Mon
Mar 28 2011 12:04pm

Sucker Punch, Part 1: The Story That No One Is Talking About

Sucker Punch

It amazes me how, even regarding a movie about women, straight men dominate the conversation. All I knew about Sucker Punch before going to see it was that it looked really cool, and that both men and women everywhere were talking, before anyone even saw it, about how this was going to be “male fantasy masturbation fodder.” I’m sure it is. The costumes are skimpy and the women are hot. But Sucker Punch, like its female characters, has so much more to offer. It’s a shame that so many people allowed the masturbation conversation, as well as their preconceived notions of genre films, to color their experience of Sucker Punch and see it the way the men in the film see the women. At most, as fluff entertainment. At the very least, as unworthy of attention.

What did I see? Not only an effective telling of a harsh story through fantastical, stylized means, but a movie in which women aren’t given agency, but take it. A movie I wish had been around when I was a teenager. A movie that made me think that girls and young women today are really lucky.

(If you care about spoilers, this is not the thing to read. In order to make my points about the movie, I address key plot points. You have been warned.)

I don’t claim to be a genius, but it’s interesting that so many reviewers are calling Sucker Punch “indecipherable” or are getting so many of the details just plain wrong, when I found the movie incredibly easy to follow and see a story, not through “interpretation” but through actual lines of dialogue and actual images on the screen, that no one else seems to be seeing. Let me break this down.

The movie begins and ends with a voiceover narration about guardian angels. About how our guardian angels exist and protect us whether we believe they will or not. They sometimes come to us in surprising forms. “They speak through demons if they have to.”

Then in a lovely, silent opening, we meet Babydoll (Emily Browning), a young woman whose mother passes away at the beginning of the film. She has a stepfather, who seems thrilled that his wife is gone until he reads her will and sees that she’s left all her wealth to Babydoll and her little sister. He gets drunk, gets angry, then makes a beeline for Babydoll to either physically or sexually assault her. We never get to know which, because she lashes out and scratches him across the face. He locks her in her room, and she sees that he is headed for her little sister. She climbs out of her bedroom window, down a drainpipe, gets back in through the front of the house, finds the family gun, and threatens her stepfather with it just as he’s cornered her little sister. She fires, intending to shoot him, but she misses and ends up shooting her sister instead. Horrified, she runs away, and her stepfather calls the police and ends up having her committed in an insane asylum for the crazed murder of her sister.

From the first scene of the movie, Babydoll is someone who will stand up for someone in the face of an abuser. This is important. This is, in fact, the most important part of the whole film, and it’s the part that’s gotten lost in all the other criticism I’ve read. Babydoll is not insane, nor does she go insane. And the visual metaphors employed in the film are for our benefit, not hers. They are not a “coping mechanism” for Babydoll, nor is she “retreating into a fantasy world.” They are a way for us to see this world. They are a way of illustrating her plan to the audience in an intriguing way that isn’t just “Hey, if we steal the key and get the map from the office, we can get out of here.” That movie would’ve lasted five minutes and would’ve been boring as hell. Or worse—just like every other escape movie ever.

Once Babydoll arrives at the asylum, we’re introduced to Dr. Vera Gorski (Carla Gugino), who runs play/arts therapy sessions in a converted auditorium called “The Theater.” We are also introduced to Blue Jones (Oscar Isaac), the man who runs the asylum and oozes corruption. Babydoll overhears that the her stepfather has bribed Blue into ensuring a labotomy for her so that she is removed as an obstacle between him and Babydoll's inheritance. She hears all of this and knows what’s coming, but in that moment, she also purposefully focuses on a particular fellow inmate for the first time—Sweet Pea—as Sweet Pea (Abbie Cornish) has trouble expressing herself in her therapy with Dr. Gorski. This focus is also important, so remember it for later.

Sweet Pea from Sucker Punch

And so all the ingredients in how we will see the asylum are in place. The asylum stands as a theater in which men control women’s bodies for profit and power, and through which a woman’s best chance at sanity and salvation is through creativity.

Cue the first visual metaphor: the asylum as a brothel/burlesque hall.

It is from here that all the characters get their names: Babydoll, Sweet Pea, Rocket (Jena Malone), Blondie (Vanessa Hudgens, who is never blonde), and Amber (Jamie Chung). Babydoll’s father becomes a priest leaving her in this place as punishment for her sins. Dr. Gorski becomes Madame Gorski, their dance instructor, and dance becomes a metaphor for the fact that Blue is, among other things, selling these girls’s bodies for sex. The lobotomist (Jon Hamm) is then referred to as the High Roller, a man who is coming in five days, not only to lobotomize Babydoll, but is spending a lot of money to “try the new girl” and “watch her dance."

With Dr/Madame Gorski’s help, as well as the pressure of a deadline in five days, Babydoll gets in the frame of mind to fight. And that frame of mind involves samurai swords, guns, steampunk Nazi zombies, and robots.

Cue the second visual metaphor: Babydoll’s plan as a sci-fi/steampunk/fantasy battle.

The young women are not facing an easy situation. Babydoll’s dealt with an abusive stepfather, she’s accidentally killed her beloved sister, and is now stuck in a place where, before she is to be lobotomized, she and the others must endure being objectified, demeaned, and belittled.

Director Zach Snyder has been criticized for his visual style. Or rather, a criticism is that his visual style is excellent, but that it comes at the expense of “storytelling.” The thing is, in Sucker Punch, the visuals are the storytelling. The visuals and the script are one and the same. Snyder is telling the story of these girls in this asylum by providing gorgeous visuals that are as epic as their situation feels to them. Rather than have young women sitting around talking a la Girl, Interrupted, he shows us just how bad these women have it by comparing their problems to visions of epic battles and carnage. We learn what we need to know about them through the dialogue, the very specific visuals, and the roles each woman plays in the metaphor reality. Babydoll gets a gun as well as a sword, as a reminder that despite her previous use of a handgun, her sister’s death was not her fault and that she still can use it in self-defense as well as in the defense of others. Amber is always given the big machines in the fantasies. She controls the giant robot (with a bunny on it!) and flies the helicopters. She also is given the responsibility of taking the lighter off the mayor, and when Rocket fails to successfully steal the knife from the cook, it is Amber who has the foresight to pick it up when it falls to the ground, even as someone is being killed in front of her. Clearly, Amber is the intelligent one who excels under pressure. Blondie, meanwhile, is the one who is less intelligent, who becomes overly-emotional and cracks under pressure. We see this in how she excels at hand-to-hand combat and shooting people in the face—the least technical, most visceral forms of fighting—and how, in a fit of panic, she tells Blue and Dr. Gorski all about the escape plan, with tragic results. We know that Rocket and Sweet Pea ended up in the asylum because Sweet Pea followed Rocket away from home and into trouble in an attempt to protect her. Sweet Pea, like Babydoll, is fiercely protective of her sister. Rocket is the least mature and most impulsive of them all, but also has a huge heart.

Throughout the entire film, whether or not Sweet Pea participates in the plan is essential to whether or not it is enacted. Babydoll loses hope when Sweet Pea loses hope. When Sweet Pea returns to the group, she gets special congratulations. Babydoll is presented to Sweet Pea first, who gives Babydoll her name, as well as the names of all the other girls. The relationship between Sweet Pea and Rocket is the most well-defined in the film. And when Babydoll arrives, Sweet Pea is there as Babydoll’s father and Blue discuss their plans for her.

And there’s a reason for that.

Because this is Sweet Pea’s story, not Babydoll’s. Those visual metaphors? They’re all filtered through Sweet Pea. How do I know this for sure? Well, aside from everything in the paragraph above, as well as the final voiceover that questions whose story it is, there’s the bus driver at the end. When Sweet Pea finally escapes and gets to the bus station to get home, the bus driver is the Wise Man (Scott Glenn) who was giving them their missions in the fantasy world. If he was a product of Babydoll’s mind, why would Sweet Pea be seeing him on her own after she’s already left? Being that he’s on the bus home, it’s possible that she modeled the man in the fantasy world after this bus driver she’d seen before on this bus. Or, she’s just seeing the same guy as the bus driver. Either way, he’s in her brain, not Babydoll’s.

