Vin Diesel stars as Toorop, a hardened loner of a mercenary whose latest mission is to escort a mysterious young woman from a convent in Russia to America (where he is listed as a terrorist), although like so much of the rest of the movie, we never learn why. Michelle Yeoh comes across as a bizarre casting decision for a bizarre character. She plays Sister Rebekah, Aurora's guardian. This woman I just don't get. She's Chinese and plays a kung-fu fighting nun in Russia.
She and Toorop have an immediate power struggle, and then during the mission Aurora exhibits more and more strange powers and abilities. She can feel other people's pain, she can operate old submarines, and can predict the future. The rest of the movie is basically Toorop's mission to get her to New York alive, avoiding the mysterious figures pursuing her for their own agenda, and figure out what's wrong with her along the way.
The movie moves along from one on-location set piece to the next, with action scenes and fights popping up out of nowhere and then wrapping up nicely as our heroes rush off screen to the next set. But I would argue that at least most of the action is fun along the way.
Unfortunately, I happened to have learned before watching the movie that a 160-minute version would be released in Europe, compared to the 90-minute version I just saw, and let me tell you, you can really feel the blank spots. There is, for example, a major, major plot development revealed in the third act of the movie that is so bizarre that it's almost like someone slipped in a page from a completely different movie. It comes from nowhere and goes nowhere, and adds nothing to the movie except provides a spot to slide in the ending, which leaves you with the feeling that the writer was hit by a truck or they ran out of money or just lost interest. The end is so sudden and so witless that the movie immediately transformed in my mind into an endless maze of loose ends and confusion.
There is a brief scene in the movie where Sister Rebekah explains hers and Aurora's history to Toorop, but it doesn't explain anything and doesn't really matter anyway, because the story is so clearly just a backdrop to the futuristic landscapes and the cookie cutter fight scenes, many of which are hilarious in their badness. There is one scene, for example, where the trio outrun not only a couple of what look like futuristic Stealth bombers, but also their missiles, and they do it on snowmobiles!
I don't think we ever learn the exact time period, but the futuristic element of the film is badly incoherent. New York City is jam-packed with neon advertisement, fold-out road maps are like Google Maps on paper and touch sensitive, and taxis have scrolling message boards on their sides, but Coke Zero is still around and advertising on passenger jets and the bad guys drive vintage, mint-condition 2008 Range Rovers. They must really like classic cars.
I have to say that Babylon A.D. left me with the feeling that it could have and should have been so much better than it was, and I'm guessing that was the money-hungry hand of the studio that swept away all of the good parts of the movie. I'm hoping that when Babylon DVD comes along it will include the uncut, 160-minute version that the Europeans saw, along with an explanation of why it was so badly butchered before released to American audiences. At any rate, any Director's Cut is sure to be a different movie entirely. I recommend waiting for it.