It’s a wonderful job I get to do. I see a crazy movie and have my opinion of it. Not only do I get to publish it, but I get to ask the director if I’m right. I was ready to analyze Zack Snyder’s symbolic artistic action movie Sucker Punch, from the fantasy of brothel dancers kicking ass in steampunk machine gun fantasies to the base story of a girl trapped in a mental institution.
I was connected to Snyder by phone in his home on Friday, opening day for Sucker Punch. He said he’d just gotten back from a Superman meeting and was flying out the next morning for international Sucker Punch press. He actually answered more questions about Superman than I expected him too.
Q: I’m sorry I have to ask this even after seeing the movie, but what exactly does “sucker punch” mean?
Zack Snyder: I think sucker punch sums it up for me. Look, literally it’s like a mechanism in the film that kind of brings us back into reality I think. But I think on the other hand, because the movie is a slight indictment – it talks about geek culture and pop culture, it talks about the why of the action cinema and stuff of that nature – it’s also a sucker punch because I kind of designed it that you go to this movie for entertainment and you get a little bit fucked up by it, hopefully.
Q: Is the plot supposed to be open to interpretation?
ZS: Oh, hugely. It’s all about that. She’s talking all about the movie when she says to Baby, “The dance” – meaning the action sequences – “should be more than just titillation,” which is in reference to other films I’ve made. When she says, “all that gyrating and moaning” which is basically all the slo-mo and all the action. It’s supposed to tell a story. Then she says, “My dance is personal. What is yours saying?” and “It says I’m going to be free” which is in reference to all the other, 300 or other action movies. The whole movie is like a show within a show and it’s all about the show within a show. Someone asked me, why are the girls dressed like that? I go, because if you’re indictment of male culture and on the other hand the idea that they’re in a brothel, so the people that are wanting the girls to dress like that are the men that go to brothel. When we see the action in the movie and the lights go down, the leering men sitting in a dark theater find girls that dress sexy and gyrate, and in my case that are gyrating with machine guns, that’s us! Anyway, and on and on.
Q: Do you expect some people will misread this and take it literally and actually accuse you of the things you’re commenting on?
ZS: Yeah, absolutely. They already have. So I don’t know what to do about that. I can only make the movie. I can only make the movie so that it’s multi-layered. I don’t want to make it boring and a lecture but I do want to slap your hand for liking it a little bit, if you do like it.
Q: Isn’t it also cool to just put crazy shit in a movie so that there’s crazy shit in the movie?
ZS: Absolutely, are you kidding me? Absolutely but I honestly think you can do both. I love crazy shit in a movie, don’t get me wrong. By the way, there is crazy shit in my movie. There is nutty, crazy shit in it but I’d like you to be able to have your cake and eat it too. I want you to be able to just go nuts and then also be able to sit with your friends afterwards and go, “No way, dude. You don’t get the socio-implications of this fuckin’ movie.” And the other guy going, “I don’t know what the fuck you’re talking about!”
Q: What is your private fantasy life like?
ZS: I think you went to it. Did you see the movie? Strangely you get to know what mine is.
Q: It seems like we’re seeing several artists explore what fantasy means, from Pan’s Labyrinth to Black Swan. What do you think it is about this generation’s artists that they’re exploring that on film?
ZS: That’s an interesting question because I think it’s also interesting that fantasy for this generation is a not safe place. Maybe it’s because it has a little to do with the fact that the fantasies that we deal with are also product. You use part of yourself and that part of yourself is also something that you’re selling, so that is a scary and odd proposition that I think can cause anxiety and that anxiety can be manifested in cinematic landscapes that are threatening and/or dangerous.
Q: What moved you about the asylum story?
ZS: I like the threat of having your personality removed. Worse than death, the idea of your brain, the part of yourself that makes you private or unique is removed. Like in Planet of the Apes, Landon who gets his brain chopped out and then Chuck Heston is like, “What happened? They cut out your BRAIN!” I remember thinking that was really upsetting and freaky, and I kind of loved that. So I think that’s affected me at a young age. I thought that was fucked up. Then I remember I saw Frances and I saw One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and I really started to think the idea of having your personality removed would be a horrible, horrible thing. Maybe that’s another reflection on cinema and being a filmmaker and you use that part of yourself as your commerce, as the thing that supplies you and makes you able to make movies. Maybe that’s a paranoid delusion that I have that someone might chop out my brain.
Q: It seemed like you’d done your comic book movies with 300 and Watchmen, but was Superman just too good to pass up?
ZS: Yeah, and in a lot of ways it’s a different thing for me. It’s a chance to do it for real. I think 300 and Watchmen are both particular in their graphic novels. I almost don’t even see them as superhero movies. I see them as they’re both novels. It’s all about the story and the way the story exists as a work of literature. For me, Superman is a whole other thing. He’s a character that we get to explore. I can make a movie that’s not an indictment but really a celebration of the character.
Q: Are you working with DC or is it all you, Nolan and Goyer?
ZS: It’s all me, Nolan and Goyer. I mean, I meet with the DC guys but they don’t really [get involved.] It’s all us figuring it out.
Q: I know you’re starting over, but did you like the Bryan Singer Superman Returns and the Richard Donner movies?
ZS: Yeah, I love the movie, I love the Superman character and I like the movie. It’s just we felt like we had to shed all that in order to start again and find the why of the character over.
Q: Do you imagine doing slow motion flying and fighting?
ZS: I don’t know. I think the thing I’ve been thinking about with this movie is that it’s kind of its own thing in a lot of ways. I guess we’ll see how the action unfolds but the way I talk about Superman, the way I’ve been talking to everyone about shooting it is trying to get Superman to exist in the real world and be a character that lives in our world. So it’s a much more realistic, it’ll probably be the most realistic movie I’ve ever photographed.
Q: And there’s no Lois in this version. Is that the reason to do it, to strip away the things we know?
ZS: Oh, there’s no Lois Lane? I didn’t know that. I don’t know what that means.
ZS: I just felt like Kevin and Diane are both amazing talents and they’re serious. I think it just sets the tone of what we’re trying to do.
Q: What is your schedule like the next few weeks, or year?
ZS: I go take the movie to Europe tomorrow. I fly out to Paris tomorrow. Then I go to London and Copenhagen. Then I come home and I just dig into Superman and we start shooting at the end of the summer.
Q: Do you do storyboards and drawings yourself?
ZS: Yeah, I’m drawing like crazy.