While our readers are already discussing director Zack Snyder’s fantasy-action story of self-empowerment in the comments section of the Sucker Punch review, this is the place where you can discuss spoilers about the movie without worrying about ruining it for people who haven’t seen it yet.
To help steer discussion we’ve added an analysis of Sucker Punch to help clarify some of the details that left some moviegoers scratching their heads.
That said, Snyder does leave some elements of the film up for interpretation – making it impossible to answer everything with absolute certainty.
It goes without saying, this article is full of spoilers. So, if you still plan to see the film, and don’t want anything spoiled for you – look elsewhere.
Does our Sucker Punch explanation match your theory? Find out!
The Dream within a Dream
Following Babydoll’s arrival at the asylum, the film presents viewers with three realities:
- The Asylum
- The Burlesque Illusion
- The Fantasy Realms
Despite the fact the majority of the movie is spent within the context of the burlesque reality, we know from the early images at the beginning, as well as the closing scene with the orderlies, that the dance setting was an illusion Babydoll (more on her later) developed to deal with the horrors of her actual environment.
It’s strongly hinted that the girls are being sexually abused by the orderlies and other employees at the asylum (most notably when the orderlies show reservations about allowing Blue to be alone with Babydoll after her lobotomy). The dark, and most logical, interpretation of the film suggests that Babydoll imagines herself “dancing” (and subsequently dispatching her oppressors in fantasy settings) whenever abuse is taking place, retreating into a world where she has increasing control over her oppressors – hypnotizing them with her dances (in the dancer illusion) and outright killing them (in the fantasy worlds).
After the first few “dances,” Babydoll begins to use this time with the abusers as a distraction, so that the other girls can go around and collect the necessary tools for the escape – essentially sacrificing her body for the sake of the mission – a theme which is revisited in the closing act of the film.
Are the other girls merely representations of different aspects of Babydoll’s psyche?
While it’s possible that, at one point, Snyder intended for Rocket (the little sister), Amber (the shy one), Blondie (the naive one), as well as Sweet Pea (the big sister), and even Babydoll herself (the fighter), to be avatar-like representations of various aspects of Babydoll’s personality – given what we see in the final film, there are a few problems with this theory.
First and foremost, Babydoll sees the girls in the real asylum world. It’s plausible that, as she began to fantasize, she merely superimposed the four girls’ visages onto the non-physical aspects of her own personality – i.e. visible avatar-like manifestations of abstract impulses. However, given the seriousness with which Snyder presents the real world in the closing moments of the film, it’s implied that the people in the fantasy world have a direct connection to people in the real world. Despite minor flourishes, Babydoll is directly interacting with the same people in the burlesque reality and the actual asylum: the burlesque cook is still the cook in the asylum, the burlesque Mayor is the custodian, the burlesque High Roller is the doctor – these people are not avatar-like representations of something abstract – they are rose-tinted filters placed on-top-of real people (who exist in a harsher reality). As a result, it stands to reason that the core girls are real people – real people that Babydoll is interacting with, not just in the fantasy world, but in reality as well.
Furthermore, it’s Sweet Pea who escapes the asylum in the real world, which would be an extremely unsatisfying ending, if there were no genuine connection between her character and Babydoll (who sacrifices her own freedom to make it happen). If the one psyche theory were correct, in a movie about guilt, oppression, and empowerment, it would have made much more sense for almost any of the other girls/personalties to have escaped, especially Rocket – the little sister that Babydoll was unable to save in real-life. Instead, it’s Sweet Pea who escapes – the same big sister who wasn’t able to protect her little sister.
It’s an interesting idea, with cool thematic implications but, given what we see in the final film, tangible evidence of the one psyche theory is either undermined by Sucker Punch‘s convoluted story-telling or other conflicting details.
What is the connection between the fantasy worlds and the reality of the asylum?
By the end of the film, Snyder makes it obvious that many of the events taking place in the dancer reality do have implications in the actual reality of the asylum. Dr. Vera Gorski mentions to the surgeon that prior to her lobotomy, Babydoll started a fire, stabbed an orderly, and successfully ensured Sweet Pea’s escape.
