Sunday, May 25, 2014

Branded (2012)

One thing I like about Netflix is that I can stream a decent selection of movies.  They may not be the best movies, but I do occasionally find one I like.  While browsing streaming movies, I found Branded.  It looked similar to They Live, which it is.  I figured I’d give it a try and see what they did with the concept.

For those that haven’t heard of either movie, Branded is about Misha, played by Ed Stoppard.  He’s a Russian who knows how to market stuff.  He goes from the employee of a street vendor to working with Bob Gibbons, played by Jeffrey Tambor, advertising American brands in Russia.  Bob is constantly stringing Misha along with the possibility of a promotion which never happens.  When Bob’s niece, Abby, arrives in town, Misha takes a liking to her, despite Bob’s objections.

Meanwhile, various fast-food companies are having trouble staying in business.  They hire a marketing guru (listed on IMDb as Marketing Guru) to turn sales around.  Marketing Guru can do this, but they have to be wiling to go all the way.  One thing leads to another and Misha is working on a reality TV show that’s using modern science to make an overweight woman thinner and more beautiful.  Things go horribly wrong and Misha blames himself.

Unfortunately, so does everyone else. Misha is arrested and Abby is told to leave the country.  He’s released, but he doesn’t feel he can go back to advertising.  Thus, Misha takes to tending cows.  Abby finds her way back to Russia six years later to find Misha and his herd, hoping to convince him to rejoin society.  During this visit, he has a dream that leads him to make a ritual sacrifice of a cow.

Just like Nada finding the glasses in They Live, Misha can now see things as they really are.   This is where the strange blobs on the cover come in.  People have all sorts of blobs attached to them.  The blobs seem to be associated with the various fast-food brands.  Fast Food has taken over and it’s up to Misha to fix that.

Having read about the movie, I was thinking it would all be about Misha fighting the blobs.  Instead, the cow ceremony came about halfway through the movie.  Misha goes through a few ups and downs throughout the story.  I’ve also seen one of the coming attractions, which can be misleading.  The coming attractions would have reinforced my belief in the structure of the story.  I can understand a lot of people feeling misled.

I also caught a hint of a Devil/Jesus dynamic going on between Marketing Guru and Misha.  Marketing Guru wants to lead people astray and give them an unhealthy lifestyle, basically leading them astray.  Misha is essentially crucified by the media, condemned by the police and goes away, only to come back to redeem society.  The two of them have to battle it out for the sake of humanity, or at least Moscow.

I was able to enjoy the movie, but it seemed odd.  It’s hard to say that there was a clear message.  Yes, I get that it’s supposed to be anti-corporate and anti-advertising.  The message didn’t seem to really sink it.  Part of this is that it took so long for Misha to start fighting the corporations.  Also, Misha doesn’t fight Marketing Guru directly.  He’s not fighting a single bad guy.

Instead, he’s trying to pit the various corporations against each other.  It’s not really explained what the creatures are.  We just know that they’re feeding off of humanity somehow and must be stopped.  There didn’t seem to be any sort of emotional connection to Misha and his battle.

I can’t even think of who I’d recommend this movie to.  It would have been interesting, though, to have watched it with someone so that we could have discussed it.  I think more of the movie would have made sense that way.  Even though this isn’t your typical Hollywood movie, I think it would be funny to have this presented on broadcast television sponsored by a fast-food company.

Branded - Trailer

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