Babylon A.D. DVD: Review By Dodd

The way I wrote this review is not, in my opinion, a butchering of the film. Babylon A.D. really is this sloppily organized.
  • Feature
  • Picture
  • Sound
  • Extras
  • Replay Value
I suppose the number of extras is generous.
I think the review of the film speaks for itself.
I think it was a surprise to audiences and producers alike that Fast and Furious (all they had to do was omit "the", get it?) broke box office records last weekend. Since the success of the original THE Fast and THE Furious, the series has taken a nosedive with only modest successes from 2 Fast 2 Furious and Tokyo Drift. Not only does the success of the recent sequel mean that we will be seeing another numb movie about racing, but we will also be seeing more of a revival from Vin Diesel. This is not to say that the gruff actor needed a comeback, but he did release a little film last Fall that potentially scarred his career. I had the fortune of finally viewing Babylon A.D. for the first time, and I can't help but wonder just how appealing some of these turkeys are to actors when they first receive the script only to cringe at the final product.

The film begins many decades into the future in Serbia where Toorop (Vin Diesel) survives as an independent mercenary who does odd jobs for criminals. The future world is saturated with violence and warfare, but the film never spares us the details on how we got this way. Instead it focuses on Toorop living in these conditions. We also do not know much about loner Toorop except that, like Sly Stallone in The Specialist or Mark Wahlberg in Shooter, he is the best at what he does. So much that random enemies blow up his apartment to take him out. Toorop is offered a job by a crime kingpin (Gerard Depardieu) to transport an attractive, young girl named Aurora (Melanie Thierry) to New York City. Like Jason Statham in The Transporter (I could make these comparisons all day), Toorop picks up his delivery package at a monastery with her mentor Sister Rebeka (Michelle Yeo) in tow and they set out for NYC.

Wait, not so fast. Aurora is a seemingly easy transport and thick-thinned Toorop has adamantly decided to not sympathize with his jobs. However, there is something special about Aurora. Special in the same sort of way that Milla Jovavich was in The Fifth Element (man, this thing is a buffet of "been there, done that"). Aurora is so special that a group of hoodlums that crawl like wolves when they travel (?) try to steal her from Toorop's watchful eye. She is also so special that a mysterious priestess in New York City (Charlotte Rampling) will do whatever it takes to to obtain Aurora for cultish or religious purposes. Let's just hope that Aurora's half-cyborg, crippled father (who is technically not really her father) will come to the rescue.

Confused? You have every right to be. The way I wrote this review is not, in my opinion, a butchering of the film. Babylon A.D. really is this sloppily organized. This is not always a bad thing. When I saw Darren Aronofsky's The Fountain, all I wanted to do was watch it again to make more sense of its enigmatic storyline. With Babylon A.D., I am confused and I really do not care to revisit the movie for answers. Considering that director Mathieu Kassovitz supposedly disowned the project prior to its release, I am pretty sure the filmmakers have no idea what the hell is going on either. The movie is a hodgepodge of science fiction cliches rolled into a finished product, but the pieces do not fit together. It is an apocalyptic future that involves a girl with some sort of secret power that could end the world. We also get people who are part cyborgs and some sort of murderous religion that only made me think of Scientology. There are a lot of science fiction elements present just for the sake of trying to define this as a science fiction movie. But when these things do not seem to serve a purpose, I refer to it as vomit rather than a successful product.

One cannot help but laugh at the actors involved here. Vin Diesel's presence is not a huge surprise. I realize audiences love Diesel and the $72 million made from Fast and Furious is financial proof. But I honestly fail to join the crowd who thinks this guy is so wonderful. Under the right direction (Find Me Guilty) he has proven he can act, but it seems so much easier for him to speak in the same, flat tone without ever showing range or emotion. What we get from Diesel is pretty much what I think people expect from Diesel in this film, and whether or not this is a good thing or a bad thing is up to the viewer. Aside form Diesel, we get screen veterans Gerard Depradieu and Charlotte Rampling in small, villainous roles. We also get martial arts staple Michelle Yeo planting the occasional kick to someone's face during sleep-inducing action sequences.
I find it frustrating after reviewing a handful of terrific films with minimal special features that this one actually has a pretty decent selection. The first specific doc, Babylon Babies, discusses the adaptation of the book, titled Babylon Babies, into the film. Author Maurice Dantec is interviewed for the piece and expresses satisfaction in the script when he read it. I wonder if he saw the film. The next three doc*mentaries could have been merged into one as they all relate to action sequences in the film. One refers to the preparation for a snowmobiling sequence, another follows the fight sequences, and the final reviews the use of Hummers in the film. And, as a desperate attempt to explain the parts of the film that do not make sense, there is a 5-minute, animated prequel short that explains the birth of Aurora's character.
Widescreen. There is nothing terribly wrong with the direction of this movie. The look is not as bad as the organization of the film.
5.1 Dolby. With the exception of a hardcore opening credit song from RZA, the sound here is not the most memorable.
As I received a screener disc in an envelope, I have no comment here. The actual DVD supposedly has 2 discs, but I wouldn't know anything about that now would I?
I was reading that director Mathieu Kassovitz was very upset with Fox Studios over the final cut, and that over an hour of footage was cut from this movie to give it short runtime. Perhaps that is why Babylon A.D. is a jumble of incomprehensible nonsense. It is times like these that I hope the director's cut does see the light of day. With an explanation here and a development there, this could have been at least a decent project. Of course, Vin Diesel showing range would help too. But the fact of the matter is that this is the studio version. There is no commentary track from the filmmaker and the special features try to build the film up as extravagant. In summary: it stinks.

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Comments (4)

  1. Shelley

    Great review, but I thought it was more of a 3 star movie.

    6 years agoby @shelleyFlag

  2. ed_wood

    I liked it alot.

    6 years agoby @ed-woodFlag

  3. 313td

    Good review,I didn't think it was that bad.

    6 years agoby @313tdFlag

  4. Fallenlords

    It is a shame there was no directors cut included on this release. This film did have possibilities, but was very much a let down on all fronts. But with an hour of missing footage it makes you wonder if the studio did butcher the film or made the best of a bad lot. I would like to think the former is the case but I have a feeling I might be clutching at straws. Have to wait and see.

    6 years agoby @fallenlordsFlag