Sucker Punch is the story of a woman and her guardian angel. It is the story of how a woman who lost everything acted as a guardian angel to a woman who still had something to live for.

However, here is where things get murky. The script isn’t perfect and the ending could’ve used some tightening, but I see it less as a problem and more as the thing that gives Sucker Punch more depth than people give it credit for. It is unclear at the end of the film whether this is a story with a literal angel, or whether Snyder means “guardian angel” in terms of one person being destined to help another person. It is clear that Babydoll is an actual woman who becomes an inmate at the asylum, just as the others are. There’s reason to believe that, in that moment of purposeful focus on Sweet Pea early in the film, Sweet Pea’s guardian angel took her over to “speak through” her. This would also jibe with everyone’s overly-surprised reaction to Babydoll after her lobotomy, which seemed excessive to me in a place where lobotomies happen regularly. They kept saying things like “she’s not there anymore,” as if whatever was in her had gone. The way everyone treated her case as different led me to believe that, even in the context of a lobotomy, Babydoll’s level of “gone” was being highlighted for a reason. Perhaps to indicate that the guardian angel wasn’t using her anymore. However, it is just as likely that Babydoll the person is the “guardian angel,” and she sees her purpose over the course of the film. I’d like to think that all the girls, in one way or another, were Sweet Pea’s guardian angel, with Babydoll acting merely as a catalyst, but that’s just my personal interpretation. A definite position on the matter either way would’ve made this film stronger.

It is a difficult thing to calibrate a performance in a film that is so stylized. While the cast was a mixed bag, there were some lovely stand-out performances. Abbie Cornish as Sweet Pea and Jena Malone as Rocket gave the film its emotional heart and a grounding that balanced the heightened visuals. Oscar Isaac as Blue was the perfect balance of smarmy and charming, and Carla Gugino gave a complex performance as a woman who is part of an establishment that crushes women. The surprise was Jamie Chung as Amber, a minor character I kept being drawn to, both because of Chung’s talent and because she was the one who kept being entrusted to fly things and carry out plans. Vanessa Hudgens was the weakest link, not being able to find the balance between purposeful stylization and truth, overdoing everything. Emily Browning, while believeably tough as Babydoll, still has some growing to do as an actress. Though there were glimmers of a sweet vulnerability, she wasn’t strong enough to overpower the visuals that surrounded her.

But what visuals they were! No matter what you think of the rest of the film, you have to acknowledge that it looks fantastic, and will be giving cosplayers material for years to come. But again, more than that, the visuals tell the story in a visceral, primal way that dialogue just doesn’t do. You can either have a character talk about how hard they have it, or you can have a character be thrown into a building by a fire-breathing dragon, come back to overpower it, and stab it through the skull with a sword. Sucker Punch speaks in the language of images, and does it well.

Sucker Punch isn’t a perfect film, but it deserves more consideration than the outright dismissal it’s been getting. It was a fun, rollicking ride that also had more going on thematically than many people think is possible with a film of its type. I think Sucker Punch will end up being one of those movies that people will realize is wonderful years later. If you have yet to see Sucker Punch, I would advise going to see it with an open mind, and don’t let the pretty shinies distract you from what’s happening to the people. Stuff is happening, and it’s all there if you just pay attention.

Coming up in Part 2: Women, Weapons, and Dealing in Harsh Realities


Teresa Jusino is two years older than Buffy Summers. Her “feminist brown person” take on pop culture has been featured on websites like ChinaShopMag.com, PinkRaygun.com, Newsarama, and PopMatters.com. Her fiction has appeared in the sci-fi literary magazine, Crossed Genres; she is the editor of Beginning of Line, the Caprica fan fiction site; and her essay “Why Joss is More Important Than His ‘Verse” is included in Whedonistas: A Celebration of the Worlds of Joss Whedon By the Women Who Love Them, which is on sale now wherever books are sold! Get Twitterpated with Teresa, or visit her at The Teresa Jusino Experience.

73 comments
Clinton Ausmus
1. Cragar
Excellent review. I was very excited to see this movie when the trailers started airing, then it started getting all the bad feedback. Your review has renewed the excitement that I originally had.

Thank You...
Chin Bawambi
2. bawambi
Thanks for the review. I don't mind all the spoilers and you just convinced me to go see it. I find reviewers to almost never give credit where credit is due in the scifi/fantasy genre unless there is an anti-war/violence obvious message to the movie.
Bob Gallo
3. StormbringerGrey
My gaming group loves this film. I haven’t seen it yet but it’s one of the few movies I’ll probably pay full ticket price to see (I’m usually happy to just wait for RedBox or NetFlix streaming).
Emmet O'Brien
4. EmmetAOBrien
I'd find it much easier to see it as a movie about taking agency had that agency not been so readily thwarted by chance occurrences, and I'd find it a sight easier to see it not being about women being given agency had the Scott Glenn part been played by, say, Helen Mirren. I love the fantasy sequences for what they are but there's no feeling of anything being learned from them that's of any use in the movie's other levels of reality, so I didn't really feel them as an effective counterbalance to the omnipresent threat in the framing levels of reality. It would also have helped a lot for me had the female characters had or claimed or acquired names that sounded a little bit less infantilising along the way.

I agree that mainstream reviewers claiming it's indecipherable are hard to make sense of; if anything, Snyder is spoonfeeding the audience with lovingly lingering slo-mo shots on anything that will later turn out to be important, and I'd have preferred a film that assumed its viewers were smart enough to pick up on that kind of thing without such heavy hints.
Cori Hull
5. yarnandtea
I think this is the first positive review of this film I have seen, and I have to say thank you. I saw it over the weekend, and I am still thinking about it. I don't know that I liked it, but I certainly didn't hate it.

My problems with it too were more problems with the script itself rather than the overall story, I think. I have to say, I didn't realize it was rated PG-13 until after I had seen it, and I was quite surprised. I have heard that several filmed scenes were cut and planned scenes were scrapped to ensure the PG-13 rating, and I think that might have been at least part of what kept the movie from being an automatic favorite for me. I think had Snyder been allowed to make this as an R, and I honestly can't imagine why they would even try to make this film PG-13 other than to get more potential ticket sales, it would have been able to be a much tighter film overall and possibly have garnered a bit less flack.

I am very intrigued at your statement that it was Babydoll who killed her sister (though accidentally). I read it as she was too late to stop her step-father from the murder, as it seems like her shot didn't go anywhere near her sister (though as I think about it once more, it did ricochet and had to go somewhere). If I look at it from your perspective, it gives sense to a lot of points I had questioned.

Again, thank you for looking past the surface that everyone else is getting so caught up in and giving this a grown-up review!
Alejandro Melchor
6. Al-X
I agree that the script needs tightening, but I too am surprised about people around me missing the entire point about this being Sweet Pea's story, told through Babydoll.

I compare the story to Puss in Boots, where you get all the romps told as performed by the cat, but the actuall beneficiary of those actions is the cat's master. Babydoll is thus an agent of the story, not the protagonist, a representative of Scott Glenn's fairy godfather in Sweet Pea's adventure.
Ian Cyr
7. Ian Cyr
I'm so glad to read your review. It's the first review that I've seen that I feel like the reviewer actually gets and understands the movie, instead of assuming it's going to be crap, going in, watching it, and not bothering to try and understand the layers Snyder built, and thus reaffirming their initial expectation of crap.

