Thursday, March 12, 2009

Me Mini Movie Reviews: Babylon A.D.

This is a frustrating movie to review. On my first watch through the uncut version I rented, I thoroughly enjoyed it. However, knowing what I do about the troubled production, it sure leaves me wondering just how much better that three hour cut by the director is and wish yet again that Fox studios would leave movies alone.

The sci-fi story is set in the not too distant future that is probably a ‘pre’ post-apocalyptic. It definitely has a Blade Runner feel crossed with Children of Men and the look of this future is very cool. We join the story following a mercenary Toorop (Vin Diesel in an excellent performance) getting an offer he can’t refuse to transport and deliver a girl, Aurora (Melanie Thierry) from war ravaged Serbia to New York City. He picks her up at a monastery and reluctantly has to take her guardian Sister Rebeka (Michelle Yeoh) along too. From there it’s a tension fraught fight or flight run to the border and Toorop begins to find out there’s more to this mission than just delivering a package. Choices will have to be made, and they won’t be easy.

The movie is very well paced and the action scenes well done. There’s a bit too much quick editing in the fight scenes, but it’s certainly watchable. Some of the best parts are the futuristic cinematography as we travel through war torn Russia, the snow covered Arctic, and into the glitzy New York cityscape. It’s not so far into the future that you have flying cars and such, it’s just a well done, believable version of the not too distant future. The actors all give excellent performances that change as the movie progresses, from Vin Diesel as the hopeless cynic to having a reason to fight, and Thierry as the naive young girl seeing the world for the first time and adjusting to it’s horrors.

But this is where that frustration kicks in. As much as I really liked this movie, there are deeper themes being presented here that don’t get the chance to play out. Human manipulation of mankind, religion, God, Artificial Intelligence, power, love, etc, all get touched on but not explored. Apparently the book it’s based on, Babylon Babies, is a 500 page thinker and I believe the director had a lot more he wished to address here than just a futuristic action movie. The director, Mathieu Kassovitz, has already stated in interviews he won’t work with Fox again as they consistently meddled in the entire production resulting in what he called “a bad episode of 24.” (Quote of the year?) I don’t think the end result is that bad. However, from what I gather the theatrical release was a complete mess, but the 15 minutes added back in to the “uncut” version makes for at least a comprehensible story, if short on depth.

This is a case of where all my internet movie reading is a double edged sword. I was sold on the movie from the trailer (which gives away a pivotal moment, so don’t watch that if you intend on watching the movie), but reading about the production troubles saved me spending 10 bucks at the theatre for a cut to bits version. Having watched the “uncut” version though, I really wonder what’s on the cutting room floor and hope someday we get a true Director’s Cut. If not, well there’s just one more reason among many for me to hate Fox Studios.

Verdict: Worth a rental - get the Raw & Uncut version only though, NOT the theatrical version. Good action, impressive visuals, and interesting but underdeveloped sci-fi themes.

Comments on "Me Mini Movie Reviews: Babylon A.D."


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (March 12, 2009 8:07 PM) : 

Thanks for the movie review! I always look forward to these.

I don't know if you've seen Haiku Tunnel, but that girl's name made me chuckle.


It's too bad that Fox is continuing to add to their bad reputation. It makes you wonder why Joss Whedon is taking another chance with them for Dollhouse.

But even so, a 3 hour movie in the theatre is a rare event for a reason. I wonder how many people would sit through that for a sci-fi flick.

Do you think that it would have been possible to improve the movie while still fitting in a 2 hour target?

- originallru


Blogger Eaglewing said ... (March 13, 2009 4:43 AM) : 

LRU: Not familiar with Haiku Tunnel, but in this case the name is more about the Northern Lights.

Don't know what's up with Fox, but they have a long list of meddling with good things. Don't know why Whedon would go back to them, unless they were the only studio offering a deal. It all comes down to money I guess, and that probably had to do with the massive cutting they did to the movie. Fox probably wanted a 90 minute Vin Diesel action flick they could play a lot and make money on, but the director and Vin probably were making more of a sci-fi piece and lost the battle to the money guys.

Since the 15 minutes they put back in brought it up to 1hr 41 min run time and made it watchable, I'm sure another 20 minutes could have been added to bring it to a much better 2 hour run time. Oh well, still a decent movie and we can only hope for a directors cut someday.


Anonymous Marina said ... (March 17, 2009 7:18 PM) : 

I share your frustration with this film and would love to see the ultimate director's cut with everything intended back in there because I think there's a good movie to be seen. Sadly, that'll likely never happen OR it'll come along in 10 years' time.


Blogger pantucciworld said ... (October 26, 2009 8:13 PM) : 

I think this movie had the chance to be good, but wasted it. I liked the look of the film, but the actions sequences are too choppy. They should have let Michelle Yeoh have some good fight scenes, instead of a few lame karate chops. They shouldn't even have tried for a plot if they couldn't carry it through. The snowmobile chase was kind of cheesy though. Watchable on cable, but I wouldn't pay to see it!


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