(15+) US. Emily Browning, Abbie Cornish, Vanessa Hudgens
Zack Snyder’s mash-up of comic-book fantasy, action and teenage wish-fulfilment thinks it’s a smart subversion of submissive female stereotypes. In fact, it comes across as the sad dream of a middle-aged man raised on the archetypes of comics and computer games.
Committed to a 1950s mental asylum by her stepfather, Babydoll (Browning) escapes from the grim reality of past abuse, cruel male guards and theatre-based therapy by conjuring up worlds in which she and fellow inmates fight giant samurais, steam-powered World War I zombies, flame-breathing dragons or robots. But Babydoll could be just a fantasy of Sweet Pea (Cornish), whose survival strategy is to create a liberating, movie-inflected version of her relationships with her kid sister and fellow inmates Blondie (Hudgens) and Amber (Jamie Chung).
As in 300 and Watchmen, Snyder pulverises our senses with derivative digital images and obvious musical choices. But his failure to delineate the levels of ‘reality’ is confusing and self-defeating.