Reviewed by Galen Strickland
The latest film from Zack Snyder has been getting very negative reviews, currently standing at only 20% on RottenTomatoes.com. Usually that type of reaction makes me decide not to watch a movie, at least not in the theater, but Snyder's previous work had me convinced I would give this one a chance no matter what other people were saying. I'm not a professional critic so my opinion will not change that percentage, but if I was then it would be raised a little bit, but just a little. There are a lot of amazing things going on in this movie, unfortunately it is all visual. The characters and story have no emotional resonance. It's a safe bet to say the visuals were conceived first with a story built around them, only the story is incoherent.
There was a point when I detected an influence from Inception, but more than likely Snyder had been working on this long before that was released. The basic plot is that a young woman (Emily Browning, nicknamed in the film "Babydoll") is committed to a mental institute by her stepfather following her mother's death and the accidental killing of her sister. We see the actual conditions of the asylum in just two scenes, the rest of the film takes place in the mind of Babydoll. Or does it? Maybe it is in the mind of one of the other girls, or possibly everything following the sister's death (or even the entire movie) is a hallucination. As far as I can tell, the film's title refers to the fact that it is not Babydoll's story that is the focus, but rather that of Sweet Pea (Abbie Cornish).
Shortly after Babydoll's arrival at the asylum the first (or second) shift in reality occurs. At this point it seems she is not in a mental institute, but rather a nightclub and bordello, and this is where Sweet Pea's story begins. Dr. Gorski (Carla Gugino), who in "reality" is a psychiatrist at the institute, becomes the madame and trainer of the girls for their stage performances. Babydoll proves to be an excellent dancer, one whose performances hold the audience spellbound, allowing the other girls the opportunity to ferret out the elements they need to plan their escape. We never see these dances, instead we see visions of Babydoll and the other girls symbolically fighting the foes they must overcome to complete that task.
As visually dynamic as the action sequences are, it points out the pitfalls of a heavy reliance on CGI and green screens at the expense of story and character development. It's the equivalent of a comic being controlled by the artist rather than the writer. The only ones who will love this film are the fanboys who will watch anything that involves hot girls in revealing outfits kicking ass. And boy, do they kick ass. Giant mecha-samurai, steampunk German soldiers, faceless robots, fire-breathing dragons, all fall before Babydoll and her cohorts as they cut and shoot their bloody way to freedom. This is also incoherent and meaningless, since it makes no sense that a twenty-year old girl would visualize these types of demons to fight if her nemesis is really an abusive stepfather. Snyder seems to have included them all because he thought they would look cool, and why not go overboard when Hollywood gives you all that money to work with? I hope his next project is a little more down to earth, or he at least gets help with the screenplay.
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