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BADLANDS vs. NATURAL BORN KILLERS

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I am having a nervous breakdance
I saw Terrence Malick's masterpiece Badlands (1973) again the other night and it struck me that Oliver Stone's Natural Born Killers (1994) is almost a remake of it.

In Badlands the outlaw couple is played by Sissy Spacek (Holly) and Martin Sheen (Kit), and in Natural Born Killers the couple is played by Juliette Lewis (Mallory) and Woody Harrelson (Mickey).

In both films a young girl falls in love with a handsome working class guy who doesn't give a **** about anything or anyone. The girl's dad has some considerable significance in both films and the boy ends up killing the dad and running away with the girl. Then a killing spree follows and in both films the couple seems to be indifferent about all the killings. But in both films there is one murder that doesn't "feel right", that even the couple thinks is wrong. In Badlands it's the killing of Kit's friend from work, Cato, and in Natural Born Killers it's the killing of a native american. The difference between the films is that at this point of Badlands Holly's and the audience sympathy for Kit is decreasing, while in Natural Born Killers the sympathy with Mickey lasts throughout the entire movie. Or is at least meant to last throughout the movie. In Natural Born Killers the female character takes part actively in the killing while in Badlands she more or less just tags along because she's in love with the guy. Mickey and Mallory are being unified by the killings, they are as one, while Kit and Holly are ultimately alienated from each other because of Kit's murderous and cold behaviour. But in both films the murderer/murderers are being treated as celebrity/celebrities even if Stone takes it to the extreme compared to Malick. Where Malick is telling a story, or showing us a story, Stone seems to be wanting the audience to be part of his film, to be part of the audience within the film who is cheering for Mickey and Mallory.

I don't know if this is a known fact, that Oliver Stone, or Quentin Tarantino (who wrote the basic story), had Badlands in mind when they did Natural Born Killers, but I have never thought of it or heard about it before.

There are of course a lot of differences between the movies, they look completely different. But the stories are strikingly similar, wouldn't you agree? And the questions they are raising are pretty similar too, even if Stone is focusing more on media's role then Malick who seem to be more interested in the social and the psychological context. Or something...

What do you think, guys?
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The novelist does not long to see the lion eat grass. He realizes that one and the same God created the wolf and the lamb, then smiled, "seeing that his work was good".

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They had temporarily escaped the factories, the warehouses, the slaughterhouses, the car washes - they'd be back in captivity the next day but
now they were out - they were wild with freedom. They weren't thinking about the slavery of poverty. Or the slavery of welfare and food stamps. The rest of us would be all right until the poor learned how to make atom bombs in their basements.



It is said that Charles Starkweather is indeed the inspiration for the movies Badlands, Natural Born Killers, and Wild at Heart.

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"Today, war is too important to be left to politicians. They have neither the time, the training, nor the inclination for strategic thought. I can no longer sit back and allow Communist infiltration, Communist indoctrination, Communist subversion and the international Communist conspiracy to sap and impurify all of our precious bodily fluids."



I am having a nervous breakdance
Cool. I have never heard of the guy. Just checked him out on the Net. Thanks, Brian...

It's interesting that Malick has tried to make Kit more humane than the real Starkweather who appears to have been a complete evil psycho judging from what I've read about him so far. I have to say though that Badlands is the only film of the ones most often mentioned that is the closest to an actual adaptation from the real life story. Natural Born Killers feels more inspired by Badlands then directly by the life of Charles Starkweather. But I base that on my 15 minutes old knowledge of the man.



I read about Starkweather… he was a James Dean fanatic and blamed the majority of his problems on kids at school teasing him…
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You never know what is enough, until you know what is more than enough.
~William Blake ~

AiSv Nv wa do hi ya do...
(Walk in Peace)




If I remember right, Badlands was a story about him, where the other two were inspired by him.



I am having a nervous breakdance
Yeah, probably.

Anyway, Badlands is a great movie and Malick one of my favourite directors. If he had directed twice as many movies in his career and they were of the same quality as masterpieces Badlands, Days of Heaven and The Thin Red Line, he would have been the favourite director of mine probably.