BP’s Top 100 Movie Challenge #79: Badlands, by Sarah Brinks

18 Mar

I decided to undertake a movie challenge in 2017. This seemed like a good way to see some classic movies that I have unfortunately never seen – the Battleship Pretension Top 100 provided just that challenge.

Terrence Malick’s films are usually hit or miss with me and Badlands, his first feature length film, was a miss. One thing that I struggle with in film is when characters don’t seem to care about anything. Badlands is a great example of characters like this. Sissy Spacek watches her father get gunned down in front of her and she has less of a reaction then when her dad shot her dog earlier in the film. Martin Sheen’s Kit, who does the shooting, seems to barely care. Even the people that Kit shoots barely seen inconvenienced by it. He shoots his old garbage route buddy Cato, who just lies down in bed and checks himself out in the mirror while bleeding to death. If the characters don’t even care about their own deaths, how is the audience supposed to get invested?

I understand that Malick is trying not to judge the actions of his characters but I think he could have found a way to achieve that while still making a more interesting film. Spacek basically follows Kit around and never does the killing herself, though she is certainly complicit. But you understand why she would follow Kit. He is handsome and capable and he has strong opinions. He is also charming when he wants to be. I liked at the end how all the cops and men at the airplane hangar are fascinated by him and want all the things in his pockets.

I didn’t completely dislike the film. I was mostly just bored by it, which is often my criticism of Malick’s films. They are often meditative and self-reflective, which works for me in a film like The New World, but left me cold in films like Badlands and The Tree of Life.

I’ve decided to rate each film using an arbitrary scale based on the board game Battleship (lowest: Destroyer, Submarine, Cruiser, Battleship, highest: Carrier)

Badlands ranking: Destroyer

4 Responses to “BP’s Top 100 Movie Challenge #79: Badlands, by Sarah Brinks”

  1. FictionIsntReal March 19, 2017 at 10:27 am #

    I’m the opposite: Badlands & Tree of Life worked for me (for taking somewhat opposite approaches), while New World & Thin Red Line did not. Badlands has a certain sense of humor about it, mocking Kit’s high opinion of himself.

  2. Sarah Brinks March 20, 2017 at 10:52 am #

    I think Malick is just one of those directors whose work appeals to people in different ways. I’m glad this film has it’s fans or defenders, it just didn’t work for me personally.
    It certainly didn’t steer away from making Kit look ridiculous, but he was also charming. I see how Holly would fall for him.

  3. Alex Cormier March 23, 2017 at 11:09 am #

    Hey Sarah I agree with you on this one. It just didn’t work for me

  4. Jeff Schroeck March 25, 2017 at 3:48 pm #

    I had a hard time with Holly’s reaction to her dad’s death, too. But by the time it got to the end and the guards were treating him like he was a cool dude, I thought maybe it wasn’t Holly herself narrating the story but instead was Kit sitting in jail, imagining Holly telling his story. It made her reaction make more sense to me in retrospect.

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