Two of those things were good to see.
Arlen is cast away into the desert, branded a member of the bad batch, implying a dystopian society on the outside that locks away it's undesirable members. Unfortunately we don't get to see any of that at all, and the most we get is odd little references dotted about. She's caught by a group of cannibals who cut off and eat her arm and her leg, before she manages to escape. After finding a place named - without subtlety - Comfort, she goes out into the wilderness again to seek revenge on those who took her limbs from her. She finds a kid, has a badly- narrated drug-trip and bumps into "Miami Man", a great hulking figure, head of the cannibal settlement, looking for the girl she took to Comfort. The second half of the movie becomes Arlen and Miami Man trying to get the girl back.
The story isn't particularly great, I'll be honest. The revenge plot is completely forgotten about in favour of trying to get the girl back. In fact the whole cannibal thing doesn't play too much of a part after the drug trip either. It also never seeks to answer any questions, which is fine, but when the world this all takes place in is far more fascinating than the actual story, the lack of answers becomes frustrating. Where does Comfort get all of its comforts from? Who is The Screamer? Why does no-one kill The Hermit while he's just wandering around the wasteland? If Comfort has access to food and water, why are the Cannibals cannibals? If all of The Dream's women are pregnant, but there are no children, what happens to them? Or has The Dream only been in power for less than nine months? If Comfort has guns and ammo aplenty, why are the Cannibals still alive at all?
There are other questions too, that pose more as plot holes than straight-up world building cock-blocks. Like why is Arlen so accepting of Miami Man despite him being responsible for her lost limbs? Why does she willingly help him when she could just go back to Comfort and stay there where he can't get her? And why is there a subtle romance hinted at between them? I mean big props to Momoa and Suki Waterhouse for managing to get across a sense of desire and affection between them without a single word - and I really liked it for that - but narratively it made no sense (or maybe that was the point, hurr hurr).
Acting is a mixed bag in all. Suki Waterhouse is at times great and at times awful. The movie's lack of dialogue definitely works in her favour, as she gets to look pretty in the desert in skimpy shorts the whole time. The emotions and feelings she manages to convey without words is good, but as soon as she opens her mouth I couldn't help but cringe. Bad accent, badly delivered, and badly written. Momoa manages to encompass the more brooding side of his musculature quite well, and the chemistry he shares with Waterhouse is commendable for sure. Giovanni Ribisi is criminally underused. He appears about twice, muttering about some "thing" that he can't find. That's it. Keanu Reeves gets a potentially tantalising role as The Dream, but it's never capitalised on by the story. Nonetheless what we see of The Dream is a man of wisdom who abuses his power just enough not to be an antagonist. Jim Carrey is unrecognisable. Didn't even realise it was him until well after the movie finished, but his character was definitely one of the biggest highlights of the entire movie, despite not uttering a single word.
Stylistically The Bad Batch is a winner through-and-through though. It's a slowly paced movie that prefers to sit in the moment. There's a lot of desert-scape shots, as we watch people walk around the desert (or drive golf carts), but even from the confines of Comfort and the Cannibals there's some interesting cinematography. With dialogue to a minimum, it's down to the cinematography to tell the story, and it does a brilliant job of conveying who's who, what they stand for, and what's going on in the story, and ultimately that's the most important thing for cinematography to get right. It's use of practical effects throughout deserves mention as well. While most the time it can make it feel like a cheap student film, they somehow managed to make the amputation clean and believable without the use of CGI, and for that I only have endless praise.
Sonically the movie is really good as well, barring that terribly narrated drug trip. The use of ambient sound really brings the otherwise vacant world to life, from the sound of things to the subtle white noise of the wind. The music is also surprisingly good too. The selection of popular and dance music is an odd mix that somehow works. From the synthwave-influenced Black Light Smoke and Chilled by Nature, to more pop-y Federale and Culture Club, it creates a sonic identity to the movie that makes it stand out and be individually enjoyable as well.
The Bad Batch is not a movie for everyone. It's extremely slow-paced, with a story that meanders around aimlessly in order to pretentiously tell us something about the world that we already knew. I saw it described somewhere as like if someone went to Burning Man and thought 'I want to make a movie of that'. It has some great cinematography and some great music, and some surprisingly good acting from the big name stars, but it's not particularly a movie I'd ever opt to see again. I give it a middling 5/10.
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