Committed to a 1950s mental asylum by her step-father, Babydoll (Emily 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 (Abbie Cornish), whose survival strategy is to create a liberating, movie-inflected version of her relationships with her kid sister Rocket (Jena Malone) and fellow inmates Blondie (Vanessa Hudgens) and Amber (Jamie Chung). In these alternate worlds, the Wise Man (Scot Glenn) offers the incarcerated girls freedom through violence – or, more precisely, male fantasies in which they strip down to their underwear and literally battle with their demons.
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. Carla Gugino vamps it up as the Polish-accented drama therapist/brothel madam, Oscar Isaac is convincing as the asylum guard/pimp and the female actors are left to emoting and fighting in their pants.