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I like Vin Diesel. Even if he is not flavour of the month anymore, if
he ever was, I make no apologies for that statement. I have a story I
would like to share.
In 2002, after the release of "Pitch Black" and "xXx", and even though I was possibly too old to indulge in such childishness, I wrote Vin a fan letter. I expressed my admiration for his work and politely requested an autograph on a magazine, featuring Vin on the cover, that I had enclosed with a stamped addressed envelope. A month later the magazine arrived back and it had been autographed.
I have no idea if the autograph is genuine. It may well have been signed by Vin Diesel, or maybe it was just signed by somebody in Vin Diesel's office. I will never know. Do you know what? I don't care. Somebody went to the effort to send that autograph to me for that I think that Vin is sound, is cool and I give him much respect.
I just wish that Vin appeared in better movies. This brings us to "Babylon A.D.".
Good things. The presentation of the near future world in "Babylon A.D." is beautifully done. Compare and contrast the difference between the collapsing, grunge-like, shabby Eastern Bloc, with the hi-tech, neon lit New York. Very well put together. "Babylon A.D." also has a really intriguing cast (Charlotte Rampling, Mark Strong, Michelle Yeoh, Gérard Depardieu), some good action sequences and an interesting, if derivative, plot.
Bad things. "Babylon A.D." is a mess. There is evidence of extensive tampering with and shortening of the movie in the editing suite. (I read one rumour that 70 minutes had been cut from the movie, although the Director claims that this was more like 15 minutes.) The ending is absolutely awful and apparently not the one that the Director intended.
Director Mathieu Kassovitz has mostly disowned "Babylon A.D.", calling it a movie of 'pure violence and stupidity'. There is nothing wrong with cinematic 'pure violence and stupidity' as such, but I for one would like to have seen Mathieu Kassovitz's original vision. It could have been great.
Such a shame. I have always felt that Vin Diesel could have been the new Stallone, but bad choices have turned him into new Van Damme.
Still, "Babylon A.D." is currently the #2 film at the US Box Office, so what do I know?
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
My first reaction to Babylon A.D. was that it's not nearly as bad as
its own director, Matthieu Kassovitz, has been claiming it is, although
that reaction came to me before I got to the end of the movie. The
movie has a cool set-up and a few good action sequences, although they
suffer from that all too modern symptom of having been put together by
editors who must have been on some kind of amphetamines. Like so many
other recent action films (Death Race, for example), the fight scenes
and chase scenes and whatnot are cut together so fast that they fly by
with dizzying speed, and you move on with the rest of the movie with
only a vague impression of what just happened.
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.
It was decent. The action sequences were definitely a bit choppy,
especially the first one. Also, there were a few times when I had to go
"Is that even physically possible?" and the ending left a few loose
ends still left, so I was sort of disappointed with that.
If you don't pay attention, you will hate this movie. It moves fairly quickly, so once you miss something, it's gone and you will be lost. So pay attention. The story is actually pretty good and actually feels down to earth, which is more than I can say about quite a few sci-fi movies.
For the record, I went into this movie not expecting much more than average, and I was slightly surprised. If you go in expecting the next academy award winner, you will completely despise it. It is no Dark Knight, so don't expect it to be. There's not much there artistically, so, if you don't like a movie simply trying to be entertaining for the sake of being entertaining, then you won't like this one. All in all, it was a good watch, not entirely worth the price for a new movie, so I suggest waiting until it comes to the cheaper theaters (if you have one near by).
As another note (and I'll probably get some heat for this) I actually enjoy Vin Diesel as an actor. This is not his best performance, but it's certainly not his worst (even though I still moderately enjoyed Chronicles of Riddick, I admit it was pretty bad and to this day I still don't know why I like it.) I think Diesel is good at what he does, although he really hasn't been in anything that really blows me away, even my favorite Diesel film (Pitch Black) wasn't completely stunning, but it was really good. With that in mind, this is a Vin Diesel movie, so, if you're not like me and you don't like Diesel, you will not like this movie and should just steer clear of it.
Wow. I didn't have high expectation, but thought I'd at least enjoy
Babylon AD. I like just about anything science fiction and most B
movies. Babylon AD seriously got the Homer Simpson treatment which I
explain later in my review.
