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‘I Didn’t Go Far Enough’: Zack Snyder Recalls His Work On Sucker Punch And How The Film Was Misunderstood

Zack Snyder is best known today for his time spent building the modern DC film universe, but the director had several high-profile films before taking on Man of Steel. His films, like his adaptations of 300 and Watchman are loved by fans if not by critics. Although though if there’s one film Snyder has made that qualifies as controversial, it’s 2011’s Sucker Punch.

Sucker Punch stars Emily Browning as a young girl committed to an asylum who escapes the mental pain of her experience by retreating into a fantasy world of sex and violence, and tries to use the mental escape as a path to actual escape. A great deal of what we see on screen in Sucker Punch involves girls in over-the-top action set pieces or striptease sequences. The movie was largely criticized for this upon release, but Snyder tells Total Film (via GamesRadar) that the film was a satire that it seems many didn’t get because he did not go far enough. He explained…

Sucker Punch is probably the most obvious example of straightforward, pure satire that I’ve made. And I still think I didn’t go far enough, because a lot of people thought that it was just a movie about scantily clad girls dancing around in a brothel. I’m like, ‘Really? Did you see Watchmen?’ That film is completely a superhero deconstruction from the drop, which is all Alan Moore. That’s the thing I’ve found really interesting and motivating throughout my career. And I think that, seen as a whole, it’s more obvious than on a movie-to-movie basis.

The idea that Sucker Punch is supposed to be a satire of the movie it appears to be isn’t a new idea. Many critics did understand what the goal was supposed to be, even at the time, but it’s also true that a lot of audiences only saw the surface level presentation. And a lot of audiences just didn’t see Sucker Punch at all, perhaps because they thought it was the movie it appeared to be.  

And Snyder may be right that he didn’t go far enough. To a lot of people, the Sucker Punch ending was confusing, perhaps because not everybody understood what Snyder was trying to do. And a satire that doesn’t come across as satire is going to instead look to be an endorsement of the thing being satirized. Although, that may have been at least partially by design. Snyder continued….  

The thing that is deceiving about my movies is that I’m always trying to give the audience the movie they think they want to see, but also give them the subverted version of it at the exact same time. That notion has always been really cool and fascinating: that as filmmakers, we’re trying to sneak in the subversive thing without breaking the illusion. That’s the trick.

The confusion over the satire may ultimately be something of a side effect of the way Zack Snyder says he tries to make movies. He says that he tries to make a film that both gives the audience what they expect, while also subverting that. If Sucker Punch was trying to be both a titillating action movie and also a subversion of that, it’s maybe not a shock that some viewers got confused

Sucker Punch has been given something of a reexamination over the years, especially as more eyes have been opened to the true intent behind the film. And it’s possible we could even see a new version of the film, that makes the satire more obvious. More than one star of the film has endorsed a Snyder Cut of Sucker Punch and Snyder has since indicated that he hoped to put together a Sucker Punch director’s cut at some point in the future.  

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