Sucker Punch (Opinion)

10 Years On, Does it Hold Up

Available On: Netflix

Genre: Psychological Fantasy

Director: Zack Snyder

Studio: Legendary Pictures

Release: March 25, 2011

So it’s been a full 10 years since Zack Snyder released probably one of his most divisive movies of all time, which are big words when talking about Snyder. I guess the big question here, does Sucker Punch hold up 10 years later, entirely depends on what you thought of it 10 years ago. It’s been a full decade since Snyder’s controversial box-office failure about a young mental patient set to be lobotomised hit our screens, and I for one cannot believe it’s been that long.

As a try-hard edgy teen in 2011, Sucker Punch was pretty much like crack to me. The faux-deep storyline, the over-the-top action sequence, the absolute dream of a soundtrack, all added together to what I viewed as a cinematic masterpiece that I went and bought on DVD and Blu-Ray and watched definitely over 15 times one year. When I wasn’t watching this movie, I was listening to the soundtrack. I can definitely say it was 13 year old Darragh’s favourite movie for a while.

Is it deserving of all of this praise? Honestly, probably not. Upon my decade later rewatch, the movie definitely makes no sense. But the thing is, it shouldn’t. If it does make sense to you, then you’re definitely not enjoying it for what it is and you’re spending way too much brainpower on a fun action flick.

So What’s It About?

Sucker Punch tells the story of a young woman living in the 1960s named only Babydoll. After her abusive stepfather kills her mother and discovers everything is left to her two daughters, the stepfather kills Babydoll’s sister and frames her for the murder.

Babydoll gets committed to a mental asylum where her stepfather bribes Blue, an orderly, to forge the asylum’s psychiatrist, Dr Gorski’s, signature, to have Babydoll lobotomised. It then travels through the week to Babydoll in the surgeon’s chair.

The movie then shifts, as Babydoll slips into a fantasy world as she looks back on her time in the asylum. She envisions the asylum as a brothel owned by Blue, who is now a mobster, who owns the girls in the asylum and pimps them out as his sex slaves and dancers.

She meets four other girls, Amber, Blondie, and sisters Rocket and Sweet Pea, who show her the ropes, with Dr Gorski imagined as their dance instructor. Babydoll is then told she has 5 days before she has her virginity sold to the High Roller, who is the surgeon performing her lobotomy.

It’s then that Babydoll begins her time as a dancer. When she is asked to perform so they can see her skills, she slips further into fantasy and enters Feudal Japan, where she meets a wise old man who tells her how she will get her freedom. Five items; a map, fire, a knife, a key, and a mysterious fifth thing that will “become clear eventually.”

The rest of the movie pretty much plays out like this. Babydoll convinces the 4 girls to join her escape plan and help her get the items needed. Babydoll dances in her fantasy world to distract authorities while the other girls steal the items needed from them. She again imagines deeper fantasy worlds to reflect what they’re doing.

This involves fighting steam-punk Germans for the map, a baby and mother dragon for the lighter, and disarming a bomb while fighting robots for the knife. In the third fantasy, Rocket sacrifices herself to ensure their success, which we see as Rocket being fatally stabbed in the surface fantasy world as she jumps in front of the chef’s knife to save her sister.

This all culminates with Blue learning about their plan, fatally shooting Amber and Blondie, locking Sweet Pea in solitary, and trying to sexually assault Babydoll. Luckily enough she has the knife and she stabs him, grabs the key from him, and escapes with Sweet Pea, starting a fire in the brothel.

That’s when they go outside and find the yard is packed with people, and Babydoll realises the fifth item is her own sacrifice. She runs out and distracts them as Sweet Pea gets to safety outside the gates.

We then come back to the asylum, right as Babydoll gets lobotomised. Dr Gorski quickly realises that someone has been signing off on multiple lobotomies under her name and calls the police, realising what Blue has been doing.

The police arrive and arrest Blue as he tries to assault a now lobotomised Babydoll, and he incriminates her father as he’s being dragged away.

We then end on Sweet Pea, who two police officers try to question outside the bus station. The bus driver, who is the same Wise Man that told Babydoll how to escape, tells them she’s been on the bus the whole time, and they let her go. She gets on the bus and drives off into the sunset.

Does It Hold Up Though?

As I said above, if you liked this movie in 2011, you’ll probably like it now, but almost purely for nostalgia’s sake. I definitely just liked this movie because I was an angsty teenager. If I’d seen it now, independent of my teenage years, sure I’d still enjoy it, but I’d probably promptly forget about it and move on.

With that nostalgia factor, I was transported right back to 14. I got way too invested in the characters, way too emotional at Rocket’s death and Babydoll’s sacrifice, and I’m pretty sure the soundtrack alone added another 10 years to my lifespan.

But as an adult with a more critical eye, the movie is a lot more flimsy. I mean, it looks great! The visuals, while not perfect, give it a very specific vibe that just works for this movie. However, the story, no matter how much you try, makes no sense.

It comes across that Snyder had a great idea for a movie but didn’t know how to get it down on paper, or when he did, wasn’t willing to admit it didn’t make any sense. And as we all know, not much is going to stop Snyder from making the movie he wants, no matter how expensive or ill-advised it is.

But in Sucker Punch’s defence, if you’re trying to match up every in-fantasy action with a real-world action, and trying to understand it as an exact shift from mental asylum to brothel, you’re not going to have a good time.

What I once viewed as the pinnacle of deep storytelling, now looks like it’s trying too hard. The movie should definitely be enjoyed for what it is, which is five women fighting Germans, dragons, and robots to some kick-ass music.

Has It Aged Well?

I was pretty shocked at how well this movie aged in the last 10 years. Like, I won’t lie, it screams 2011, but not because of flippant use of slurs, dated slang, or an ill-conceived concept of political ideologies. It’s very much just the vibe of the entire movie feels very 2011.

While there are a lot of shady men in this movie (all of them) they’re never portrayed as sympathetic characters. They are very much evil and very much written to be hated for their actions and how they treat these women.

We see these women take a stand against the men in their lives who have claimed ownership of them. We see them build up this bond together and use it to fight back.

Is it a feminist masterpiece? Not at all. But it doesn’t claim to be. It’s just the story of five girls trying to escape their dingy prison with heavy-handed use of escapism.

Final Thoughts

Having not seen this movie in so long, and it being such a massive part of my early teens, I was hesitant going in. We all have those movies, the ones we’re sure haven’t aged well, or that we’ve aged out of, that we don’t want to go back to for fear of ruining the memories that we have of them.

Luckily enough, this was not one of those movies. Sure, I don’t view it the same way, not even close, but it’s actually made it better almost. I’m not trying to match up everything and viewing it as this amazingly poetic piece of cinema, I’m just enjoying a fun action movie and having a much better time.

And once again, that soundtrack was too good, it brought the entire movie up a whole ‘nother level.

Watch this movie if...

  • You liked it a lot as a kid

  • You like fun action movies

  • You love a convoluted plotline

  • You love a good soundtrack

  • You enjoy over-the-top visuals

All images are taken from IMDB here

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