I waited patiently for the premiere of Into the Badlands. I got sucked in by their fancy fight scene trailers, and I was not disappointed. We saw the first fight BEFORE the opening credits! AMC has done pretty well with this and I think they have a winner. A whole world has been built; you can find out more about it here.The cinematography isn’t as expansive as I thought it would be, but still pretty to look at. The fight scenes weren’t as many as I expected either, but there was a lot more action that I thought there would be. Well choreographed, well danced, and all around lots of fun to look at. The artsy backgrounds behind the opening credits are simple and clean, and also very pretty to look at.
This is an engaging story of a slave who is trying to break away from his master. It’s also the story of a boy who wants to go home. These two stories are one and the same, tied together by their desire to be away from where they are and live free. The story of “a world built on blood.”
In this world of post-catastrophic calamities and survival, a society has formed. It seems to be backwards, though – society appears to have reverted to a feudal state of governance, where the rich become Barons, the strong become Clippers, and most others are Cogs. If you’re a Cog, you serve or you die. Then there are the Nomads – they hire out as killers, bounty hunters, whatever. They appear to have no loyalties beyond the duration of their contract.
Life in this world depends on not breaking the system, because the consequence for every infraction seems to be death.
Sunny is a Clipper – an indentured mercenary slave bound to an owner. He works for the opium-addicted Baron named Quinn, who takes in people and basically uses them as indentured sevants… or slaves. He feeds, clothes and houses them and they work in the poppy fields for him. He selects boys to train up to be Clippers, and thus builds his army and his network of enforcers. The Clippers get the best of everything, and are well cared for. The highest ranking Clipper is Regent. Sunny is Quinn’s Regent.
He’s sent to recover a hijacked transport of Cogs. He finds the transport, and all its human cargo dead – except for one. Finding the Nomad’s camp, he asks questions. A confrontation starts over the contents of a trunk that they have. This confrontation escalates into an awesome, fun fight scene – well choreographed, beautifully danced by the actors and stunt folk, and just the right amount of bone-snapping “ooooowww lookatdat! No – wait, don’t look!” camera angles to make us want to believe that yes, he did just totally dislocate and nearly rip that guy’s arm off.
When all the Nomads are bent and broken on the ground, Sunny breaks the lock on the trunk. M.K. jumps out, and tries to run. Sunny takes him down with well-aimed bolas, and the fall knocks the kid unconscious.
Back at the spot where the hijacked transport wrecked, Sonny has started burying the dead. M.K. comes to, and immediately starts being a pain in the ass. Sonny takes him to the Baron’s opium farm, known as The Fort. There, M.K. is put in with other young men who are vying for a chance to become a Colt – one of those chosen to train to be Clippers. It’s the only path they know to a better life.
Quinn’s son Ryder approaches and demands to know why they haven’t made a move on the Widow or any of the other Barons yet. Sunny advises that would be a bad move, considering Quinn’s life, as well as his property, would be at stake if it came down to a battle of the Barons. “Just because you murdered her husband, doesn’t make her a Baron,” says Quinn to Ryder.
Quinn has Sunny put M.K. into the pit with the other boys, where he is immediately accosted and robbed of his medallion. He tries to take it back, and ends up getting into a fight. Sunny breaks it up and confiscates the medallion. Ryder finds Sunny and tries to talk him into changing his point of view and convincing his father to strike the first blow among the Barons in this power play. Sunny reminds Ryder that he will always protect the Baron. Ryder confiscates the medallion from Sunny.
Later on, Sunny walks in on a fight between M.K. and the kid from the pit, in the shower room. The kid punches M.K. in the jaw, bloodying his lip. At the sight of his own blood, M.K. somehow instantly becomes the perfectly trained fighter. Sunny watches as he powerkicks the other kid across the room into a mirror. A piece of the glass flies up towards M.K, who catches it automatically and lashes it back into the other kid’s eye. Sunny must find out how this happened. Sonny learns that M.K. and his mother were on their way to some doctor to cure him of this problem when they were separated. “So this is why the Widow wants you,” Sunny concludes.
That night, M.K. tries to go after the Baron’s son to recover his property – the medallion with an emblem of his city on it. He is caught, and thrown in shackles to prevent him from running. He shambles over to a fire where Sunny is sitting, and asks him to find his mother and tell her that he tried to find her. “Tell her I love her,” he says. Sonny says he cannot make that promise. Cutting through M.K.’s shackles with his sword, Sunny shows him a way out, down a hole and through tunnels. He warns the kid. “Don’t get caught – you will be killed.”
Having left M.K. to his rabbit hole, Sunny is summoned to see the Baron. The Baron wants to move Sunny closer to the main house – ostensibly for a better defense, since the Baron suspects that the Widow is coming for him. There is also the possibility that there may be other Barons waiting for an opportunity to strike, and he wants Sunny close. Or so he says. But the Baron has been seeing things that make him question where the loyalties of his people are, and Sunny is no exception. The most dangerous of all Quinn’s people, he wants to keep a closer eye on Sunny.
There is a lot of drama to connect the characters and bring a cohesive storyline to life. One of the Baron’s wives (the mother of his only son) is trying to make sure that her son will inherit what she feels is rightfully his (and hers.) Sunny’s girlfriend has just told him that she is pregnant. He reminds her that she can’t keep the baby, since she is just as much a slave as he is they aren’t allowed to marry or be in an exclusive relationship. She tries to talk him into running away with her – away from the Badlands, away with their baby. He seems to consider it, though his words don’t agree with the idea.
I’m still not sure why the Widow wants M.K., beyond his ability that kicks in with the whole blood thing. But she wants him pretty badly, she paid to have him tracked. Sonny runs into her in town – he killed off her Clippers. She demands the return of the boy. He says he can’t do that. She questions his blind loyalty to Quinn for the wrong reasons. “Let me know if you change your mind,” she says as she leaves.
I’m hoping we see more of her next week, and maybe find out what the deal is with this kid and why everyone is fighting over him.