Every year, it seems that there’s some giant hit of a movie that I can’t stand. A couple of years ago, it was Mad Max: Fury Road. A few years before that, it was Spring Breakers. The Bad Batch feels like some horribly mutated love child of those two films, and it has plenty to dislike about it.
The movie is set in some desert wasteland that was carved out of Texas. It’s populated with criminals, illegal aliens, and people who have just been deemed unlikely to contribute to civilized society. Those people are called “bad batchers”, and Arlen (aka bad batcher 5040, played by Suki Waterhouse) seems to be in that latter category. She’s tattooed with her identifier and tossed out into the middle of nowhere with nothing but the clothes on her back and a gallon of water.
Almost immediately, she’s attacked by a couple of cannibals, who for some inexplicable reason are called “bridge people” despite living in an airplane graveyard with no bridge in sight. They capture her, tie her down, and amputate one of her arms and one of her legs for food (perhaps over an extended period of time rather than all at once; the movie isn’t clear about that). Before they can perform any more surgery, she escapes and manages to drag herself away. This time, she’s picked up by a nomadic loner who deposits her at the gates of Comfort, a kind of permanent Burning Man that many of the bad batchers have set up. After a little recuperation and an artificial leg, Arlen sets back out into the desert, seemingly intent on revenge.
I realize that my description might make it sound like things happen in the movie, but that’s mostly an illusion because The Bad Batch is the most utterly boring and completely uneventful film I’ve seen in quite a while. It’s like they took the world of Fury Road, removed any shred of action from it, and plopped in a Spring Breakers-esque drug-fueled rave in the middle of it for no good reason. Everything progresses at an excruciating pace, and it mostly leaves you guessing about what’s going on. There is absolutely no excuse for its two-hour runtime, although maybe a 70-minute version could be tolerable.
I suppose that it’s worth mentioning the other notable people in the film. Jason Momoa and Jayda Fink play a father-daughter pair who are the other major characters in the movie and comprise the only semblance of a plot in the second half of the film. Keanu Reeves is the movie’s James Franco. Jim Carrey is virtually unrecognizable as the desert wanderer, and Giovanni Ribisi is all too recognizable in his role as the village idiot and least necessary character in the film.
Even reading this, it’s hard to reconcile the fact that things actually do happen in the movie with the fact that it is one of the most boring films ever made. Perhaps a much shorter version would have condensed its essence into something worthwhile, but in its current form, it’s just an utter waste of time and energy trying to keep your eyes open.