Break the code. Take back your mind.
BRANDED (2012) is a dystopian mystery/drama co-written and directed by Aleksandr Dulerayn and Jamie Bradshaw. As much as I refused to listen or read other critics’ reviews of this film, something in the back of my mind kept telling me that Branded couldn’t possibly be that bad. Unfortunately, it is. But before I get into that, I will admit that the concept for this film is brilliant, and it would have made for an interesting dystopian thriller, had there been an extra hand in writing the script–or in the hands of another director. The filmmakers seem to have had a tough time summarizing the film’s synopsis or plot into a viable feature. This delusional movie had to have made those working in advertising squirm at the initial concept phase, perhaps thinking that the real truth about advertising was going to be front and center for all the world to see on the big screen. At least that’s what the advertising executives might have thought before actually seeing the film. So no worries there.
Imagine a lightning bolt struck a young boy sent from the heavens by a cow constellation granting him, later in life, the ability to dominate in the advertising world. Now, imagine, again, that the same cow star thingy visits him again as a man (Ed Stoppard) in a dream to tell him that he will allow him to see the advertising world for what it is–if he slaughtered/sacrificed “the red cow” and burn it to hell. After doing that, he had to take handfuls of the ashes of the burned cow, place the ashes in water, and douse himself in it. After that, he was able to see these massive gelatinous demons that live on the back of consumers’ (people’s) necks and swell up, like a balloon whenever it wanted to eat a big, sloppy hamburger. No, kidding.
Lest I forget that the film is also a love story; Abby Gibbons (Leelee Sobieski) is Misha’s (Stoppard) love interest and does nothing to make this movie any more enjoyable. Jeffrey Tambor as Bob Gibbons–a manipulative corporate advertising executive does nothing more than getting in the way. His brief role in the film was wasted screen time. Lest we forget, Max von Sydow is the marketing guru, responsible for starting the advertising war of brand creatures. Sydow also made brief appearances in the film as well, all without added significance.
I must say this again–the concept for this movie is brilliant. I did enjoy watching the special effects, the monsters, and checking out the ads spread all over Moscow. It is unmistakable that we are all subconsciously affected by media advertising. There is no denying that. The film does attempt, unsuccessfully, to lift the veil of human over-consumption and brand manipulation. There is some real truth to the movie’s message–but it failed on delivery.
It could have been so much more.
Such a pity.