The setting is the world in ruins after nuclear war. Vin Diesel comes in as the anti-hero, terrorist hired to deliver a "package" to the US. Enter Michelle Yeoh as the protector and chaperone to the package. She's excellent in her role as a nun in a seemingly peaceful cult spouting lines such as, "just because we are peaceful, doesn't mean we are weak." There are some nifty special effects and enough mystery at the beginning to make me believe the film is going to get 7 stars.
Except for some futuristic technology, that's about it for the good parts of the film.
As for the bad parts, have you ever seen The Simpsons episode with Mel Gibson? The last half hour of Babylon AD is treated like Homer Simpson's version of Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. I'm not kidding. It was shockingly bad and truly follows Homer's vision.
I'm still not quite sure what point the movie was trying to make. The story becomes so muddled and the acting is so bad at times that I had no idea what was going on. About 3/4 through the movie, one of the most awkward sexual tension scenes is thrown in for the hell of it. There's no build to it and it makes absolutely no sense, which unfortunately becomes the recurring theme until the end.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I had the opportunity to see Babylon A.D. today and just decided to go
ahead and give it a chance, from the trailer it didn't look so bad. I
know a lot of people have a thing against Vin Diesel, but I don't think
the guy is so bad, he makes a great action hero and also makes a lot of
movies very entertaining. Just look at the Fast and the Furios as well
as XXX, you have to admit those movies would be nothing without him.
But we have Babylon A.D. now, a lot of my co-workers at my theater
warned me that it was pretty bad, but like I said, some people just
judge too harshly, I just wanted to see it for myself. Sadly, they were
right, the first hour actually had me, I was like "Are they crazy? This
movie is pretty decent..." then the ending happened, well, what ending?
This film felt so rushed, I was expecting a narrator to speak over and
say "Sorry folks, we forget to tell you about the sub plot".
Toorop is a mercenary who has just been given an assignment, it seems pretty simple, he just has to deliver a girl from Russia to New York City, unfortunately, it's not that easy. In a world where you have to be a strong person to survive, this girl is something special, with her protector, Rebeka, Toorop leads them to New York discovering that the girl, Aurora, is pregnant with twins that are going to save the world, but they can't discover who to trust since everyone is pulling them in different directions on who will kill her or who wants her alive.
Babylon A.D. is just poorly put together. While I think it was an interesting story, it just could have been so much better and should have been told more properly. Sadly, the only character that we really get to know is just Toorup, who is played by Vin Diesel, he is the only one with depth, while they could have had a little focus on the girl, Aurora, how did she get her powers or was she really ill? What was the history and was she destined for all of what happened to her with her children? There were so many questions that were left unanswered. Over all, this isn't a terrible movie, but I would say definitely to wait for the rental, because while the effects are very good and the whole setting is disturbing, it's the story that leaves you dumbfounded and just bummed that the story ended the way it did.
Toorop is a "bad-ass" who does things in line with his chosen
lifestyle. When he is "approached" by the shadowy but powerful Gorsky
to transport a girl from his home in Russia across into New York (where
he is wanted on charges) he accepts the job. He collects the angelic
Aurora from an ancient monastery along with her guardian, Sister Rebeka
and the journey begins. Many are the dangers ahead but soon Toorop
realises that the greatest danger may be Aurora herself.
This film got roundly bad reviews and, if you manage to make it through 90 minutes then you will find out for yourself why that was the case it is not something that the film hides from view. With any sort of "full world" sci-fi, the risk is always that your design of that world will make it look ridiculous and also lack any sort of logic as to why things would be that way. There is an element of that here but the bigger problem is much tighter to the core of the film the story itself. The vast majority of the film is a journey where the dangers and the stakes are increasing at each step. We don't learn a lot as we go but for me there was enough to keep me going because I wanted to see where it was going. However as it reaches a point where things should start coming together and the "bigger picture" take over the narrative flow from all the running and shouting that it has been for the majority, well, well then it just falls apart.
Except "fall apart" is not the best description for it because really what happens is that it becomes incredibly tangled. Last week I had the pleasure of using two sets of tweezers and a very bright light to untangle a tiny silver necklace belonging to my partner no part of it stood out as different, it took a lot of work to make sense of the different parts of this massive knotted ball of a chain and it took me ages to translate that knot into a chain again. I mention this because in a way this film is the same by the end because just where you want it to be coming together in a big way, all that happens is it becomes more knotted and more nonsensical. Sadly there is nobody working to make it anything other than this and the closest thing to a "chain" that we end up with is a horrible ending that feels like the makers holding their hands up and saying "Look, I think we all agree that we should probably just bring this whole thing to a close without any fuss and all go our separate ways. Sorry". Some who love this film (and there are some there are always some) will explain it to you and help you see what you missed; this is never an easy conversation because even those defending the film have to work with their tweezers and such to pull sense out of it. And once they do once you and I understand the plot and more or less what was going on, we will still be left with one undeniable fact we still don't care.