I think he's really done a lot of very interesting things, and some of them I didn't even fully understand until talking with my girlfriend after the movie. It's not, as you said, as tight a movie as it could/should be, but I think it's still well worth seeing, for all of the reasons you lay out here.
Teresa Jusino
8. TeresaJusino
EmmetAOBrien @4 - I agree totally about being bothered by the Wise Man being a man at all. :) I thought about that (and will be talking about that in Part 2 of my review). Helen Mirren would've been an excellent choice as she can do no wrong. Either her, or Cate Blanchett. While I did notice the fact that none of them ever had real names, I thought that perfectly illustrated their plight. That they were things. I think Sweet Pea wouldn't have the strength to "claim a name for herself" until she gets home, so I thought that was fine. As long as they were at the asylum, their having no names suited the story.

AtlantisDragonGirl @5 - re: PG-13 rating - I actually like that it's PG-13 if only so that younger girls will get to see it. I think it's an important film for them to be allowed to see, and an R rating would prevent many of them from getting into the theater.
As for whether Babydoll shot her sister - hmmm. It looked to me as if the sister was sitting in the closet crouched and scared, and the stepfather hadn't gotten to her yet. It didn't seem like she'd been knocked against the wall or anything to cause her head to bleed. I'd assumed the bullet ricoched off the wall or something after going through that lightbulb. Now I need to watch that scene again. :) Han shot first, but did Babydoll shoot her sister? Is this a new geek debate? :)

Ian Cyr @7 - and that's the thing. It's not a perfect film, but it deserves talking about. There's a lot of really interesting gender-related stuff in it that too often gets ignored, and this movie provides a perfect opportunity to talk about them. It's disappointing to me that so many reviewers are only commenting on the visuals in a superficial way.
Sharat Buddhavarapu
9. Sharat Buddhavarapu
Maybe it's because I'm a guy, but I think that I respectfully disagree with this. I can acknowledge the point that the visuals tell the story rather than the dialogue, but then my entire opinion of the movie degrades because I think Hollywood visuals always fall short of the spectular detail that fantasy/ sci-fi stories. The reason theater/movies exist is because there needs to be a human component to the story, something the body language, the eyes, and other subtle cues of the actresses' delivry of the dialogue tell that brings out a light to a story that books or other media could not.

I appreciate Snyder's geekdom because he has obviously referenced Call of Duty, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Inception, Shutter Island, and then gone on to put a kind of slow-motion visual effect when Babydoll begins dancing that mirrors some of the style from 300 and Watchmen. That does not excuse weak dialogue, or weak acting. I think the story fell apart because of that. To me the two voiceovers felt like the only "real" parts of the story, and that the ending voiceover felt the same way the Harry Potter epilogue did: lines slapped on to serve as bookend.

Lord of the Rings was a great movie trilogy to me because of the strength of acting. The movies emphasize things the books never did, and change the story to suit those aspects. Sucker Punch tried to take comics, epic fantasy novel tropes and use them directly, and it failed epicly!!!
Ian Cyr
10. Bruce Levenstein
Thank you for actually engaging with this movie and writing intelligently about it, rather than simply using it as an excuse to crank out "clever" link-bait like another sci-fi blog that shall remain nameless.

Looking forward to Part 2.
Teresa Jusino
11. TeresaJusino
EmmetAOBrien @4 - I agree totally about being bothered by the Wise Man being a man at all. :) I thought about that (and will be talking about that in Part 2 of my review). Helen Mirren would've been an excellent choice as she can do no wrong. Either her, or Cate Blanchett. While I did notice the fact that none of them ever had real names, I thought that perfectly illustrated their plight. That they were things. I think Sweet Pea wouldn't have the strength to "claim a name for herself" until she gets home, so I thought that was fine. As long as they were at the asylum, their having no names suited the story.

AtlantisDragonGirl @5 - re: PG-13 rating - I actually like that it's PG-13 if only so that younger girls will get to see it. I think it's an important film for them to be allowed to see, and an R rating would prevent many of them from getting into the theater.
As for whether Babydoll shot her sister - hmmm. It looked to me as if the sister was sitting in the closet crouched and scared, and the stepfather hadn't gotten to her yet. It didn't seem like she'd been knocked against the wall or anything to cause her head to bleed. I'd assumed the bullet ricoched off the wall or something after going through that lightbulb. Now I need to watch that scene again. :) Han shot first, but did Babydoll shoot her sister? Is this a new geek debate? :)

Ian Cyr @7 - and that's the thing. It's not a perfect film, but it deserves talking about. There's a lot of really interesting gender-related stuff in it that too often gets ignored, and this movie provides a perfect opportunity to talk about them. It's disappointing to me that so many reviewers are only commenting on the visuals in a superficial way.
Teresa Jusino
12. TeresaJusino
Sharat Buddhavarapu @9 - your point is valid, and I don't think has anything to do with your gender at all! Please don't think for a minute that I think visuals can replace dialogue and acting in storytelling in a film (unless it's that kind of film on purpose, like a silent film, or an experimental film). What I do think is that, in the case of Sucker Punch the visuals were as much a "character" as the characters were. The visuals were both an extension of the characters, and our way into their plight.

I agree, much of the acting wasn't strong in this. But I think that Abbie Cornish, Jena Malone, Oscar Isaac, and Carla Gugino did excellent jobs, and I thought Emily Browning as Babydoll, while not having a great range, did make a believeable guardian. I think there was enough of a human element to make this a good, if not a great film.
Ian Cyr
13. ninjapenguin
Interesting review. I haven't seen it yet (will probably wait until it's on DVD), but your take on the way the story is operating reminds me of Roxy's fantasies in Chicago.
Ian Cyr
14. Taragel
This was a really fantastic and compelling review. I've not seen the movie, and I've heard a lot of opinions on how awful it is, and had kind of written it off, despite being intrigued by the female-driven story and visuals from the trailer. I'm definitely going to check it out in light of your review though...and I'll keep an open mind.
Chris Palmer
15. cmpalmer
I still haven't seen it, so I didn't read this too closely due to spoilers, but I'm glad to see that all of the reviews aren't all negative. It sounds like Teresa "gets it" and I'm just really happy there is something to "get".

I'm not surprised that the proper POV for the framing story is important. One of the biggest criticisms of 300 (aside from those who just didn't like the style) was how unrealistic (and un-historical) it was. What I think is really cool about the movie is that it is actually the story being told to the people back home in Sparta and Athens by the one-eyed guy to rally them against the Persians. He is the one saying that Xerxes is 8 foot tall and describing the monsters and hoards of armies they faced. Every slow motion battle sequence is where he is describing the action in detail. All of the stylized, magical, over-the-top heroic action is propaganda described after-the-fact. It's subtle, but obvious from the voice-overs that begin the movie and it doesn't really catch up to "real time" until the end, where all of the Greece is standing against the Persians.

Then again, I also loved Watchmen and his Dawn of the Dead remake, so maybe I'm reaching...
Sharat Buddhavarapu
16. Sharat Buddhavarapu
@TeresaJusino- Ok. Well as much as I don't like it, I can accept that point of view :D Great review though, you broke down the movie in a way that made it more accessible to me. I felt lost the whole time they were in the 2 fantasy worlds.
Ian Cyr
17. Foxessa
From this review the film seems to have incorporated a great deal of the same elements as Whedon's ill-fated Dollhouse series.

Love, c.
Ian Cyr
18. BrittViolicious
As someone who loved this movie, I just wanted to say 'Thank you, thank you, thank you!!' for this review. All of the horrible press that it's gotten has been really depressing, especially considering that all of the reviewers seemed like they hated it before they even saw it. And I agree, some of the stuff I have read was completely baffling. I'm so glad to see that someone else gets it!
Ian Cyr
19. LP
Wow. Incredible review! Finally, someone who got it on the same level that I viewed it as. You broke down so many metaphors and scenes perfectly. Sucker Punch is an epic idea, which two hours may not have been enough time to flesh out the rough spots.