However, it remains unclear how involved the other girls were in the actual events in the asylum. Sweet Pea does successfully escape – which could indicate that Babydoll and the other girls were working together much in the same way as she imagined them in the burlesque club reality. That said, it’s unclear how much contact Babydoll actually had with the other girls, or how lucid any of them would have actually been (they all appeared pretty drugged up in the first scene at the asylum).
Similarly, assuming the girls were working as team, it’s still unclear whether or not Rocket, Blondie, and Amber died (as they did the burlesque reality), were lobotomized (like Babydoll), or were simply caught. Whether or not Snyder intended to leave this fact up for interpretation is unclear. Though, given the positive changes that seem to be promised for the asylum (as a result of Gorski’s revelation about Blue), it would make sense that whatever happened to the other girls – their fate wouldn’t be something that could easily be undone.
Who is in control of the fantasies?
The film’s “twist” – punctuated by Babydoll’s realization that the film’s story actually belongs to Sweet Pea, has left many viewers grasping at the notion that it was Sweet Pea who was fantasizing the entire time – not Babydoll. While some viewers will certainly disagree, aside from the aforementioned line of dialogue, there’s no tangible evidence to support this theory.
The first level of the fantasy world is introduced in conjunction with Babydoll’s arrival at the asylum and dissolves at the time of her lobotomy. Similarly, Babydoll is always the featured ass-kicker in each fantasy – with the other girls playing supporting roles in both the dancer-reality and the fantasy worlds.
While it may have ultimately been Sweet Pea’s story of “empowerment,” the fantasies belonged to Babydoll.
Did Babydoll kill her sister?
This is a quick one but seems to be confusing a lot of people. In the opening sequence of the film, the stepfather attacks the girls and it’s strongly implied that he intends to sexually abuse Babydoll and/or her sister. He first tears at Babydoll’s shirt before locking himself in her younger sister’s room. However, when Babydoll breaks into the room and fires a gun at him, she accidentally hits a lightbulb – causing the bullet to ricochet and hit her sister. It’s this misfortune that enables the stepfather to frame her for the death – and send her to the mental institution.
What happened to the Stepfather?
The earlier moments of the film seemed to position Babydoll’s stepfather as the chief villain – with Blue emerging as the main antagonist as events unfold. That said, some viewers seemed to think that, as a result of the lobotomy, the Stepfather would be getting off scott-free. However, as Blue is being taken into custody, we hear his confession and subsequent incrimination of the step-father – implying that while Babydoll may never get to personally inflict vengeance on her original oppressor, her actions will inevitably lead him to a similar fate – life behind bars.
Who was the cliche’ spouting “Guardian Angel?”
The appearance of the Guardian Angel in the bus station of the asylum reality might cause some viewers to think that, much like Life on Mars (or possibly Inception), “it was all a dream.” While it’s certainly one of the more fantastical elements of the film (since it’s grounded in reality – as opposed to the fantasy sequences), the Guardian Angel was prophesied in the early narration of the film – and, in this case, the appearance of the character one last time merely brings the fantasy/reality world full circle. The character’s appearance at the bus station offers a proverbial red herring – one final moment that makes the audience question what they think they’ve seen.
While not as poetic, or effective, as the spinning top in Inception, the appearance of the Guardian Angel merely diverts our attention from the primary narrative – a story of a girl who has been freed from the shackles of emotional and physical oppression. Much like the top, a Guardian Angel could, in theory, appear in any of the realities (since it was teased early on in the real world narration) – and doesn’t mean that Sweet Pea is still in the asylum (and, subsequently, trapped in Babydoll’s fantasy).
That said, if you want a more concrete answer than that – the appearance of the Guardian Angel in the real world cannot mean that Sweet Pea is actually still trapped in the asylum – since it was never her dream in the first place. Additionally, at the point where Sweet Pea encounters the Guardian Angel, Babydoll has already been lobotomized – and is incapable of fantasizing.
We’ll leave things there – hope you enjoyed our explanation and we look forward to hearing the discussion continue in the comments.
If you’re posting comments here, assume that anyone in the conversation has seen the movie – if you haven’t seen the movie, I would recommend you don’t read these comments here until you have.