The Dystopian World That Is The Bad Batch
If you’ve been here before, you’ll recognize that I am not really a reviewer, but rather a discusser of movies. I want to lay out a framework within which we can discuss the topics that the movie is bringing up. Right? Go find Ebert if you just want a rating and a recommendation of movies to watch. I do put ratings on my reviews though, but primarily I want to see you AFTER you’ve watched the movie. I want to talk to you about what that movie did to you. How it made you think. The topics it has brought up and the controversies. Right?
So, here at THinc. I generally bring movies that are fun for unpacking. I bring you movies that are complicated or interesting. Movies that make you think. Make you reconsider your position in the universe. Allows us all to discuss on a unique and unified level. Does that make sense?
But with the Bad Batch, it has so many truly ugly scenes. Moves so slowly, and has such a controversial world wrapped around it, I won’t be recommending this movie to you. (Which means to me, that it won’t land in this topic category right here, which is where all my favorite movies land.) I am certain that some of you might be up for discussing this movie and its complicated inner-workings. Which, I am extraordinarily intrigued by.
If you are curious what it is really about though, it is a Burning Man-esque, dystopian thriller that moves slowly, and yet confidentially as it goes. It is a world where people who commit certain crimes, get banished out to a cordoned off area of the desert, where they are left to do their best to try and survive. Enter the cannibals. Enter the drugged up dance raves of Comfort. Here, maybe a trailer will explain it better.
From Here On Out – Spoilers Abound
Ok? So if you haven’t seen the movie yet? Go watch it… I think? It’s a little brutal in places. I enjoyed the slow pace of it. But I’m sure many won’t. But heck, Jim Carrie is in it, and he never says a word. But oh he says a lot in his silence. Such a fantastic role for him. And Keanu Reeves? Holy what?!? I had no idea that was coming. I was like, who, wait… WHAT IS HAPPENING IN THIS MOVIE??!? I seriously thought this was just another sleeper Indie film with nothing else going on under the covers. But oh I was wrong on that front. Wow. And Jason Momoa. And Diego Luna as DJ Jimmy? A burning man DJ wannabe for the infinite party? Yeah. I really didn’t see the actors in this movie having this much fire power.
The World System of The Bad Batch
In this future dystopian world of The Bad Batch, we are faced with a world that we have never really seen before. Probably the closest we get to The Bad Batch would be the world of Mad Max. Right? A world of dust, and a world of chaos. But, where Mad Max differs is that that is the world. The Bad Batch could be made tomorrow. We really aren’t given an idea of how far into the future we are seeing here. And I would argue that the world of Mad Max is a hundred years or more from now after a global apocalypse. But in The Bad Batch, this literally is the world of tomorrow.
The only thing required to make The Bad Batch a reality is a law passed by congress. In that way, this movie is more like Handmaid’s Tale than it is Mad Max Fury Road. Does that make sense? Sure, Handmaid’s Tale was crafted out of a civil war, and an ideology shift. But who’s to say that Trump doesn’t win the day, put his struggles behind him, and in so doing, he decides to lock up the Bad Batch? Whatever that means. And with one executive order the Mohave Desert becomes a vast wasteland prison for containing these “Threats”?
That is what we have here. Society – specifically the American society – has decided that there are certain crimes that will label you a Bad Batch member. But what are those crimes? In the movie we see Arlen quiz Miami Man as to what he’s done. Here’s a direct quote:
Arlen: “What’s your deal? How come you are in the Bad Batch? Gang related? Drug related?”
Miami Man: “Illegal, no papers.”
So, we can infer, that in this world of tomorrow, that there are at least three ways in which you can become a Bad Batch. Which, seems so so similar to our world today. Who’s to say we don’t begin banishing illegals instead of deporting them? And Death Valley would be a pretty convenient dumping ground to boot. It’s a pretty interesting logical (if horrific) next step. And so very much like Handmaid’s. What am I talking about, it’s so very much like America today, right now.
The People of The Bad Batch
There are three different people clearly delineated within the movie world of The Bad Batch. We have USRCS employees. We have the cannibals. And we have the citizens of Comfort.
USRCS Employees – who are these folks? We get the least amount of information from the movie about this group of individuals. But as the movie opens, and the opening credits were rolling, we are given some PA/radio chatter that did more world building than anything else.
“USRCS Employees are advised to avoid prolonged physical contact with Bad Batch inmates… this includes eye contact. USRCF Employees are advised to limit eye contact to no longer than ten seconds. USRCS employees are to never enquire details regarding the fittings. Fittings are your information and will remain undisclosed at all times. USRCS employees are reminded to clearly differentiate between personal views, statements and views, statements positions made on behalf of the agency or association.”
More importantly, what does USRCS stand for? United States … nope. I got nothing. US Reassignment Containment Services? Not terrible really. Maybe I should find contact Ana Lily Amirpour and ask directly. Never mind. I just did. We shall see if she responds. But we know that these detention/detainment employees take receipt of the “Bad Batch”, tag them, and release them into the wilds of this fenced off facility. And after that, we never see them again.
The Cannibals – We know next to zero about this group, but we can surmise an awful lot from what we do get to see. These people steroid popping, weight pumping, crazies intent on one thing and one thing only… survival. And in this barren wasteland, these guys have been handed a fairly steady influx of one thing, and one thing only. New Bad Batch inmates.
As the movie opens we see what is probably a pretty standard cycle of events. The Bad Batch inmate is given rations, and then sent into the compound. And if the cannibals circle the entrance occasionally, they are guaranteed to probably grab a couple people every single day. That person is then brought back to Bridge, the home of the cannibals and probably sold. The family that purchased Arlen kept her in chains and eventually cut off an arm and a leg for a meal. But we can guess that this was a pretty normal way for food to be provided until everything is gone and another inmate is required.
Citizens of Comfort – Seeing as though this is where Arlen actually spends most of her time, you’d think we’d know more about these people than we do. These folks generally live a life in a drug induced coma. It is a world of debauchery and EBM dance music. Heck, Comfort is literally another incarnation of Burning Man. Not even analogous, they are literally the same. The huge boom box that Jimmy DJ’s from was actually borrowed from Burning Man for the movie.
We also learn that the town of Comfort is run by a man named The Dream. He apparently provides basic living infrastructure and an endless supply of drugs. This is obviously a ploy to control the citizens of comfort in a cult like vacuity of thought, and absence of… well, anything really. In a fairly humorous spin, the Dream’s women all wear shirts saying that the dream is within. Oh did I mention they were all pregnant? Get it? The Dream’s within? See? Yeah. That is the level of cleverness imbedded within this movie. (I am just going to say it out loud, I’m being sarcastic here. The message here is surprisingly thick and ham fisted for such a self assured movie.)
Thoughts on Bad Batch
I love movies that ask big questions. And I adore movies that consider the implications of our policies. The Bad Batch asks a bigger question about our decisions about illegal aliens, drugs, and our recidivist society. It asks good questions about our priorities and the implications of our priorities. If I would recommend The Bad Batch to you it would be as a response to this world of Trump that we have created. And I’d recommend it to you mainly to think about why it is that we are so invested in our prison system as opposed to an effort to restore those that have wiped out.
The Bad Batch says, we as a people have determined that there will one day come a time when we will begin locking people up, and throwing away the key. In this dystopian (and yet not) world, people are sent away to die. They are sent away to never been seen again. I mean, really? We never saw the society at large. We never saw if this is a today society just outside these gates. It could very well be. Which would be an even better commentary even. To go from a local Starbucks, to the containment zone, would be really insightful. But what do I know?
If you saw the film… what did you think of it? Are you still in search of The Dream?