For instance, the ending felt rushed and loose. If the movie was lost on you, then the end made no sense. Also, I think a little more on character development in the brothel would have improved the message and direction of Sucker Punch. Truthfully, Blondie kicked some serious ass, but seriously, how did she end up there or why the heck is that her nickname? Maybe then we'd feel something toward her character instead of thinking, "She Deserved That!"

Zach Snyder is known for his long movies. Unfortunately, lengthy movies aren't big box office sellers. Watchmen was done with dogged loyalty to the graphic novel (let's not talk about the ending per se), but ticket sales tanked by the second weekend. However, I'm beyond enthralled with Sucker Punch (Concept, message, music, art, etc) and wished for a bit longer film. Here's looking forward to the director's cut on DVD!
Goetz Kruppa
20. goetznl
Thanks!
The movie only came out on thursday here in the Netherlands, and I didn't have it on my list to watch, but now I will.
Ian Cyr
21. Cassie Alexander
I went to see this film opening weekend so I could see it before everyone harshed on it and ruined it.

It was the worst film I've ever seen in my life.

I wrote a review of it here --

http://cassiealexander.com/2011/03/suckerpunch-ed/

I don't care how metaphorically pretty it is, if that can even be argued. Its actual audience of teenage boys and teenage girls are not going to take metaphors home with them.

What they'll take is that women don't get to have agency, everyone's a rapist, and lobotomies help you escape.

I'm being simple here because I already said it all in my blog post. But really, this movie was awful. Sheer awful.
Teresa Jusino
22. TeresaJusino
Cassie Alexander @21 - I read your review, and I'll be curious what you think of Part 2 of my review tomorrow, where I'll be addressing gender stuff specifically.

But I wonder why you think it isn't possible to have a film empowering women even as it shows the horrors they can be subjected to. I would argue that we're supposed to see all that rape and all that objectification. The point isn't the rapes. The point is that the protagonist escapes them.

And the reason why it was rated PG-13 was precisely because all that horror wasn't shown. If, as you say, the intended audience "won't take metaphors home with them", how can you argue that the metaphors of rape aren't OK for them to view. They'll either get the metaphors or they won't. And if they will, then they'll also get the point that these things are horrible and worth fighting against. I agree that the things depicted in the film should make you very angry. But you shouldn't be angry at the film for depicting them, you should be angry at society for allowing them. The film is merely showing what already exists and, to its credit, showing young women doing their damnedest to get out of it.
Emmet O'Brien
23. EmmetAOBrien
TeresaJusino@22:
I would
argue that we're supposed to see all that rape and all that
objectification. The point isn't the rapes. The point is that the
protagonist escapes them.

One escaping at the cost of four lives does not feel particularly empowering to me.

The more I think about it the less I like the ending. If Sweet Pea and Baby Doll being blocked at the door is supposed to be predictable within what they know, they're being depicted as not able to predict it or come up with a workaround for it other than the one we see, which is a pretty poor value of empowerment. If it's not predictable it is a deus ex machina to force that sacrifice onto an ending which would otherwise have both of them escape, and that would strike me as even less empowering.

And the reason why it was rated PG-13 was precisely because all that
horror wasn't shown.

It might, I think, have helped that point to show more and accept a more restrictive rating; what we get does strike me as skewing too much towards setting victimhood and titillation side by side and having the edges blur.
Ian Cyr
24. Ayo1
skipped your spoilers...

I was looking forward to seeing this movie, not because of some male masturbation fantasy for women. I had and still don't know what the plot is, but I'm looking forward to seeing a really cool looking movie, beyond that... if it's girls... well, Hollywood will always use what sells best, won't they.
Teresa Jusino
25. TeresaJusino
EmmetAOBrien @23 - That's only if you see sacrifice as not-empowering. I definitely do, which may explain our difference of opinion on the ending. I think there's something hugely empowering about realizing that you are strong enough to do for someone else rather than focus on yourself. For Babydoll to accept that it was her job to help Sweet Pea to freedom is a huge deal. And we see it in war movies all the time - soldiers saying "Save yourself! Get out of here!" And this was, essentially, a war movie featuring women. It's interesting to me that when a man does it it's brave, but when a woman does it, it's a sign of weakness. When self-sacrifice for another is a conscious choice, it isn't weakness. Rocket dies saving her sister from The Cook, the very man who attacked her earlier in the film. It's as if, by Babydoll saving her from him, she was able to "pay it forward" to her sister, and both of them made the conscious decision to do so. That's powerful.

The deaths of Amber and Blondie are less powerful. However, the only truly tragic one is Amber's. Blondie brought her death on herself, but Amber was the only true victim, having been smart, resourceful, and brave throughout, and dying anyway. But I think something like that had to happen. Because sometimes, the system is such that even smart, resourceful, and brave women get thrown under the bus, and you need to show that in anything to do with female empowerment. That this is what needs overcoming.
Rowan Waters
26. SuchStrings
I haven't really been following all the reviews, but I agree that the movie seemed very comprehensible to me. I'm a woman and I went into the movie hoping it would not just be male titilation, and I was happily surprised.

I completely agree with Teresa that their sacrifice was empowering. It's true that its a rough sacrifice, three deaths and one lobotomy/death? just to have Sweet Pea freed, but to me the agency was in their resistance. History and fiction are full of valiant last stands, and struggles where the cost is painfully high, but usually its recognized that there is some intrinsic value in that struggle, in the courage, in not just giving in and letting others do what they will, no matter what the result of the resistance is. What has made the story of the three hundred spartans such an enduring tale (not the movie, but the story of the actual battle) is the fact that, yes almost all of them die, but they faced hundreds of thousands of enemies and refused to surrender.
William Fettes
27. Wolfmage
This is an interesting conversation, and it's certainly got my interest piqued for a film I would never otherwise see. I really am trying hard to focus my mind on the valiant efforts of the OP to explain the positive aspects of the film, but this is admittedly made much more difficult when I read names like Babydoll and Blondie repeatedly used in a serious sentence. And I thought Bella Swan was the apex of absurdity!


"It's interesting to me that when a man does it it's brave, but when a woman does it, it's a sign of weakness."
Isn’t that a bit of a cheap shot? Given the central challenge by your interlocutors is that the film is either grossly sexist or a failed realisation of the intended message of feminist empowerment, doesn’t it go without saying that they don’t actually agree with your understanding of the self-sacrifice?
Chuck Holt
28. conspiracytheorywackadoodle
A tiny bit of spoilery stuff ahead...


EmmetAOBrien@23

One escaping at the cost of four lives does not feel particularly empowering to me.

I noted that at the end as well, but thought that maybe putting four women through the meat grinder to free one would amount to a miracle considering both the time (when was this set?) and the two exploitative/crushing environments. Maybe that outcome amounted to progress within the setting.




Also...

If it's not predictable it is a deus ex machina to force that sacrifice onto an ending which would otherwise have both of them escape, and that would strike me as even less empowering.

To a certain extent I agree this story didn't seem empowering (at least within the context of the movie -- the "empowerment" commentary seems to be originating from outside critique of the thing). But regarding your Deus Ex Machina comment -- the Wise Man, in his first appearance, did say that the "fifth thing" Baby Doll needed would require sacrifice, so it seemed sacrifice was in the plan all along (or else Sweet Pea created that mythology). If the ending had been forcibly tagged on, then one of the earlier scenes with the Wise Man would have had to be rewritten/reshot. (Or maybe they filmed it backward. It's been known to happen.)
Chuck Holt
29. conspiracytheorywackadoodle
TeresaJusino@8
I agree totally about being bothered by the Wise Man being a man at all. :)

Short and simplistic comment about that...