Caring is the problem that occurs due to the terrible narrative. At the start I was interested as I was just starting out but, the more it went on, the less I cared. It didn't engage me or give me reasons to keep being interested and by the time the awful ending came round I simply didn't care enough to be angry by how little closure it gives the story. I'm not sure where the fault lies but I suspect it should be evenly spread. The script is poor and the delivery of that script is poor. The cast must have seen something better than I did because there are some solid names in here certainly it wasn't a matter of "oh, Vin is on board? Sign me up then" because that ship has sailed. Diesel himself is his usual solid screen presence. I'm still not a fan but he can hold the attention and is physically imposing. I won't waste your time considering his performance outside of that but suffice to say that with the material as poor as it is, he had little chance anyway. Yeoh deserves better while Thierry seemingly has no idea what her character is, so she settles for just being irritating for most of the time. Rampling, Depardieu, Strong, Wilson and others all show their faces but nobody knows what they are doing and it all feels like everyone was hoping that the action and sci-fi spectacle would cover this.
Visually I did quite like the film even if some of the scenes are unconvincing "near-future" clichés such as the club which is all scaffolding and violence (but yet rammed) or massive explosions for no real reason. Overall though Babylon A.D. is a mess. It has your bangs and your tough swaggering but it is not big or fun enough to just get by on that. Indeed by its own hand it puts a lot of pressure on the plot to drive the film and then delivery at the end neither of which it does. It starts simple and gets more and more tangled and then, as a final scene, you are presented this knotted mess and expected to say "thanks". The only saving grace is, by the time that happens, you will probably care so little about the film that it won't matter.
I should say first that I don't know the book this movie is adapted
from, so I just mean to give an opinion on the movie itself and the way
Director Mathieu Kassovitz has been in the business for a while now and is a well complete actor as well and still something about this project went wrong. The story itself seems solid - and somewhat I can imagine the book being just great - but the movie looks rushed with only the most important and visual parts shown.
Actually, it's a kind of annoying experience as you can see how really good it could have been if they only did a better job on the background and the storytelling instead of mixing everything from the book in an action packed movie. Now being totally honest, the action isn't great at all thanks to the shaky hand cam effect (The Bourne Legacy I guess ...) and uninspired choreography. Same goes for the acting : Depardieu and Wilson are easily the worst : they would have read the script for the first time it wouldn't have surprise me.
Considering all the good material it certainly feels like a misproduction, someone said the director and actor Vin Diesel were having different opinions and I do hope the latter won because if Kassovitz did it the way he wanted I'd be really disappointed.
We've been awarded with such great movies around the same kind of subject (Children of Men to name one) that this one seems pale compared to those.
I fortunately watched Babylon A.D. first from the net and it seems it
was (unfortunately) the wiser thing to do because it was the longer
cut! Babylon A.D. is not a bad movie even with the 90 minute version
but it lacks heavily what the longer cut offers.
I was mostly disappointed (therefore rating 6 which would've been 8++ something otherwise) about the ending of the shorter version which really sucks if you have seen the other one (i did think that here in Europe they would automatically release the 160 min version but no..). Money wasted on that 'cos I was not expecting this kind of cut.
Nevertheless I still enjoyed the plot, the visuals and the very stylized world what this movie brought to the table. The action scenes were also enjoyable. Hopefully Hopefully the better version will be released on DVD! Shame on you studios for not giving this movie the respect it deserves!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
There's a lot to be said for a movie that has its director up in arms
claiming that he hates his own creation before it has even been
released, and while it's hard to escape the film-makers statements
whilst watching, you can't help but feel sympathetic for such a person.
Babylon A.D. is the perfect example of suit and tie butchery; an
artistic, intelligent piece of work obviously dragged down in the
cutting room into an incoherent, clunkering mix of the genuinely
interesting and the downright mundane. Suffering from narrative that
jumps about far too often to sustain a sense of linear storytelling and
character, plus boasting action scenes which, to be fair, deliver
lukewarm entertainment at best, this latest offering or butchered
vision- from director Mathieu Kassovitz is flawed, but not to point of
absolute disaster. Of course it's hard to determine whether the
director's personal vision would have been any better, but there's no
denying the moments here that do shine well above all the others.
