Film Corner: Babes with Blades

Babes with Blades

Alright, I'm back and ready to rumble. Or watch movies. Today's movie is called BABES WITH BLADES. Not the most auspicious title, but I remind you that DUDES & DRAGONS was actually surprisingly good and self-aware. "Set on the planet Draiga, this steampunk action film features world-class female martial artists and follows Azura as she tries to save her dying race."

We're going into a flashback. 12 years ago, a girl (it's the martial artist we saw in WARRIORESS and that one movie with the pirates and gargoyles and zombies and dragon wizard!) was... captured? by bad guys? but then escaped and has lived on the streets of Draiga ever since. The problem with movies structured around "An actor who fights! Watch them fight!" is that you still need to put some effort into the other stuff: plot, camera work, dialogue, etc.

This one hasn't had a lot of plot yet, so that's making it hard to really care about the realistic fighting. But our, ah, Babe is fighting a group of... soldiers, I guess? The leader criticizes her as "all aggression, no finesse" and they take her down fairly easily. One of them clips a shock collar to her and I was REALLY WORRIED that sexual assault threats were incoming, but nope! (Yay!) They plan to make her a gladiator.

More flashbacks. It looks like they filmed her capture as a kid but weren't sure where to slot that in, so we just get a lot of flashbacks. An elderly lady with tits jacked up to her chin orders a young man to stomp out insurrectionists. Then she gloats about a pretty glowing vase which, I guess, is the last remaining item from Babe's homeworld. There's some arena games coming up and in the meantime she's using her control over the water supply to discourage rebellion. That's depressingly realistic.

I here pause to wrangle Crisp, who is being unusually bratty today! A pretty man heals our Babe of her wounds in preparation for the arena fight. They talk politics, almost all of which is incomprehensible to me. The elderly evil woman is evil, basically, and additionally shit at planet governance. A group of rebels in steampunk cosplay outfits plan to hit a supply... storage... tree? Supply storage... set? Honestly, it looks like they're raiding the nearest film studio for movie props for THIS movie.

The "arena" looks like a nightclub slash rave location which is empty on account of it being the middle of the day. Elderly Evil Lady is doing her best to channel Dame Judi Dench and I respect her for the effort. Babe's opponent is another woman and they *are* both using swords, so I guess we have an accurate title: Babes are present, and they have blades. I'm honestly unsure about the decision to pair steampunk outfits with Roman shields and swords, but I guess the studio-raiding gods yeeteth and yoinketh away.

It's not an arena match in a bad movie without a thumbs up/down moment. Dame keeps Babe alive for another match, so I guess she wasn't *that* invested in seeing the last Sarnian die. If you're counting, this is now TWICE that our protagonist has lost and been at the mercy of the bad guys. Back at the rebel kitchen slash base of operations, they broodily realize that if there's a REWARD for them, that means someone might TURN THEM IN. This appears to be an entirely new realization for the intrepid steampunk rebels.

In the arena dungeons, the Pretty Boy brings Babe a book of the legends of her people. I guess they were famous warriors, like that Riddick movie or the DBZ Saiyan planet. *groan* "Gravity" is why Babe is "so hard to kill, so fast, so strong"; the Sarnian planet had 2.5 times the gravity of "any other planet" (citation desperately needed) and that makes them naturally good at everything, like Superman. They...can also supposedly bring people back from the dead. Babe is skeptical.

The book has fighting poses, so Babe practices against slow music. Another arena fight. Babe's opponent is fighting with a wooden weapon that looks... like a tiki torch with the torch yanked off? I'm not a steampunk expert, obviously. Babe overpowers her opponent. Evil Elderly Lady gives her a thumbs down, so in a natural gesture of defiance at her evil captor....Babe obediently murders her unresisting opponent. Oh. I know what I want in MY protagonists is unhesitating compliance with evil overlords.

A musical montage of arena fights occurs. We're not actually seeing much in the way of *fighting* which this movie was supposed to be a vehicle for. A cynic might suspect that Babe's opponents might not be real life skilled fighters like she is, thus requiring that the sum of their contribution be scowling close-ups. Babe keeps bloodily killing people each time she's ordered to do so, which I continue to have, you know, ethical issues with.

Evil Elderly Lady wants Babe in prime condition but also to stop getting better; she wants Babe to be entertaining to the people but not a heroine to them; she wants hello and goodbye; she wants light and darkness; she is contradictions wrapped in an enigma. They try to get around this by repeatedly pointing out that the Evil Elderly Lady is indecisive and incompetent and doesn't know what she wants, but that doesn't really make for a compelling villain, nor does it spackle over the many plot holes.

Regardless, her men toss Babe's cell looking for whatever is causing her to get better at fighting the Sarnian way. Babe beats everyone to a mewling pulp, etc. The whole rebel subplot feels like a whole different movie that got spliced into this one. Evil Elderly Lady would like Babe the Sarnian to be killed, so she imports an exiled gladiator who was the best of the best, etc., and who has presumably somehow managed to keep in peak top condition whilst working the Frowny Face Mines or wherever she's been.