I kind of took his presence to suggest that there was at least one decent guy in this mess.:-)

Other comments... Someone mentioned Inception above, and I definitely got that kind of vibe while watching Sucker Punch. But did anybody here happen to see a lesser-known movie called Ink? (a link if you need it: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1071804/) I kept thinking of that one more than I did Inception.
Ian Cyr
30. Melanie S.
I didn't like the movie at all. I'm enjoying being challenged in that opinion by some of the comments here, especially yours, Teresa's--there are definitely some things I hadn't thought of before, and I like the analogy to war films.

Overall, I still disagree, though. For one thing, self-sacrifice--even knowing self-sacrifice--isn't anything new for female characters. It's usually not as severe as Babydoll's; it's more likely to take the form of lifetime self-abnegation (I'm thinking of all the long-suffering wives and mothers of male progatonists here). Babydoll's sacrifice is also notable for benefiting another woman. But overall, the message that women should think of other people as more important than themselves is one I'd rather see countered than reinforced, even in situations where that is a fully conscious choice, and regardless of the heroism of the individual woman in the case.

For another, the loss of agency is pretty explicit in the text. Babydoll doesn't die at the end; she just has her will taken away. And she says to Sweet Pea something along the lines of none of the rest of them were strong enough to survive in the real world anyway. She might be lying to get Sweet Pea to leave, but...couldn't the writers have picked a different lie?

The movie overall was about these women taking what action they could in a situation where they had basically no power, and I appreciate that, but...man, I'm having trouble expressing this. I thought the writers didn't engage enough with the lack of agency--that they treated it as an assumed background. I just couldn't get over the sense that they were writing about that kind of society as a curio, rather than as a situation that a lot of people still deal with to some degree today. I can't point to a specific thing that made me think that, so it's probably just me, but it was so pervasive to me that I can't avoid it when thinking about the film. One thing I might blame is that the endings for most of the main characters are kind of ... severe, but the ending for the perpetrator of those punishments makes it seem like it was a single person acting alone without the support of the establishment, which indicts part of the setting but leaves much of it intact and unquestioned.

Anyway, thanks for this discussion, and I really appreciate not only the content but the tenor from all involved.
Ian Cyr
31. Gerry__Quinn
Maybe it's a speculation on an alternate universe: if Andrea Dworkin and Philip K. Dick were one and the same, what sort of movie would they make?
Ian Cyr
32. pauljessup
S0 then, everyone who thought it was empowering- do you disagree with this?

http://cavecitysink.tumblr.com/post/4167367840/this-movie-made-me-feel-bad-to-be-alive-a-review-of
Teresa Jusino
33. TeresaJusino
Melanie S. @30 - I totally hear what you're saying, and yes, I agree that they're showing women fighting with the cards they're dealt. I actually like that about it, though. Because it's true to what women go through today. I understand wanting, in a fantasy movie, to see things totally depicted as they could be rather than as they are, but I think that where women are concerned it's still more important to see things as they are, because it isn't going away any time soon.

BTW - According to the wikipedia entry on the film, Sucker Punch takes place in 1955. It would make sense, then, if that's the case that women would have even less tools at their disposal, which makes this fight all the more remarkable.
Ian Cyr
34. Scott H
While the death of Rocket seemed like something that could have 'really' happened, I got the impression that at the asylum 'level' Blue was merely an influential orderly rather than the total master of the establishment he was at the brothel 'level', such that while he could forge Dr. Gorsky's signature and not get caught up to that point, it would be difficult for him to explain away the deaths of the other two girls. Therefore I'm left unsure as to whether he actually shot Blondie and Amber or not, or killed them some other way, or just locked them up in their cells, or even, given that we don't really meet them until already in the brothel metaphor, whether anybody but Babydoll and Sweetpea were actually in on the escape plan.
Ian Cyr
35. N. Mamatas
Even leaving aside the gender politics of the film, and what they may or may not be...

They are a way of illustrating her plan to the audience in an intriguing way that isn’t just “Hey, if we steal the key and get the map from the office, we can get out of here.” That movie would’ve lasted five minutes and would’ve been boring as hell.

the idea that the only reason to have all the whorehouse and fantasy battle stuff was to keep the moving from being "boring" and to make sure it was feature-length is pretty much an admission that the film is a terrible one. It seems pretty strange to argue that the movie is thematically deep if the filmmaker can't come up with anything for the plot other than tits and swords. Far more likely is that someone stapled the "guardian angels" thing on in post-production—which itself makes little sense since guardian angels don't sacrifice themselves in order to save their charges. If critics and viewers are ignoring that aspect of the film, it's because it's incoherent. Sort of like "And in old legends, the leprechaun was a hairy beast who stalked the highest peaks of the Himalayas in order to prey upon virgin girls."
Teresa Jusino
36. TeresaJusino
N Mamatas @35 - No it isn't. Acknowledging the choice to make a film about important issues through the lens of fantasy and sci-fi as opposed to having a movie feature nothing but talking heads and crying and drama is not an "admission that the film is a terrible one." There is more than one way to make a film that deals with women and empowerment. If you don't like the execution within that framework, that's one thing. But I was merely pointing out that one of the reasons why I enjoyed this film was that it attacked issues we've seen dealt with before in a very different way, and I don't think it's getting enough credit for that.
Ian Cyr
37. N. Mamatas
Yes it is. You just changed the argument from "would've been boring" to "through the lens of fantasy"—entirely different claims—to dodge the implications of your own post.

That you decide that a hypothetical film about the same subject, without all the fantasy sequences would necessarily be "nothing but talking heads and crying and drama" is a failure of your own imagination, not a defense of Snyder's. You liked a bad movie full of fights and and explosions and effects because you like fights and explosions and effects. That's fine—a friend of mine told me that he wished he could pay ten bucks to see "the good parts" of the movie again too. But Sucker Punch is not a good movie, it is not a coherent one, and the guardian angel bit is nonsensical. It's great to have opinions, and it's great to publish them, but I have no idea why you are so busy in the comments section of your post—either your review makes a solid argument or it doesn't; you're not going to hector people into agreeing with you by adding stuff or changing your arguments in response to comments.
Teresa Jusino
38. TeresaJusino
Wolfmage @27 - I'm sorry, I missed your comment until just now!

How is that a cheap shot? I know that people disagree with my interpretation of the ending, and think the film failed in expressing female empowerment. I was just commenting on the fact that self-sacrifice when performed by a woman shouldn't automatically be seen as weak because it's a woman doing it. Yes, women are often expected to be martyrs and sacrifice themselves for the sake of their husband, children, etc. But saw the sacrifice in this film, the self-sacrifice of one woman for her friend, as separate from that, and the equivalent of soldiers laying down their lives for each other.

As for the names - come on! The names are purposely cheesy to go with the entire burlesque hall metaphor.
Scott Harris
39. vitruvian
Has it occurred to anyone else that, given that Blue was forging Dr. Gorski's signature all along, and the pretty reasonable natures of both Gorski and 'the High Roller', that her lobotomy and possibly even her continued commitment to the institution could have been forestalled with seven words?

"Could you check with Dr. Gorski, please?"

Am I crazy, or given that the High Roller calls Gorski in to ask about the patient afterwards anyway, does it not seem he would be unlikely to refuse?

For that matter, towards the beginning we are shown that Baby Doll has therapy sessions with Gorski, which are presumably private and not overheard by any of the orderlies including Blue. What does Baby Doll talk about in these sessions, if not her side of the story? Even if the doctor was not wholly convinced, or not enough to bring findings before a commitment review board, it seems odd that she should remain blind to Blue's activities. Or are we to understand that she was more complicit than she admitted? If she knew a lobotomy was scheduled, and she was the only psychiatrist to see Baby Doll, who did she think had signed the necessary forms?
Ian Cyr
40. b.c.smith
it's funny thinking about the press this movie gets because one reviewer described it as "if the sailor moon girls discovered shrooms and cocaine and started LARPing in lingerie". but then again it does have that anime sensibility to it so don't be suprised to see comparisons to it in that style.
Matthew Brown
41. morven
@pauljessup: that that reviewer doesn't even catch the fact that "babydoll" is lobotomized at the end, not at the beginning, is not a good sign for their actually having paid attention to the movie rather than simply writing about their preconceptions of it.

