying the dragon and finding their hidden one. They are waking their beasts and the men should be scared. The final sequence has a literal ticking clock reminding everyone time is running out. Despite wanting to keep Rocket safe, Sweet Pea must fight before it is too late. She needed to fight. It isn’t enough for her to simply exist inside the mental institution. She must use her fantasy as a weapon and escape.
A final explanation is that all the girls are personalities of Sweet Pea. Each had a specific role to play in her escape, but each needed to be removed before Sweet Pea could leave the facility. The final item was always a sacrifice. If you are a literalist and believe Sweat Pea escaped on a bus, Baby Doll and Rocket made that sacrifice. If you took things more figuratively, the sacrifice was a lobotomy. Sweat Pea surrendered her mind. All the pain, the suffering, the abuse is over with one swing of the mallet on a metal spike.
Sweet Pea controlled everything in her mind. Dr. Gorski tells us as much in the opening sequence. The stage was where we first met Sweet Pea on a set that looked like a worn version of Baby’ Doll’s bedroom. Every time after, Sweet Pea uses the stage to hint to the viewer what is real. If anyone is on stage, that is what really happens. The dream sequences derived from the stage are nothing but a dream. If someone has their eyes closed, it’s a dream.
When Baby Doll closes her eyes the fantasy begins. She closes her eyes at the end just as Sweet Pea makes it to the bus station. Whether she escaped through lobotomy or on an actual bus is irrelevant. Blue can’t hurt anyone else. Baby Doll was always the fighter within Sweet Pea, waiting to rebel. She says as much to Sweet Pea, “This was never my story, it was yours.”
The One-Liners Are To Die For
Between Scott Glenn’s Wise Man spouting straight-faced lines like, ” If you don’t stand for something, you will fall for anything.” and “For those who fight for it, life has a flavor the sheltered will never know.” Finally, “Don’t ever write a check with your mouth; you can’t cash with your ass.” These are sage words to live by.
The stunning art piece that is Zack Snyder’s Sucker Punch has finally begun to get the respect it was due. The feminist battle cry is a shot into the night against repression and self-doubt. Sweet Pea put it best, “Everyone has an Angel. A Guardian who watches over us. We can’t know what form they’ll take. One day, old man. Next day, little girl. But don’t let appearances fool you, they can be as fierce as any dragon. Yet they’re not here to fight our battles, but to whisper from our heart. Reminding that it’s us. It’s everyone of us who holds power over the world we create.” Now stand up and fight!
As the Managing Editor for Signal Horizon, I love watching and writing about genre entertainment. I grew up with old-school slashers, but my real passion is television and all things weird and ambiguous. My work can be found here and Travel Weird, where I am the Editor in Chief.