This sci-fi action flick staring Vin Diesel is a not really good, but not really bad film that has a couple interesting ideas that just didn’t gel together and feels under explained and missing scenes from time to time.
Toorop (Vin Diesel) is a mercenary living somewhere in future central Asia in a bombed out apartment complex when a fellow so called “mercenary” shows up on his door step. Gorsky is this guy’s name, and he hires Toorop to deliver a girl to NYC where Toorop is labeled as a terrorist, for reasons we never really find out, but gives him a new identity/passport to get into the country. Toorop is than whisked away to a convent where a sister of the temple meets him, Sister Rebeka, who informs him that she will be joining their journey while also laying down the ground rules for the girl, Aurora (Mélanie Thierry). A mysterious and kind of odd character, Aurora, is quite the mystery to Toorop; he can’t quite figure out why she is so important. Either way, he is getting paid, and he has a job to do and he begins to lead the trio on there way to the Bering Strait and into North America. Along the way we discover the world has gone through a lot of trials and tribulations, nuclear attacks, biological bombs, and cloning is a common practice.
The film is full of cool little ideas here and there, and director Mathieu Kassovitz does a fine job of shooting the picture as well. The films image of the disheveled future though doesn’t seem terribly fresh or new at all, and has been done better in past films. One of the things that hurt the film is that it is so cryptic to what exactly happened to get the world to where it is now. Religious overtones are thrown around, obviously there has been fighting and terrorist activity, but I never found myself with a clear idea or reason why the world is the way it is. On top of this, the film starts to become rather disjointed after the first thirty minutes or so, and the narrative gets really choppy and jumps from place to place. Also, the characters bonding and closeness seems unbelievable and simply happening for the sake of it needing to happen. They also throw in a potential love plot completely out of leftfield that goes complete against what the film had been previously setting up among these people. To add to this, Aurora has something going on with her, and while an eventual explanation explains part of it, it doesn’t quite make sense at the same time. The film also tries to throw a pair of characters at us in the final twenty minutes or so that are now the focal point of everything and it again feels forced and not quite right.
The script for the film is also fairly weak, with a lot of the intended humor falling short, and you get the sense that the writers thought this story was a lot cooler than it really is. But you know what, this could have been cool but, it just doesn’t come together to be anything more than mediocre. I will say this though, apparently the studio interfered quite a bit with this picture, intended to be an R-rated brooding sci-fi pic, it was mangled into a PG-13 concoction designed for maximum profits by the loathed Fox studio heads. The home video release restores some of the director’s vision apparently, but I hear there is an even longer more explained version of the flick out there, and I wouldn’t be apposed to checking that out some time. Also, one last thing, what the hell was up with the parkour gang that is completely lame and run around like a pack of dogs, I mean, what the fuck was that?
The actors in this film also unfortunately fail to elevate the picture to another level as well. And again, like the film as a whole, no one is really bad but no one is really good either. Diesel does an alright job as the pretty one note Toorop, though Diesel doesn’t show very good range in the later part of the film when he needs it. Michelle Yeoh as the Sister is alright as well, though I wish we would have gotten to see more kung fu action out of her, especially after the set it up with the whole, “I don’t need a gun” line (and she ends up using a gun in the end, what the hell). Mélanie Thierry is kind of a mixed bag in that I don’t know if she is to blame or the director for the bit to hammy and over the top nature of her character’s freak outs, either way, I wasn’t buying it. Also, Mark Strong is completely wasted in this film, but hopefully after his hot streak at the end of 08 will keep him out of stuff like this from here on out.
In the end, Babylon A.D. is not the worst thing of the year by any means, but it is fairly forgettable fair. They tinkered with some decent ideas, but failed to really execute them in the end. The films choppy narrative and average acting don’t help its cause either, but they don’t ruin the picture. If you are a sci-fi fan it is worth catching on cable I guess, but unless you really want to see it or are a big Diesel fan there shouldn’t be a rush to see this thing.