One thing I found notable about the whole thing is that not once did I find any of the women to be sexy, despite the outfits. Was that an idiosyncratic reaction of mine or, perhaps, what those making the movie intended?

Certainly the camera never stopped for a "male gaze" moment on any of them, that I noticed, and their behavior and actions never seemed to be set up to give us titillation in that sense, even though the outfits were.

I think that in trying to make this PG-13 too much was lost. It wasn't clear to me, either, that babydoll's shot killed her sister, and quite a few other scenes suffered because of cutting the literal or metaphorical "impact" moment from them.

I have the suspicion that in the "real world" of the asylum, babydoll never uttered a word.
Ian Cyr
42. Sophie Cale
Some friends and I eagerly lined up to buy tickets for Sucker Punch on opening night, expecting fanservice, flash and general kitchy silliness. We ended up sitting through the entire credits until the light came on, when we all looked at each other with the same stunned look on our faces. No one had expected the depth we found. None of the four of us found it perfect, but we loved it nonetheless. All the "levels" of the film will serve Geekdom for a long while, since it allows for so many different interpretations of what did / did not / may have occured.

Sucker Punch entertained me by both surprising and distubing me and
really making me think. My friends and I are still pulling it to pieces,
maybe because some of it is a mess, but more because we have a need to know that we understood what it was trying to tell us.

I never expected this "empowerment" nonsense that everyone seems to be looking for. I was expecting nothing, so I didn't find this particular 'flaw'. I found that the overall message of the film was to Fight, that the worst thing you could do was give up. Which is not so different from 300. BabyDoll galvanized the girls, and even though most of them die, they did so trying for something better; the whole "I'd rather die standing than live on my knees" bit. At the beginning of the film, SweetPea has a hardcore attitude that more or less screams, I'd rather serve in heaven than rule in hell; even if it is someone elses idea of heaven. Baby Doll helps her see that this is wrong and there is way to get out of it all. When the Wise Man spouts the axiom, "If you don't stand for something, you'll fall for anything" he wasn't just meant to sound cool. He's absolutely right. The girls had been afraid to fight and let themselves be dragged along Blue's trail, until BabyDoll takes them by the hand and shows them another way.

I agree that the images were an "epic metaphor", if you will, of the the girls' struggle, but I also agree that those metaphors could have been 'tighter' in some way. Maybe have each moment depict something personal about the girls individually rather than just being "tits and swords". The link was there, but it was ...blurry, as someone pointed out.

However, if the film was not told in this bombastic way, but in the "nothing but talking heads and crying and drama" I would indeed have found it boring as hell. Reality is just too tiring and depressing. Black Swan was succesful at bringing harsh issues to the fore, but it was dealing with a ballerina, not young girls being forced into Asylums. There's a certain breaking point of reality that Hollywood can handle without making people wanting to shoot themselves in the theatre.

The ending wasn't solid either, no, but I agree that only SweetPea should have made it out. BabyDoll has nothing to go back to, no place in the real world and her greatest value was in showing the "system" how broken it really was. That's what makes her the hero, the pathos of her sacrifice, the needless waste of her life that was so necessary to a show a jaded world to how awful it really had become.
Ian Cyr
43. Melanie S.
Teresa @30: the time period was one of the things that made me call the film a curio--by setting it in the past I think they put some distance between events on screen and the problems that are still around. I mean, they're not obligated to address current problems so this isn't a flaw in the film, it's just one of the reasons I didn't find it particularly feminist or empowering.

More generally, I don't mind films that touch on women's lack of power, but I'd rather they were about that lack of power instead of using it to further other plot ends. When Blondie and Amber are killed off as part of the storyline, when we never really deal with the aftereffects of Babydoll's lobotomy, when the ending of the film shows lots of people treating Sweet Pea well (making the asylum seem aberrant in terms of the society overall), I think the film comes dangerously close to treating those things as just the way the world is. Your mileage may vary (and obviously does!).
Ian Cyr
44. daiyami
NMamatas@37 says:
"I have no idea why you are so busy in the comments section of your
post—either your review makes a solid argument or it doesn't; you're not
going to hector people into agreeing with you by adding stuff or
changing your arguments in response to comments."

I just read all the comments, and from my perspective, Teresa is participating in discussion, developing her arguments, building on people's contributions. I see rational challenges, but no hectoring. That type of interaction and engagement is what makes a comment section worth reading. Please don't discourage authors from doing that.

(Also, "through the lens of fantasy" isn't an argument change. She made that point in paragraph 2---"an effective telling of a harsh story through fantastical, stylized means"---and it's implicit throughout the review.)
Ian Cyr
45. Barnabas
First off, thanks to Ms. Jusino for offering a different take on the movie. A female friend of mine, who loved this film, has noticed that men generally seemed to dislike it while women seemed more favorably disposed. (She also thinks that Scott Glenn's character is God, going along with Babydoll as a literal angel...)

Anyway, my main point in writing is to reply to morven 40's comment:

The outfits the women (in the burlesque level) wear are sexy outfits, but it's understandable that they didn't seem sexy, just because the setting of the movie is so depressing that titillation would be an odd reaction to the film. However, there's at least one obvious "male gaze" shot - one so obvious that I gave my girlfriend a look when it showed up on screen - a shot in the Samurai sequence that's just Babydoll's thighs and her sword. If that wasn't meant as fanservice, I don't know what it was.
Ian Cyr
46. Barnabas
Oh, and one other thing: It kinda bugged me that the Asian woman/girl (I don't know what her age was) seemed rather a background character in relation to the other women, at least in the fight sequences. Most of those sequences focused on the women on the ground, while Amber (the only one who had a real name - Amber isn't clearly a nickname like Babydoll or Blondie) was left to fly around. It just made her character seem less dynamic, though I'm not saying her flying jobs didn't also serve a purpose.

And, okay, one more complaint: it often wasn't clear to me how exactly the double-fantasy sequences related to either the lower level of fantasy or the reality.

And was I the only one who read that each of her dances was actually her being raped by Blue in real-reality?
Matthew Brown
47. morven
Ah, I didn't notice that particular fanservice-y shot. There certainly weren't many of them. It's probably entirely because the mood of it was not at all sexy that I'd not notice.

You are probably right about what the dance sequences represented in reality, too -- I had suspected that myself.

"Amber" isn't necessarily a nickname, but it probably is. It's definitely a name that comes across as a stage name, such as a stripper or prostitute might adopt or be given.
Ian Cyr
48. Purerockfury
My word…I do believe you nailed it. Despite wave after wave of negative reviews, I went on instinct because I do believe Zac Snyder to be a rare talent in Hollywood that gets needlessly hammered for really no good reason. One perfect example is the mixed reviews on "Watchmen", a film I believe he could not have done a more perfect job in shooting by the book.

But yes, "Suckerpunch" is, to me, the film version of really damn good instrumental album. However, this is not to be meant as a slight against telling the story. While I believe Snyder tells an adapted story better than he did here, "Suckerpunch" is hardly the incoherent mess people wish it to be. I felt as if it were a fairly intense film that took heightened moments of would-be abuse and filtered them fanstastical (and fantastic looking) action sequences where the giant adversaries were stand ins for the seemingly giant real-world obstacles.

