No, you're not alone.
How is that film superior to Badlands?
I know that it's sincere on Malick's part but producers and marketers take advantage of it for promotional purposes, just like Thomas Pynchon's stuff. Malick is extremely overhyped and there was absolutely nothing profound in either The Thin Red Line or The Tree of Life. Haven't watched To The Wonder but judging by the reviews I've read it's more of the same, only worse which means it's getting harder and harder to disguise his "poetic", pseudo-philosophical bullshit.
I don't see this quite the same way. Seems like Malick was making an introspection flick with Tree of Life, being aware that he doesn't know the answers to life's ambiguity, and that the scenes are meant to evoke the viewer's own interpretation of the imagery on screen. The basis of Tree of Life is almost an aknowledgment of Brahman, an embrace of nature, sequential events meant to underline the fact that we are part of a phenomena far beyond our comprehension. In that it's almost an ego-quelling emotional journey depending on how you go into it, and the Director's personal interpretation being almost inconsequential.
Godfrey Reggio did that with Koyaanisqatsi
in the 80's, though Malick's thing is a bit more contemporary and aimed at a broader audience. He also seems to inject some of his own personal experiences while hitting on dogmatic themes like the existance of God (though could be metaphorical) and the Dinosaurs age, so with that I can see where one would write it off as pseudo-philosophical wank. You can't make a movie like this without bordering on some form of pretension, but I think the movie was much more of a visual abstraction than say; Linklater's Waking Life
where the Director read a few books and made an attempt to educate his audience through random anecdotes in a rotoscoped dream sequence. Tree of Life sortof distinguishes itself from the movies before it by introducing a human narrative with the O'Briens, that's obviously a problem to some but also helps others relate to the movie on a more intimate level. For what Malick tried to accomplish, I think he did it well.
Can't speak on his last flick since I didn't see it. Don't really care for Malick's work personally, but I like the direction he's taken even if it's been done better elsewhere imo.