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Zack Snyder: ‘Sucker Punch Is Like A Video Game That Doesn’t Exist’

One of the most fascinating elements at work in Zack Snyder’s Sucker Punch, the first movie the filmmaker developed and wrote as well as directed, isn’t even going to be evident to a portion of the people who see it this weekend and beyond. If you’re a gamer, you’ll find that — love it or hate it — there are many layers that can be peeled back and examined. If you’re not, these elements will simply pass you by.

Much of the story is structured like a video game: We see these five women, inmates at an insane asylum, primarily in a fantasy world imagined in the head of the protagonist Baby Doll (Emily Browning). They’ve hatched an escape plan, and to see it through they’ll need to acquire an assortment of items to which the facility’s staff has access. Each attempt to obtain an item plays out, for reasons made clear during the movie, as an action sequence that could easily double as a video game cinematic.

“I love video games,” Snyder told Spinoff Online. “What I was trying to do with this movie in some ways is use the … classic sort of Joseph Campbell-ian ‘heroes go on a journey, collect a boon, come back and get a reward.’ Once you set that in a world of combat, people make game associations with the movie.

“I would say that [the comparison] is undeniable — Sucker Punch is like a video game that doesn’t exist. It’s the game you want to play but it hasn’t been made.”

In that sense, what we see on screen is directly informed, not just by the ebb and flow of what’s popular in the gaming world, but also by the audience that dictates those patterns. One example that Snyder points to is the way the five stars are dressed during the fantasy-world brothel sequences and the fantasy-within-a-fantasy action sequences. While the film isn’t explicitly exploitative, such a read would certainly be understandable given the way the women are presented.

Emily Browning (left), Jena Malone, Abbie Cornish and Zack Snyder on the "Sucker Punch" set

“I was asked, ‘Why did you put those girls in those provocative outfits?’ And I go, ‘I didn’t put them in them, you did.’ You the audience put them in those outfits and asked for that,” he said. “The audience in the brothel … are these men sitting in a dark room. The men sitting in the dark room in the broader sense are us sitting in the theater. That’s absolutely in the movie. The exploitative part of it is in the viewer, the viewer brings that.”

Snyder is a guy who understands games. He admits he was playing Gears of War 2 quite a bit when writing Sucker Punch, and even now uses his love for Call of Duty: Black Ops as a reward while he builds the new Superman. “I have the game on,” he said. “And if I can draw two pages of storyboards, I reward myself with one game of Black Ops.”

A Sucker Punch game was considered, but because of the heavy narrative element that complements the action and the relative lack of time, it never happened. In addition to his film work, Snyder is working with Electronic Arts on “a big universe game that could be a movie.” He sees the recent involvement of Hollywood players in the gaming world as a mixed bag; when it’s someone who gets the medium, great. However, when it’s little more than a big name being attached to a franchise for the marketing value, things tend to go wrong.

“I’m still waiting for that game that is transcendent — an awesome movie and an awesome game and an awesome graphic novel,” he said. “No one’s cracked it! It would be nice if it had been cracked once at least.” The reason for that, really, is the fundamental disconnect between the activity of playing a game and the passivity of watching a movie.

As Snyder explained, “The problem with gaming and movies is, for me, the game is … an athletic mental exercise in the sense that you have this sort of episodic moment that is going to be revealed to you through a series of athletic moves that you can either do or can’t do. You’re either going to make the shot or not, you’re going to live or die based on the skill set you bring to the game. So your adrenaline and your interest rides on your own involvement in the game.”

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“It’s the interactivity. The outcome is not predetermined,” he continued. “Movies work on a slightly different level. You want to give up control in the movie, you want to be taken for a ride. You don’t get to decide. You are surprised emotionally by what’s happening. So it’s a quite different set of rules, but people tend to think they’re the same thing and they’re just not. The movie has to work on an emotional level or it’s hollow. We’ve seen it in so many movies about video games where it’s just flat. That’s because they don’t get the benefit of the adrenaline you get from the game.”

Of course, Snyder and I both knew that the interview couldn’t end without some question from me on Superman. This is a Comic Book Resources site, after all.

“That I’m saying the word Superman is crazy. I can’t tell you how secret we are,” he said, chuckling. “I think, in the end, our big challenge is making Superman relevant, making him relatable and interesting. Dimensional.”

“I want people to be able to go, ‘I would have done that if I were Superman. That’s right.’ In the sense that I can empathize with him as a personality, I can empathize with his decision-making in the same way that you can with characters in the movies that you love. Part of it is, you get why Superman feels the way he feels because you would have felt that same way.”

Sucker Punch opens Friday nationwide.

Don’t miss Spinoff Online’s earlier Sucker Punch coverage:


  • Anonymous

    I honestly don’t see why they didn’t go with a game. Just take your time and make a compelling product. The gaming landscape is unlikely to change for a few more years. I’m not convinced the narrative will be as strong as the best the video game market has to offer. In fact it looks like a rather shallow film – pretty but not much beneath the surface.

    I’ll be surprised if I’m proven wrong.

  • Zen Strive

    28% in rotten tomatoes.

  • sladewilson

    Actually it’s at 30% critics/87% Audience. There will be no middle ground with this movie. If you’re into video games, comic books, etc.. you’ll probably love it. If not, you’ll hate it…

  • Bclewis6593

    This looks like one of those movies that audiences will love but critcs will despise. Much like the Transformers movies.

  • yogi

    This movie is surprisingly intelligent and I don’t understand why critics seemed to have missed the thinking side to this movie. It seems like they were too distracted by the scantily clad girls and steam powered zombie nazis to notice the brilliance of the plotline and the narration and Snyder’s vision in telling that story so that you only “get” what happened at the very end. I love the fantasy-within-a-fantasy stuff. This is basically in the same realms of movies as Fight Club/The Machinist/Memento in terms of story-telling technique and is more in line with something off of the Twilight Zone. It’s such a pity that because the visuals and soundtrack and special effects are soooo AMAZING that it seems like the critics ignored the brilliance of the story itself.

  • Thatsweirdstap

    I love you for mentioning the machinist and fight club, I was thinking the same exact thing, and they are two awesome movies

  • Jen Ramos

    If your into fantasy movies, you would have figured out the movie earlier on and what was happening but for me it didn’t make it less epic. I loved everything about it and the fact that i realised it was made to look like a video game made it even better. I felt like i was a part of it, as i came to the same conclusions as the characters did. Even the ending which i did see coming got to me because it happened as i suspected it would with elements that totally surprised me. The ultimate bitter sweet ending. Loved every bit of it. Only the critics would hate this, or ppl overly obsessed with apparent logic.

  • Jen Ramos

    i would certainly but it. The movie and it’s particular style reminded me of the Alice in Wonderland game. The McGee version.The same sort of mental asylum theme.

  • Jen Ramos

    Who care lots of movies get rotten reviews but people enjoy them none the less… that’s the case with so many fantasy movies.

    Someone out there loves it, someone hates it.