It had elements of everything from "Shutter Island" to "One Flew Over The Cuckoos Nest" to "Suspiria" without feeling like a copy of any of the aforementioned films. Or perhaps a cosplay-driven live action manga on steroids? Either way, it was far better than critics stated and destined to become a cult classic. I just find it amusing that through the constant complaining of people wanting more original storytelling from Hollywood that also lacks genre cliches, people could not wait to pounce on "Suckerpunch" and turn supposed plot holes into chasms.
Emmet O'Brien
49. EmmetAOBrien
SophieCale@42: The message the film tells us is that fighting is a virtue. The message the film shows us is that fighting gets you killed or lobotomised four times out of five. Given the latter, it's hard for me to take the former seriously.
Steven Halter
50. stevenhalter
I just got back from seeing this. My reaction to the sister being killed when I watched it was that the stepfather did it. This puzzled me though as Baby Doll's passivity in being led off by the stepfather seemed out of place. So, I like your idea that it was Baby Doll's bullet that did the damage. This would account for her initial shock and willingness to be led off. I'll have to watch again to see if what kills the sister is clear.
When the lobotomist approached I immediately thought of Brazil and thought--"this isn't going to end well for Baby Doll."
Given that, when the "wise man" said that there was a fifth item that was mysterious my first thought was that it would be Baby Doll.
The images (and sound) were fantastic in both senses of the word.
Good review and good film.
Ian Cyr
51. Ide Cyan
What you write about the visual and the script being one and the same reminds me of what Ursula Le Guin said in "From Elfland to Poughkeepsie"; that in fantasy, the style is the book. Or movie, in this case.
Ian Cyr
52. Andrew Exline
I'm just glad that this reviewer understood that the bordello/dance hall was itself a fantasy. Many of the reviews I've read the reviewer paid so little attention to the movie that they thought the asylum was a front for the bordello. They didn't get that that was part of babydolls fantasy. And really if you don't get that than you can't give a very good review of the film.
Ian Cyr
53. VL
I went to see SP despite having read the bad reviews. In fact, I approach all movies I see with an open mind. Avatar is a highly praised movie, but, to me, I was simply not impressed with it. As to SP, I will admit, at first, I was not sure if I liked it or hated it. After giving it a day or two, I found myself loving it. So, I searched the web looking at all the reviews and reading all the interpretations, and, by far, Teresa's interpretation, I feel, hit the nail on the head.

Emmet was bothered by the Wise Man being in the film - he was the bus driver - he is Sweet Pea's ride to freedom. Yes, the bus driver could had been a woman, which would had been played perfectly by Helen, but, I believe, Zack wanted to show that not all men are ruthless. He needed a "good" man set against the "bad" men in the film.

Then there was a question about what really happened just before Babydoll confronted her stepfather with the gun. Didn't the stepfather kicked/stomped her sister in the face? You cannot tell me that being kicked in the face from a person that is ten times your weight and height is not going to cause a severe, if not life threatening, head injury. Babydoll's miss either saved her sister from suffering or it added to the injury by speeding up her death.

As for the death of Amber and Blondie, keep in mind that their deaths occurred in Sweet Pea's mind. My interpretation is that they were lobotomized, as was Babydoll in the end. The only true death was Rocket's.
Ian Cyr
54. tsode
This is such an excellent review Teresa. I've included in my list of links to positive reviews of Sucker Punch, as I was so annoyed at the negative reviews. If interested:
http://www.tsode.com/blog/films/sucker-punch/
Ian Cyr
55. Red Herring
I linked this on my blog :) Thank you for posting exactly what I was thinking!

http://lookaredherring.blogspot.com/2011/05/sucker-punch-review-g33kpron-posts.html
Ian Cyr
56. Zinan
awesome review! I loved the movie and understood most parts except why the bus driver is the same person as wise man. your review was really helpful explaining that and it's sad how the movie didn't get the reviews it deserved. I especially hate how people refer to this movie as "degrading of women" or "hot girls with mini-skirts" because it's so much more than that.
Ian Cyr
57. Frank Garza
Thank you!!! finally!! brains on the net. You are one smart cookie hehe. I loved the film, ok Im a guy but honestly take aside the outfits and the fact that they were all pretty ladies, it still rocks. At firstI honestly did not get why the burlesque metaphor . the other metaphor that would have come to my mind would have been someone on death row. Having a DEADLINE, Fighting, struggling, like you want to get out of your situation, just move forward, ok they all experience horrible stuff but they go on, no fear takes over them, al least until the end, all for the preservation instinct. It sure was empowering, "you have all the weapons, now fight!!". It was not confusing whatsoever. I could go on but im sleepy, hehe. Thank you again for your lovely review
Ian Cyr
58. deafllamamama
I must say that your reveiw and view of the film were spot on. I thought you did an excellent job writing what I had been thinking. It was so obvious to me how the film played out, yet others I was with were confused and got hung up in the wrong places. Thank you for taking the time to clear the film and give proper recognition. I thought you nailed it!
Thanks
Ian Cyr
59. TimothyM
I read this and I agree, but just to clerify, I would like to get a little more into the 'Baby Doll' and SweetPea', This is definately NOT babydolls story,
Its sweat peas, and maybe im wrong, but theres actually some evidence that baby doll is an Angel, in the beggining of the movie the voice was saying how they can show through anyone, Babydoll is an Angel to help sweatPea and did hel hep, at the end it wa SweatPeas choice to leave.
Ian Cyr
60. Jasmine
Great review! I felt exacty the same way. This movie brought something more to the table than amazing visuals, there was a great underlying story than many dismissed. The story was told in a creative way that made it visually pleasing and thought provoking at the same time. I love the movie and the soundtrack is great too.
Ian Cyr
61. marisa85
When I saw this movie in the theatre, by the end the hair on the back of my neck was on end and there was a big lump in my throat. And I don't believe I get sappy over cheese. I think it was an incredibly powerful portrayal of the potential strength of the mind, the female mind particularly. The concept of a woman's mental survival being a choice that she has full control to make is not something I see being portrayed very often.

And I want to address the skimpy outfits. I am going to go out on a really long limb here and just say that I have had close friends in my life who have endured sexual abuse by men, and that I observed that many of them seemed to go through a promiscuous phase afterward (both in clothing and behaviour) - and I believe this was an attempt to take their power back when it had been robbed from them. This movie was all about Baby Doll re-shaping her reality in such away that no one could be her master. Seeing the asylum as a brothel, being able to mesmerise men when she danced, this all gave her back her sexual power when in all likelihood it was being sapped from her in the most horrible, humiliating way by the interns (which I believe was alluded to when Blue found her cleaning the bathroom - and when the interns talked about "not hurting the girls anymore" near the end). Feeling powerful sexually could only be achieved by constructing a world where her fantasy completely reversed her reality in this sense.

And as a note - I've seen the movie twice and I was pretty sure the stepfather slit her sister's throat as he passed her - Baby Doll's bullet hit the light, not her sister I don't think. That's part of what makes your stomach turn over the stepfather - he blames Baby Doll for his murder of her sister (he was, after all, trying to get rid of both girls to get at the inheritance).

Visually stunning. What a brilliant contrast of the power of the mind over the horror of circumstance. I thought it had all the necessary elements of a good plot and intriguing characters. And it is so overly simplistic to say that fighting gets you lobotomised. Fighting changed her reality so no matter what was done to her, she still won because she was crushed, denied, discredited, abused and humiliated, and yet she faced her end as a brave, honest, kind-hearted, justice-loving, kick-ass warrior. She, the ultimate survivor chick, ultimately said "bring it on, b!tch" to the very thing that most survivor characters ultimately fight against with everything they've got. Who could aspire to anything more than that?

