Emily Browning (Sleeping Beauty)
Abbie Cornish (Limitless)
Jena Malone (Donnie Darko)
Vanessa Hudgens (Spring Breakers)
Jamie Chung (Once Upon A Time)
Carla Gugino (Watchmen)
Oscar Isaac (Star Wars: The Force Awakens)
Jon Hamm (Mad men)
Scott Glenn (The Silence of The Lambs)
Monique Ganderton (Smallville)
Peter Bryant (Dark Angel)
Patrick Sabongui (The Flash)
Chrstine Willes (Dead Like Me)
Ian Tracey (Bates Motel)
Like many men, when I saw the trailers appear for the film a number of things caught my eye immediately. First and foremost was the cast of hot scantily clad young women with cool sounding names like Baby Doll, Sweet Pea, Rocket, Amber, and Blondie. The next thing noticed was that it seemed to blend fantasy with a lot of ridiculously over the top action that involved zombie Nazis, fire-breathing dragons, robot samurai, and other entirely bizarre and irrational things that would surely only come out of the imagination of a weirdo who has a strong affection for anime, video games, and everything else considered genuinely bizarre: this was not the kind of thing I expected to see for a big-budget spectacle showpiece. The end result was that Sucker Punch ultimately looked to me like something that would only appeal to young men looking for thrills or pop-culture junkies. It seemed like it would have plenty of pretty images and little substance whatsoever. What could possibly be worthwhile about the film beyond some mere thrills.
Sucker Punch begins with what essentially adds up to being a music video stylized opening that aims to bring audiences into the start of the story. Prepare to see a lot of this throughout the entire experience. I actually embraced it because it’s in part the kind of thing I always felt Snyder should be doing: making music videos or commercials. By placing an emphasis on the music and striking imagery I felt allowed to have a visceral experience that actually grabbed on to me and wouldn’t let me go. We discover early on that the girl we would soon know as Baby Doll (Emily Browning) was being sent to a mental institution by her stepfather. It’s no fault of her own mental health – she witnesses the murder of her younger sister who I presumed was also raped beforehand. The stepfather doesn’t stop there as he tries to rape and murder them both, and when Baby Doll fights back he somehow arranges it so that they believe the murder of her sister was why she was being committed into the mental institution in the first place.
Upon entering the mental institution Baby Doll enters a fantasy-world she creates where the storyline of Sucker Punch allows her to enter a dream within another dream state of mind (and this really made me wonder if this had anything to do with why Christopher Nolan picked Snyder for the Superman reboot). She visualizes the mental intuition as actually being a dance hall – but the truth of the fantasy is that the director of the asylum, Blue (Oscar Isaac), is really trying to prostitute the girls out to clients in his role as the owner of the dance hall. The doctor of the mental institution, Dr. Vera Gorski (Carla Gugino), is now seen as the dance instructor and every time one of the characters ‘dances’ they are actually entering a deeper fantasy world where all of the crazy video-game/anime like qualities truly step in to play (such as the dragons and robots – oh my!). The dancing in the film is never visualized in the way most men probably want or expect – there isn’t a lot of ‘sexy moves’ on display in these moments and to my disappointment I have heard some complaints about this as a detractor. The dances in this movie are not ordinary dances at all but are in fact moments when Baby Doll enters her deeper fantasy state.
Baby Doll has met the other girls Rocket (Jena Malone), Amber (Jamie Chung), Sweet Pea (Abbie Cornish), and Blondie (Vanessa Hudgens). Eventually, the girls team up in each of these sequences. During the first ‘deep dream’ sequence Baby Doll encounters a seemingly wise old man (Scott Glenn) while alone. He informs her that in order to become free she must collect five items: a map, knife, fire, key, and another item that she must discover on her own. He also gives her a handgun and sword that can be used while inside her dream world. Over the course of the story, Baby Doll convinces the other girls that following this plan of action is the only way for them to escape. Some of the girls are on board with the idea while others (mainly Sweet Pea) seem against it.
I realized at some point that there began to be a correlation between the first layer of the fantasy world and the second one. Actions taking place within the dream-world fantasy affected the other. Characters died unexpectedly and the result was their death and removal from both of the fantasy plot-lines taking place. Towards the end of the film the items gathered are used for the last surviving girls to escape and they are used in the film . In concluding the story, Baby Doll realizes that the fifth thing needed for her to escape was simply her, and then she helps one of the other girls to find freedom while she stays behind. Upon entering into the reality of the situation – in the mental hospital – we find that Baby Doll is about to have a lobotomy. Dr. Gorski enters the room and talks to the man performing the lobotomy (Jon Hamm). She questions why such a thing is happening, and soon realizes that a forgery was done of her signature for someone to make the lobotomy occur. Yet it was already far too late as the operation had just been completed.
Baby Doll is led away by some guards to a room where Blue awaits her. He tells her that he can now do anything with her that he wants to do. The guards seem reluctant; saying something about being sick of letting him do what he wants to these girls. Dr. Gorski breaks into the room and stops whatever was about to happen. In a scene that appears as an epilogue thereafter, we see the lone girl who escaped get onto a bus with the same old man from Baby Dolls dream world as the driver.
The audience just got sucker punched. The conversation held between Dr. Gorski and the man performing the lobotomy revealed that Baby Doll had actually done some of the things the audience witnessed in the fantasy world she created. In other words, the film blends reality and fantasy in a way that makes it hard to state what moments were real and what moments weren’t. Some will call this a cop out. I actually disagree for once. It had my own imagination going rather wild.