Reviewed by: Zombie Boy
What's it about
A surly mercenary is tasked to bring a mysterious girl from her Slavic monastery to good old NYC in this Dystopian future epic.
Is it good movie?
Toorop has got problems. He is a mercenary with ethics, a hired killer sick of fighting. So when an old adversary named Gorsky hires him to deliver a hot blonde teenager (and her hot Asian chaperone) to New York City, it seems like a dream come true. He will get lots of money, a clean bill of credit, and something he never dreamed he would have again: a valid US passport. No longer will he have to hide out in New Serbia, on the terrorist rolls in the US, unable to retire to his familial abode in Upstate New York. There is just the slight snag of the seeming supernatural quality of the girl, and all of the people trying to kidnap and/or kill her. What is so important about her, and will any of them the survive the trip?
The good side of a Mathieu Kassovitz film is that he tends to choose complex subject matter, this time Maurice Dentac’s pre-9/11 cyber-religious thriller Babylon Babies. He is also a man who knows how to shoot a film. Every shot is perfectly executed. From the camera angles and movements to all of the nice details on screen. The story is given in images, as any good movie should do. It is never stated that this future is post-apocalyptic, but it certainly ain’t wine and roses. In lieu of a typically post-nuclear war future, this is more one of people losing their faith to technology, losing their souls to automation and pharmaceutical panaceas. The Neolite religion recognizes a spiritual power vacuum, and seeks to fill it through those very same scientific means, which somehow figures in with the girl, Aurora. It is really quite an ingenious plot.
Unfortunately, the bad side to a Kassovitz film is that after setting us up so wonderfully, he takes a giant, steamy dump on the plot. He is candid about his preference for using visuals and action to keep the attention of the audience’s more prurient natures, with the thought that too much cerebellum-stroking will lose them altogether. He is probably correct, but damn him for it anyway. The movie distills the book down to its purest elements…but then leaves them alone and brews up the leftover dregs instead. Vin Diesel is just fine as Toorop, but the script has him make huge leaps in personality with no foreplay. First he is hardened and grizzled, and then he is peace-loving and tender. Huh? Michelle Yeoh’s role is grossly underwritten, and Melanie Thierry as Aurora should be the catalytic character but instead is a lame cipher for the rushed, focus-lacking finale. It is the same thing that happened when Kassovitz helmed The Crimson Rivers. Lots of pomp, but no circumstance.
Video / Audio
Video: I watched a screener, and the only info it gives it that it is widescreen, but I can tell you that the image looks fabulous.
Audio: The English track is in 5.1 Dolby Digital, while the French track is in Dolby Surround Sound. There are also optional English and Spanish subtitles.
Babylon Babies: An interview with the author of the source novel, in which many insights are inadvertently given as to just how much of the story was altered or dropped for the film.
Arctic Escape: A featurette on how the Ski-Doo scene was filmed, with prodigious footage of the Slednecks team who did the work.
Fit for the Screen: A look at the giant set put together for the steel cage match between Toorop and the weird red-haired muscle man.
Hummers in Flight: A look into the last-minute car chase scene…that was subsequently cut from the film.
Prequel to Babylon AD – Genesis of Aurora: Uninteresting animated short that tells us stuff we already knew from watching the film.
Babylon AD Commercials: After a really weird disclaimer about how the footage is not up to 20th Century Fox’s usual standards, there are seven ads presumably seen on television sets during the movie that illuminate the state of the world in the movie better than the actual narrative does.
Deleted Scene – Hummer Sequence: Aforementioned deleted car chase. Funny how there is only one deleted scene included for a film that had nearly an hour cut from it.
Still Galleries: There are quite a few stills from the various locations in the movie, for those of you into that sort of thing.
Trailers: These are trailers from other Fox movies, and not for Babylon AD.
There is also a sneak peak at a forgettable looking movie featuring some wrestler or another. I don’t know. What I do know is that there is a not so inconspicuous lack of the director in all of these special features. I wonder why? (No I don’t).
The word is that Kassovitz took a drubbing from 20th Century Fox, and that they cut his movie to ribbons. Seeing that his initial edit was over two and a half hours long, what the hell did he expect? The guy is an intense filmmaker, but has no idea how to finish up his tales, and frankly, US audiences need more closure than he is willing to provide for them. Watch the movie for the art of it, but expect to be massively frustrated at the end.