Director's Cut Delights, Death Star Doodles, and 7 Other Revelations from the Sucker Punch Junket
How do you even begin to wrap your head around Zack Snyder's latest epic, Sucker Punch? The anachronistic pop fantasy mash-up follows '60s-era insane asylum inmate Babydoll (Emily Browning) who plots escape with four fellow prisoners (Abbie Cornish as Sweet Pea, Jena Malone as Rocket, Vanessa Hudgens as Blondie, and Jamie Chung as Amber) by going into a dream world within another dream world to fight dragons, zombie Nazis, and evil nightclub pimps. And as Snyder and Co. revealed while making the press rounds, what hits theaters this Friday is only one version of what Sucker Punch ever was, is, and still could be whenever Snyder's unveils his full Director's Cut.
Stars Emily Browning, Jena Malone, Abbie Cornish, Vanessa Hudgens, Jamie Chung, Carla Gugino, and Oscar Isaacs shuffled in and out of the Beverly Hilton Sunday with Snyder, wife and producer Debbie Snyder, composer Tyler Bates, and music supervisor Marius De Vries to discuss just about every aspect of Sucker Punch, the highly anticipated pop culture-mashing flick and Snyder's first female-centric project. Here's what Movieline learned.
1. In Sucker Punch, songs score the subconscious -- so don't be alarmed when your favorite modern rock tunes pop up in the period/fantasy narrative.
Snyder sets the tone for his period fantasy fever dream from the very first scene, a moody "Janie's Got a Gun"-type scenario that reveals the tragic circumstances surrounding Babydoll's admittance to a shady mental hospital. In the prologue, Babydoll defends her little sister from their abusive stepfather -- in glorious slo-mo, natch -- as a sinister rock cover of "Sweet Dreams" plays in the background, sung by actress Emily Browning.
Composer Tyler Bates (300, Watchmen) and music supervisor Marius De Vries (Moulin Rouge) similarly integrate a bevy of rock covers into the narrative, including Jefferson Airplane's "White Rabbit," The Stooges' "Search and Destroy," and Bjork's "Army of Me." "The songs become part of the consciousness of the characters in their fantasy sequences," explained Bates, who also revealed that when Snyder first gave him the Sucker Punch script before it underwent a series of permutations, "it read a little bit more like Dancer in the Dark meets Indiana Jones."
2. Despite all that, Snyder cut back drastically on the film's musical component, excising most of the musical numbers that had been filmed.
Described by De Vries as "an experiment," the option of filming individual musical numbers for each cast member wound up on the cutting room floor. The only scene that makes it into the final cut is Carla Gugino and Oscar Isaacs' "Love is a Drug" duet, which plays over the end credits -- but Snyder promises to reinsert it "in its proper place" in the eventual Director's Cut. He explained why the scene didn't work. "It undercuts the seriousness of the movie," said Snyder. "What I wanted to do was create this sequence where you would look at this scene and go, 'Wow, it's fun to be in this club -- I guess the girls are being prostituted, but it's still fun!' But then the sequence ends with the girls crying and you're like, 'Oh, f*ck. I'm a jerk.'"
Still, expect to see the full dance numbers on the eventual Sucker Punch DVD/Blu-ray release -- including Jamie Chung's French maid tango, a belly dance number by Vanessa Hudgens, and a show-stopper best described by Jena Malone herself: "I got to play sort of this sci-fi zombie-ish nurse... and I had to do a pole dance down a giant syringe. I start inside of the syringe and pole dance my way down the needle."
3. Don't hold your breath for an R-rated version of Sucker Punch to hit shelves at any point in the future.
Once a PG-13 rating was decided upon, Snyder filmed specifically to avoid the temptation of racier, gorier material -- and with good reason. He pointed to an infamous example. "If I saw this movie and it was rated-R, I would be super pissed," Snyder admitted. "I'd be like, are you kidding me? Remember Constantine? Constantine was meant to be rated PG-13 and I remember watching Constantine and there's a scene where Rachel Weisz is like, OK, I have to get in this tub in the water -- should I be naked? And he goes, 'No.' And I'm like, NO? What kind of a movie is this!?"
