Who's In It: Emily Browning, Abbie Cornish, Jena Malone, Vanessa Hudgens, Jamie Chung, Carla Gugino, Oscar Isaac, Scott Glenn
The Basics: A teenage girl named "Babydoll" (Browning) who finds herself locked in an institution for "the mentally insane" by her evil stepfather--after she retaliates for his attack on her younger sister--is prepped for an involuntary lobotomy. While she waits to be neutralized, she goes on a mystical battle-quest in her mind that mirrors her heroic inmate-liberating actions within the walls of the hospital/jail. But in order to get there, she also has to straddle a middle layer of unreality, one where she's part of a team of burlesque show/brothel babes (all sporting pole-dancer names like Sweet Pea, Rocket and Amber) who're plotting their own escape from sexual slavery. Think Scott Pilgrim vs. the World plus push-up bras and minus the wit.
What's The Deal: A long time ago Jean Luc Godard said that all you needed to make a movie was a girl and a gun. And what this film proves is that it would help your cause if your project also happened to be directed by the 1962 version of Luc Godard. Because there's no recent example of an action/adventure/thriller that came along noisily trumpeting its shiny features any louder than this one is doing with so little to show for it. On paper it's all win-win-win: girls, guns, knives, robots, dragons, zombies, zeppelins, swords, fighter planes, monks, giants, roller-coastery space-trains, fire, kicking, Pixies and Stooges songs, PVC bustiers, sky-high hair and every other conceivable item of foxy chick-centric fetish gear any self-pleasuring anime-obsessed fanboy could ask for. It's as loud as you want it to be and as hyperactively digital as anything else in 2011, but director/writer Snyder has turned his supervixen heroine into a blank-faced sex doll. In fact, it seems like he intentionally gave star Emily Browning no emotional direction to turn, confining her in a cell that's colder than the computers they used to make everything you see on screen.
Devil's Advocate Time: Let's say that Zack Snyder intended something more than what wound up in the final product. Maybe he intended for X to equal something greater than X, that the film is meant to be read as being about the caging of young women rather than simply exploiting that cage to better show off their boobs. But if that's the case, then why must the main character retreat into a passive state of imaginary cosplay to get the job done? Why is her real world action invisible to the viewer? Why do none of these women have any personality outside of whatever associations their cute stripper names happen to invoke? Why does it seem like the women in 1939's The Women have more actual power by association?
The Context(s) In Which It Will Do The Most Good In The World: When a) it eventually becomes the video game it was always intended to be and b) when it's used in some future college film class as an example of why it's ultimately unwise to get too riled up about fantasy exploitation when fake-real-life garbage like any Katherine Heigl-starring romantic comedy is much more insidious and toxic.
Finally, What's Not Horrible: That big laundry list of goofy fun stuff I mentioned earlier really does look pretty cool. And if you're not in the mood to think past the movie's offer of nonstop empty sensation, you could wind up enjoying the visual assault.