In between the stunted narrative and storytelling lies an interesting, socially relevant and viscerally compelling vision of a post apocalyptic dystopian future riving with ugly survivalists out only or themselves. Taken from the perspective of all the other dystopian, science fiction action movies, Babylon A.D. hardly does anything of an innovative or groundbreaking nature, but its visuals and consistently moody tone resonates throughout the film, creating an intriguing palette of colours to watch. Nevertheless, although Kassovitz doesn't necessarily cover any new ground, he does what is expected in this area with enough of a vision, and a sense of coherency that far outshines the rest of the feature. To be sure it's no Blade Runner in terms of innovation, but the style that is present here is highly reminiscent of Ridley Scott's masterpiece, only without the flying cars and far advanced technology; it's a dark, moody and unpleasant world, stricken by poverty and the backlash of nuclear war, and Kazzovitz makes sure to always make it interesting with the help of Thierry Arbogast's poignant photography punctuated with Atli Örvarsson's tragically sombre score.
Of course a film that is all about its sets and special effects is hardly a movie at all, so it's relieving that despite certain missteps, there are also many elements that further these themes and tones outside of the aesthetics. Lead character Toorop (Vin Diesel) is a perfect example of how such an environment can completely embody a character, and Diesel is just the man to do it. Hard headed, intolerant, brash, and street wise, Toorop is a grizzled mercenary, sent on a mission to escort a girl named Aurora (Mélanie Thierry) to New York, all details naturally withheld. Aurora is almost the antithesis of Toorop; warm, gentle and sheltered from the ugly world outside her convent, she off-balances the soldier well enough to stop the feature from getting too wooden. Both actors manage to strike up enough conviction in their roles to sustain compelling characterisation when it is allowed, and as a result, an engaging character story within this incredibly distant world is realised.
Unfortunately however such elements quickly go to waste after the first act when those in charge of cutting and pasting start to go wild. Being thrown around like ragdolls, these characters soon find themselves in all sorts of elaborate action scenes; some which work nicely enough, but most of which feel contrived to point of absolute absurdity. A key example of this lies in the middle of the feature where we go from a submarine, to a snowmobile chase with Cylon-look-a-like jets, to a hotel room in the space of ten minutes. Jarring would be an understatement. Yet this example is just one of very many that only seems to increase exponentially as the movie wears onto its anti-climactic, ridiculous ending. There's no pacing, no momentum and more importantly, no consistency of tone, characterisation or narrative; it's just a bumbling mess of drama-action-drama-action that reeks of terrible, misinformed editing processed by a studio unconvinced of the original cut's ability to pull in the cash.
Conclusively it would seem that director Mathieu Kassovitz made the right, artistically driven decision in detaching himself from the final cut of what was no doubt a proud vision of his. Yet blessed with the director's ability to bring out some fitting performances and craft a world that jumps out of the screen, provoking thought about civilisation and humanity, key elements of his vision still remain under the ruins created by the lazy editing. One can only hope that Kassovitz gets to take part in the latest trend and have his own cut released on DVD in the future, but for now I cannot recommend paying money to see this. Filled with some fresh, well conceived ideas and themes, all focusing around compelling characters, Babylon A.D. is a mixed bag of great moments with terrible ones (and quite possibly the worst ending of 2008), all sequenced together incoherently and without any feel for pacing or focused structure. It's a cinematic Frankenstein; powerful and with meaning at its core but put together with little care for its inherent substance within. There's value here, but you'll have to look deep and would be best leaving ten minutes early.
- Written by Jamie Robert Ward (http://www.invocus.net)
Wow, i don't even know where to start. I'd first like to say that,im usually generous and optimistic when i see movies, and usually films my friends say suck, i say they are okay, or when my friends say they are okay, i say it was great...This one failed in 2 very important aspects of storytelling. One, they were confused as to what the climax really was and two, there's no resolution or their pathetic excuse for one was terrible. I don't know whether they are setting up for a sequel or what but the ending was laughable(literally people laughed at the ending). Its all disappointing because the movie looked liked it had potential. the acting was average, but i didn't expect much from vin diesel and Michelle Yeoh did a decent job, other then that wait to this hits USA or TBS, don't even rent it from blockbuster, its not worth it.
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