Babe escapes her cell to tell her competition that they should make this a fight to remember. There are apparently no repercussions for this. Nice to see she's rebellious when the cause is ineffectual and pointless. Ah, here's where the actual fighting is. The two women are sisters in captivity, slaves to the same oppressive regime, beloved by the crowd, and respect each other. They pretend to beat each other senseless but it is a RUSE so they can BEAT UP A SOLITARY GUARD. Please pretend we had budget for more soldiers, please.

Ah! The shock collars no longer work because Pretty Boy--local medic and electrician--disabled the collars. I'm actually REALLY relieved that the two women are working together because Dahlia is a woman of color and Babe is white and I really did not want to watch Babe brutally kill her the way she has literally every other opponent. They beat up a lot of unnamed NPCs and escape to a safe place, with Evil Elderly Lady getting away. We're only halfway through the movie, you see.

Pretty Boy and Dahlia don't know how to find the Rebels, but apparently that's not a problem because they're going to contact Babe for... reasons? Smash cut to the next scene where they're all together. That was, uhh, easy. The rebels chastise Babe and Dahlia for escaping their gladiatorial slavery, which has only caused the guards to double-down on their searches. Grand freedom fighters, these children are. Babe offers to help them on the grounds that she plans to kill Evil Elderly Lady. "Your personal vendetta has nothing to do with us," sneers one of the rebel girls, demonstrating that she doesn't understand what rebellion is.

Thirty seconds after Babe and Dahlia leave, soldiers storm in and kill the rebels. Babe and Dahlia return in time to fight the soldiers but not in time to save the rebels. Bad luck, is what that is. Babe and Dahlia fail to KILL the soldiers, so they all stand up and march after Babe, Dahlia, and the one remaining Rebel Survivor. That's bad planning right there. Oh my gosh, Dahlia is now calling Babe out for not killing the lead soldier. Babe says she couldn't because "some part of her" recognizes him. Bets on him being a Sarnian working for the enemy?

The rebel has a machine that will help in... some way, but it needs a power source--which is of course the fancy Sarnian artifact seen in a previous scene. Babe is like well, we can pick it up on the way out from killing Evil Elderly Lady. Rebel is now *against* having Evil Elderly Lady killed because that would stir up the soldiers. I... don't even know what to say about that. Evil Elderly Lady is suffering from similar indecision; she previously wanted Babe dead but now wants her captured alive. Probable Sarnian Boy tells her that's a terrible idea, so EEL holds up a syringe and says he needs more clarity. Oh yeah, he's gonna be a brainwashed Sarnian.

Rebel + Babe + Dahlia sneak into the Evil Base. They meet surprisingly little resistance given that there's three of them and an army of the other. The bad guys have steampunk guns now. Why? Bad movies keep doing this and I really must protest! You cannot introduce guns a full hour into your movie! Babe remembers Probable Sarnian Dude and they're conveniently best childhood friends. She gets herself knocked out and captured. Now we're at... four? five? times that Babe has been at the total mercy of her captors. I feel like a villain who fails *this many times* to kill the hero is not a villain worth their salt.

Evil Elderly Lady is explaining why Sarnian Babe is "so hard to defeat" and I laughed out loud. You've captured her a dozen times! The lights go out and Babe escapes with the help of Dahlia, who apparently is strong enough to take on an ENTIRE ARMY? Sure, okay, why not. Why isn't this movie about Dahlia, honestly I swear to fucking god. They're going BACK to the enemy base to try AGAIN to kill the Evil Elderly Lady, and I feel there's an opportunity here for, like, a rebel taxi cab. They go often enough.

Brainwashed Sarnian Dude meets them at the entrance and swears he's on their side and the Idealistic Rebel Girl argues for an eternity that he needs to be killed because....ideals? I feel like everyone keeps switching character motivations with everyone else, like some kind of game I can't follow. How will they resolve the ongoing tension between Rebel Girl and Brainwashed Dude, I wond-- oh, she's wounded and has to be left behind. I guess it doesn't matter anymore. Wow, he went a whole minute before turning out to be evil.

It's not a great sign for a movie when I'm watching the protagonist being drowned and all I can think is "if she dies, can I go to the bathroom?" Oh no. The resurrection thing. Brainwashed Dude is good again, after the rare double-double-cross. They walk the shores of their ancestral beach planet. He, in a glowing white ren faire shirt; she in a clubbing dress that only barely covers her asscrack. They set a glowing flower on the ocean and smile. I supposed they're going to Adam and Eve it up? I don't see how else they're going to restore and repopulate their planet like they want. They're the actual goshdang last of their people.

That was really quite awful and--no offense to this woman who is no doubt an excellent fighter, but--I would like to not see any more of her movies. She always plays basically the same character, and doesn't seem to have a lot of range. Nobody bothered to explain how Planetary Gravity would give people resurrection powers.


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