It's been a long time coming, but loyal readers will know of a feature that I used to run here at examiner.com called "So Bad, It's Good" where we highlight the unique skill it takes to make a film that is truly & memorably terrible and judge it accordingly. The feature has been dark quite simply because I haven't come across a film that qualified, until now that is. Available now, let's get "Branded".
"Branded" is a dark and mind-bending journey into a surreal, dystopian society where corporate brands have unleashed a monstrous global conspiracy to get inside our minds and keep the population disillusioned, dependent and passive. One man’s passion to unlock the truth behind the conspiracy will lead to an epic battle with the hidden forces that really control our world.
I won't lie, there is actually a good idea inside of "Branded" as it spins the idea of marketing and brand labels and morphs into a sci-fi, creature feature. That being said the execution of everything from the script, to the pacing of the narrative all the way to the editing and visual effects were so terrible. It starts off terribly slow as the first act of the story is actually the first half of the film and along with some terribly forced and awkward narration at some very odd places we work through the set up which takes an interminable amount of time. It's laughable as a series of disjointed set ups in the first act unfold as the audience barely knows what is going on in a film that borrows directly from a fair number of reality show stereotypes. As the story moves on, we get some thread bare payoffs that include some awkward cattle farming and visions of ritual sacrifice as we speed towards a third act that takes itself dead seriously while looking so very ridiculous.
The visual effects and creatures that we see affecting people minds simply look like rough animations and are beyond terrible and when our hero discovers the way to fight back against these strange creatures is where the film goes entirely off the rails, as themes of globalization and social protest come up along with one of the most peculiar ways of dispatching a villain that we hardly ever see in the first place. All of this happens with a dead serious tone, and that is what is actually so hilarious about it, it takes a special talent to remain that deadpan in the face of some ridiculous material.
Both stars Ed Stoppard and Leelee Sobieski play the material dead seriously as the spout some dialogue that is incredibly awkward at times. Jeffrey Tambor shows up as a veteran super spy for some reason and only Max Von Sydow who we barely see gets to appropriately ham it up when necessary.
With "Branded" we get a film that in spite of a reasonably solid idea, is so poorly conceived and executed that it is actually kind of spectacular to watch once it gets going.
On the "So Bad, It's Good" scale "Branded" is easily a 4 out of 5 stars.
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