I’m almost kinda-sorta serious here. If 4chan made a movie, what would it be? How about hot, slinky prostitutes in outrageous, sexy outfits take on a world where every man is a slimeball, wuss, or asshole by fighting their way through the trenches of steampunk WWI, Moria’s orcs, and a bunch of robo-terrorists. Swipe your themes and characters from early Mercedes Lackey books, your visual style from computer games, and your (barely there) plot beats from Joss Whedon, and you’re good to go.
hot remixes of classic ass-kicking tunes, crazy action set-ups (mecha vs. Fokker tri-planes, dragon vs. B-17 flying fortress), and barely enough plot to string them together. This is not a movie about girls stuck in a mental institution with brief flights-of-fantasy snippets a la “Brazil.” This is an action flick, with barely enough plot to justify the crazy visuals.
All that said, the film does feel like a near-miss. Frankly, I think it tries too hard, and tries to have it both ways. Its sexualization of the girls is enough to make certain folks’ heads explode, and it rubs in that point by making every male character in the entire movie (with the exception of the mentor, who basically serves as that guy in WoW with the gleaming exclamation mark over his head and little more) a tool, scumbag, or monster. It’s almost as if the movie is saying to the audience, “You should be ashamed, ashamed of yourself for enjoying this. But ain’t it fun?!?”
Unfortunately, the central question of the plot (I won’t say what it is here, but you’ll know it when you see it, because they directly ask it a handful of times in the last half of the flick) is, ultimately, the sort of question that only makes sense in a story. In the end, the deaths, the triumphs, the terror, all feel hollow because this film never lets you forget you’re watching a movie. The failure here isn’t that you’re never clear what is and isn’t reality in this movie; the failure here is that even the movie’s “reality” feels fake because the sucker punch of the title is built around a notion that can only make sense within the confines of a story; it makes no sense to ask this question in reality, because reality isn’t plotted like a story, and doesn’t have the mechanics of a story.