It's a movie about a girl with an evil step father who ends up in a scary new place and uses her imagination as an escape mechanism, directed by a man known for amazing visuals, and with a rather bittersweet ending. No, I'm not talking about Pan's Labyrinth, but I'm pretty dang surprised I haven't seen that comparison anywhere (at least on a surface level). No, it isn't as deep as the aforementioned film, but the idea is similar. Baby Doll (Emily Browning) is sent to an insane asylum after her mother dies and her step-father, in a drunken rage after finding out his step-daughters get everything she had, kills Baby Doll's little sister. In order to silence her, her step-father pays an orderly, Blue (Oscar Isaac), to forge a signature for a lobotomy that will take place in about a week's time. While inside, Baby Doll meets some other girls, namely Sweet Pea (Abbie Cornish), Rocket (Jena Malone), Amber (Jamie Chung), and Blondie (Vanessa Hudgens). They're being trained as dancers by Dr. Vera Gorski (Carla Gugino), and they soon discover Baby Doll's amazing dancing abilities that are rather hypnotizing. But when she dances, she transports herself to another world, a fantasy world, where she often meets with a Wise Man (Scott Glenn) who helps her--and eventually the other girls--figure out how to escape from their prison.
You might be thinking that the 'dancer' bit comes out of nowhere. Well, that's because the movie goes Inception on you. The fantasy sequences are just on top of the main fantasy sequence which is the bulk of the film. The asylum turns into a night club fairly quickly, and the girls aren't patients, but more like prostitutes--slaves to Blue and trained to dance for patron entertainment. But they only have 5 days before a "High Roller" (played by Jon Hamm) shows up for Baby Doll. You pretty much understand what the High Roller is symbolic of throughout the film.
But here comes an issue some people are having with the film. I've heard things like the film doesn't make sense and the symbolism stuff doesn't always match up. Who are the Nazi zombies? What are the androids on the train? Do you hear what you're asking? This is a movie with Nazi zombies, mech battle suits, androids, dragons, orcs, giant stone samurai with really big weapons, and countless other things, directed by visual mastermind Zack Snyder. And you're asking for SYMBOLISM? I mean, yeah, it's there. But the fantasy action sequences are just that--fantasy action sequences. Are you telling me your favorite part of The Matrix is the same old monomyth/Hero's Journey/religious allegory over the groundbreaking action sequences? Yeah, I didn't think so. Sure, it helps add deeper meaning and a couple extra layers to the action set pieces, but let me say it again: Nazi zombies, androids, dragons, samurai, Zack Snyder visuals. You cannot tell me you saw the trailer for this movie and expected to see the next Citizen Kane. You went because the action looked effing awesome and the visuals were stunning. And that's what you got: exactly what the trailer promised.
The action sequences were a heck of a lot of fun. It's pretty much a live action anime during these moments. People fly across rooms, bust floors when they land, glide high into the air, gain superhuman strength, and--at times--power up like a freakin' Dragonball Z character with energy flaring around them. The trailer promised me a bunch of awesome action, and that's what I got.
The acting isn't anything to hoot and holler about, though, but it wasn't God-awful. It was good enough to take us from one action piece to the next. The characters aren't overly complex, either. The one that comes closest is Abbie Cornish's Sweet Pea, but they don't really delve too far into her background to flesh her out. Still, that didn't really bother me, as I didn't come into this movie hoping for a character piece. The posters alone give me girls holding big swords and big guns in school girl outfits and skimpy war uniforms with fish net stockings.
The visuals are also fantastic, but that's come to be expected from a Zack Snyder film these days. Nothing ever looked like it didn't belong, and every little thing was gorgeous to look at. The soundtrack was also a lot of fun. I found myself anticipating what song I was going to hear next. They went pretty well hand-in-hand. It was a feast for the eyes and ears.
Overall, this movie was almost exactly what I expected it to be, and it's baffling to me that people were expecting something different. If you looked at the trailer and went "That action looks awesome. Those visuals are stunning. My eyes love you right now," then you'll probably like this movie. If you want something with a deeper message like Watchmen, you're not gonna get it. There are some voice-overs that try to add a little depth, but I don't think it necessarily made it any deeper or shallower. So if you're a fan of over-the-top action and want a movie that's almost pure eye candy--major style over substance--then this is for you.