BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. — Director Zack Snyder is hoping viewers will be caught unaware by his new movie, “Sucker Punch.” That’s partly why the movie is named for a strike made without warning.
“If you have a preconceived ideas about what you think the movie is, or what the idea is, or how movies are put together, that’s what the ‘Sucker Punch’ is all about,” Snyder said.
Snyder came into directing with a sucker punch himself, a fast-paced, well-reviewed remake of George Romero’s horror classic, “Dawn of the Dead.”
He’s since adapted two graphic novels: “300,” based on the Frank Miller Dark Horse Comic about the Battle of Thermopylae in 480 B.C.; and “Watchmen,” based on the miniseries by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons that had long been considered unfilmable.
In 2010, he made an animated film called “Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole,” based on the children’s book.
With “Sucker Punch,” Snyder and Steve Shibuya wrote the screenplay about a young woman in an insane asylum, who escapes in her mind to other worlds while trying to bring about her escape from the asylum.
He says that gave him a lot of ownership in the property but not necessarily more pressure.
“I want people to love the movie, and I think it’s a fun ride, but I feel the same pressure as I’d feel with anything,” Snyder said while promoting the film. “Through the process of making the movie, just like I did ‘Watchmen’ or ‘300′ or any of the movies I’ve made, once I say this is the movie I’m making, it really becomes personal anyway.”
Snyder said seeing sets created that sprung from his mind and never existed before was a novel experience, but that creating the film didn’t have the same kind of scrutiny from fandom as “Watchmen.”
“That’s probably more pop-culture pressure than this movie could ever get, in the sense that it already had a pedigree of unmakeability to it,” Snyder said. “That’s like, ‘Oh, I decided to make this thing that no one can do.’ That’s a great idea. Or is it? That part … it’s different when you’re like, oh, you wrote a movie, so of course it can be made.”
Forming the vision
The idea for “Sucker Punch” came from a screenplay Snyder had written in the 1990s. In part of the script, a girl, while dancing, has visions of wild adventures. That part of the screenplay was resurrected for “Sucker Punch.”
“We really started to talk about an idea that we could use that mechanism to launch into these fantasy sequences,” he said.
“Sucker Punch” stars Emily Browning, Abbie Cornish, Jena Malone, Vanessa Hudgens and Jamie Chung as female inmates of a mental asylum in roughly the 1960s.
Babydoll (Browning) is sent to the asylum by her abusive stepfather, who contracts an orderly (Oscar Isaac) to fake the paperwork for a lobotomy. Knowing she has only a week left as herself, Babydoll rallies four other inmates in an attempt to escape.
“To me, what’s worse than dying is losing yourself, or having the thing that is you, the essence of yourself, taken away, but you remain,” Snyder said.
Snyder speculated his fear of having something done to the brain goes back to a 1968 sci-fi classic.
“In the original ‘Planet of the Apes’ movie, Chuck Heston finds his buddy, and he’s got that shaved part of his head, and they’re like, ‘They took his brain!’” Snyder said. “And that got me, when I saw it originally. It always kind of resonated with me that that was really horrible.”
Babydoll retreats into her mind to deal with her situation as the movie exists in three layers: the layer of the asylum; a second layer, which Babydoll perceives as a brothel; and a third level, where Babydoll and her allies become near-superhuman warriors.
‘Superman’ in works
Snyder will take on the most famous superhuman in his next film.
Snyder, 45, has been named the director for the upcoming “Superman” movie reboot, to star British actor Henry Cavill. He said he wasn’t worried about casting an English actor as Superman.
“No, not at all, because Batman’s English too,” he said, referring to Christian Bale.
Things are moving quickly on “Superman,” which is set to be released December 2012. Kevin Costner was recently announced as an addition to the cast as Jonathan Kent, Superman’s father on Earth, joining Diane Lane, already cast as Martha Kent, Superman’s mother on Earth, in the film.
“We start at the end of the summer. So a couple of months,” Snyder said. “But it feels like tomorrow.”
- By Matthew Price
From Friday’s The Oklahoman