4. Does Sucker Punch turn the tables on the fetishistic male gaze?
The filmmakers consider Sucker Punch to be a feminist film, despite surface appearances. Revealing costumes, glam make-up, subservient gender dynamics, traditional female archetypes -- they all work toward subverting audience expectations. Knowing that Sucker Punch will draw a majority of young male moviegoers looking for titillation, an early scene between Sweet Pea (Abbie Cornish) and Madame Gorski (Carla Gugino) outlines exactly what Snyder hopes his film will achieve.
"She laid it out that I had to take it back a little bit, it was too much," explained Snyder. "Because she'd say things like, 'You need to change the end -- you can't have her be lobotomized at the end of this. How about she drives into the sunset?' It's super self-reflexive, that moment. And then Ms. Gorski says, 'Well I was going for something more artistic,' you know? Then she goes, 'Artistic? Have you seen the people who come to these shows? They don't want that. We need to look good.'"
5. Those sexy Sucker Punch costumes were influenced by... Comic-Con?
Speaking of looking good, the costumes of Sucker Punch take inspiration from a number of sources including manga, Sailor Moon, and fetish culture -- and inspiration came directly from the Snyder's 2010 trip to Comic-Con, where Debbie bought handfuls of maquettes and figurines for visual inspiration. Of course.
6. Sucker Punch's action heroines were trained by Navy SEALS.
Forget about the sexy femininity of Sucker Punch's aesthetic; the bigger thrill is watching the cast blast and slice their way through thousands of supernatural enemies - zombie Nazis, Orcs, a dragon. For the physical component of their work, the ladies of Sucker Punch trained for months with Navy SEALS and fell in love with their weapons.
"For novelty value I love the Lewis gun, which is the giant gun I shoot the zeppelin down with," said Browning, who also wields a signature katana in one hand and a pistol in the other for much of the film. "I think it weighed more than I did and it had to be on wires so I could hold onto it because it was ridiculous and huge and it would spray me with gunpowder, which I found weirdly satisfying."
Debbie Snyder says the cast did 90 percent of their own stunts and compared the film's tough quintuplet of actresses to the army of male actors on 300: "I think the men of 300 were bigger babies when it came to the training."
7. Emily Browning + Jon Hamm = Too hot for the MPAA?
According to Zack and Debbie Snyder, the MPAA took surprising issue not with the violent images in Sucker Punch, but with the sexual empowerment of its female characters. "The MPAA was not into the women owning their sexuality," Debbie Snyder said. "You know what it was? It was the combination of when there was violence and sexuality, but there were a couple of instances where they were like, 'Does she have to be such a willing participant?'"
The Snyders also revealed a particularly racy scene that will be reintegrated into the narrative in the Director's Cut. "It's actually a scene with Jon Hamm and Emily," Zack Snyder teased, "and I had to take it out of the movie because what it becomes is not just creepy, but you miss the point of the scene if she's not into it."
8. So, what's the meaning of the title?
Skip the following item if you like to figure things out for yourself. When asked by a journalist to explain the title of the film, Snyder gave a few reasons. "One, I think, is there's a mechanism in the movie that sneaks up on you. We sort of plant the seed of this thing and at the end of the movie it kind of comes back around, and I think that in some ways is what Sucker Punch is. But it also has a little bit to do with, if for example, here comes Emily's character and you the audience have a preconceived idea about her. Look at her -- Oh, she's innocent and sweet and weak. She's capable of only a certain amount of things. But I think that's a mistake. That has a little bit to do with the title, and also it has some kind of pop culture weirdness about it."
9. Zack Snyder i
s a doodler. Here's what he drew while completely engaged in a 16-minute conversation with press. (This might explain a lot about how his mind works.)
Sucker Punch is in theaters Friday. Check back Wednesday for the exclusive Movieline Interview with Zack Snyder.