Thanks for your review Teresa. I agree - the critics got it wrong this time in a really big way.
Ian Cyr
62. Cmk227
Just watched the movie and loved your
Review. Thank you
Ian Cyr
63. shady
just reality in another world just in your mind ... you do explain very good as was reading i just felt like i was watching the movie again :) just to funny
Ian Cyr
64. Absynthe
To address a few commenters' concerns:

The director's cut of the film does clear things up a LOT. In the opening sequence Babydoll fires two shots, one hitting the lightbulb and one hitting her sister. And it adds on an extra scene with the High Roller, where he's revealed to be a reasonable man who (rather than raping her) decides to let her choose and gives her freedom when she consents to sleep with him. That symbolizes the lobotomy, not her final act of defiance. She chose her own fate, even though it was a terrifying one and she wasn't sure how it would all end. To me that gives her power.
Ian Cyr
65. Inkmonkey
See, this interpretation falls apart on one point... if Babydoll was not actually insane, but she did actually overhear her father and Blue discussing their plans to lobotomize her illegally with forged papers... why wouldn't she say anything?

It's just bad story telling, and its indicative of the quality of the rest of the story. The events of the story don't occur because they make SENSE but because that's what has to happen to justify the next plot element.
Ian Cyr
66. Badger
The flaw in the review is that it is actually mentioned in the film that the girls use thier imaginations as a coping mechanism, to put themselves in a place where they are in control. Other than that I feel the reviewer was over-thinking things.
Ian Cyr
67. Allene
I agree with most of this reveiw. And the holes that I felt with it have been filled by some of the response comments. For example, I do agree that I think Blondie and Amber were actually lobotomized instead of killed while Rocket was the only one who truly died. Blue was forging the Doctor's signature for quite some time before his actions were discovered at the end of the movie. He tells BabyDolls stepfather that he's "forged her signature a dozen times" in the bribe scene. I think the Doctor was caught off guard by this because she thought the State or some higher authority authorized the lobotomy. Like the courts decided it or something against her recomendations. And it was all accomplished through the deceit of blue spinning lies. Being the relay man between Dr. Gorski and the lobotomist. As for her therapy sessions, maybe she did try to tell the Doctor of the events that led to her demise. But she was a young girl who was commited to an assylum after her mother died and her sister died from a gun shot by her own hand. Which is why the stepfather is so happy looking when she shoots the gun. He knows all the evidence is against her and it's his word against hers. Some of this is actual stuff stated in the movie. Some of it (like wether or not the girls actually died) is just my best guess which bugs the crap out of me because I hate it when you don't know wether your speculation is right or wrong.
As for the empowerment thing, if your a girl and you don't get it, can't really help you there. But if you're a guy and you don't get it, it's because you can't see past the skimpy outfits. I watched with my friend and afterwards we felt like we could do anything. These girls kicked some major ass and it felt awesome seeing them be superhero soldiers. It was about the equivalent as watching wonder woman or xeena. But this stuff is lost on most guys because all they pay attention to is the woman's body. And how do I explain this demographic? It's like a girl going to watch 300 and all she talks about is how smokin the guys were. And you know what? The men in 300 were actually dressed less than the girls in sucker punch. I dunno, that whole situation in society kinda bugs me. Just how some guys can't get past a girl's hotness and see things from the mirrored perspective.
Lastly, the outfits. I found marissa85's comment quite intriguing. I hadn't thought about that but it does make a lot of sense. I very much agree. But I also have a remark that I've had since first watching the movie and then later talking some with a guy about it. When I was watching the movie, I wasn't watching the wardrobe the entire time. I was more preoccupied with the action and story. I didn't even take great note of "how hot the girls were in the skimpy outfits" until I talked with a guy about the movie. And I was appalled at how much of a pig he was about it. Yeah they wore tight fitting outfits that didn't cover their whole bodies, but come on. It just reminded me of working out. Because when you're working out, you wear skimpier clothes. It helps with movement and sweatiness. When a girl goes to work out, most guys will gawk at her, hit on her, you name it. When I saw those fight scenes, that's all I really saw. Extremely stylish workout apparel. Although the fishnets were abit burlesque. Add that to Maria85's thoughts on the matter, and my opinion is complete.
Ian Cyr
68. oliveoil
Just watched this movie, and I thought it was great. I have no clue where all the negativity is coming from. Not all things come served on a silver platter...

Besides, are people just giving bad reviews because the movie has a gloomy feel and a gloomy ending? What did they expect from the man who directed 300 and Watchmen?
Ian Cyr
69. StephARG
The story's actually about Babydoll. Ever read the Sucker Punch Art Book? It's awesome and... Zach explains that the story's about Baby, not Sweet Pea.
Ian Cyr
70. Alps
Bt if this is Sweet pea's story then y is Baby doll shown in that 'fantasizin' face evn aftr lobotomy?
Ian Cyr
72. fee
I am overwhelmed of happiness that there are people out there that have the same fascination as I do towards the great and aspiring works of SuckerPunch. Because of this film it has encouraged me to be strong in so many ways and shows the importance of self believe, it's very insightful. I had wrote a short explanation of it's importance to me in my blog:
http://fee-losophy.weebly.com/1/post/2013/08/suckerpunch-vitality.html

the greatness of it, is that those that observe it insightfully all have different perspectives. When a film does that.... that is when you know it's a true film.
Ian Cyr
73. Starryeyed
Oddly, I believed film flopped, more or less for the same reason other special effects laden films of today. It's ironic for this film that it suffers from the same problems as Man of Steel and Watchmen. I'll throw in 47 Ronin and Cloud Atlas, not to single out Snyder, because. Either the characters have little to no charm in them, or they are hard to follow. Maybe, both. None of the films are bad, but lack certain touch to them. I see the same argument over, again. If it's not Nolan's Batman films vs. Snyder's comic book films...Snyder's interpretation of Superman vs. Donner's interpretation of Superman. On this page, and similar review sites, it's Sucker Punch vs. Frozen. The disadvantage skews heavily in Disney's favor, because they often rely on the strengths and drives of their characters to carry a film. This is coming from "I'll always choose the alternative" viewer. That company knows how to develop likeable and intentionally hateable characters. Their characters live in strong archetypes, and appeal to all audiences. Frozen was a Disney masterpiece on bare aesthetic alone. Three things went wrong in this film (MoS, WM, and 47 r)... First, the stories and execution of them are flawed and incoherent, at times. Second, what audience group are these films trying to capture? 13/18-35 male demographic, that "stereotypical" block of individuals are rolling right, past these films, too. Maybe, it was secretly designed for women 13/18-35. Third, they lack or have very few memorable characters. In these few films, can you pick a character that you would spend money to see again in a sequel spin-off...think Loki (Thor); Wolverine (X-Men); Xena (Hercules); and Angel (Buffy). Zack Snyder said, "Everyone clings to the Christopher Reeves' Superman." Yeah, it's a large fan base. Also, what about Tom Wellington, Dean Cain, and several animated versions of the icon...people love those Supermen, too. His origin stories have been done to death...it was a reboot/remake, so people are going to make comparison. It's not a rule I make, it's one fans are drawn, too. It's not about Superman being boy scout or a morally conflicted person, which I think is a cop-out...because that is saying boy-scout do gooder characters cannot be likeable to an audience of savvy, miserable cynics. Which is like how people think those boys/young men will mindlessly flock to the theater to a crazy SFX film with hot, scantily clad women in it? It's a crapshoot, especially when your characters are not memorable, charming, or inspiring; the story/plot is equally mediocre and uninspiring; or a film is lifeless, outside the exceptional SFX.
Ian Cyr
74. Peterpaul
Well, this story is in my opinion clearly about Sweetpea and her way into freedom. Her freedom was to get lobotomized.
Babydoll workes as an alter ego of her, shown by the theatre scene at the beginning and again sweetpeas first appearance on stage in a bed. Then in the lobotomized vegetable scene, where she plays babydoll and states, that she has the leading role. The story told in the beginning is hers and the rest of the movie is her working out having killed her sister and see no escape from her mental state, other than in a bus to paradise.
One of the best movies ever made.

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