96 of 109 people found the following review helpful
on January 7, 2009
Much like The Spirit, a poorly-written, all-over-the-map misinterpretation of Will Eisner's character, complete with entertaining performances and stunning visuals, Babylon A.D. is a confusing, occasionally dry, very familiar mess with some strong performances and stunning visuals in service of a fairly engaging story. It is not, by any means, a great film. It is also not, by any means, a disaster. I noted that Babylon A.D. has one one-star rating on here, and I think the movie deserves better. I saw the film in theaters, and I was reasonably entertained up until the last five minutes. Not even The Spirit completely lived up to that standard.
When films like this come along, I wonder how many people tune out once they've seen a few things they don't like. I am a glass-half-full person. Hundreds of films come out every year, and 90% of them probably have merits that people simply ignore because it's easier to attack the things about them that aren't as sharp. Sure, it borrows from Blade Runner. Movies borrow from other movies. If this was automatically a strike against a film, Quentin Tarantino would have no fans. I personally think Vin Diesel is a fairly charismatic actor (see his recent effort Find Me Guilty for evidence of this), and yet it's like he's got a target on his head. I'm sure some people decided they didn't like this movie just on the basis that he's in it.
The "Unrated and Raw" presentation on DVD does not work miracles on the film. Numerous internet sources claim varying degrees of footage was altered or chopped out of the film, ranging from 15 minutes (since the theatrical cut ran 90m and this runs 103, that's about 15) all the way up to a towering 70m. Admittedly, this ending makes a LOT more sense (which is to say, any sense) than the theatrical ending, although, with apologies to director Mathieu Kassovitz, I liked the hummer chase, presented as a deleted scene on the 2-disc DVD (not to mention in the version without the chase, one set of antagonists just gives up, apparently).
For some reason, it's apparently easy to forget that the scale goes from one to five, and the three stars in the middle are more than padding for the first and last ones. I've seen movies that aren't even always in focus. Certainly a movie can become terrible long before it starts to fail on a technical level, but Babylon A.D. is not one of those movies. It's perfectly OKAY, and that's something that deserves some more credit.
29 of 33 people found the following review helpful
Format: DVDVerified Purchase
I rarely go into Vin Diesel movies with high expectations. Let's face it, when you build a certain physique and persona you have to accept a little pigeon hole-ing as an actor. I read other reviews before watching this movie and removed it from my pre-order list and went for a rental. What a surprise to the upside. Some of the critique for this movie IS warranted and the ending, as you find it in the US edition, will leave questions. The most important attitude with which to see this movie is to enjoy the process and not look for simple gratification in the ending. As a movie set in the near future, this film tackles the challenge of envisioning new technology that is, if not realistic, still far from the utterly ridiculous. Many movies try to present those ideas and fail miserably.
***This is not just another dumbed down action spectacle***. One might be surprised to see it is actually a very ambitious, intelligent movie for this genre. Though any one part of the plot by itself may not be original, I found the sum total of it's parts refreshingly different. There are also spectacular visuals, very well orchestrated action scenes, thought provoking issues or conflicts and very wonderful performances by many actors, including Vin! Pay attention to the technologies and gadgets here and there. A little satire on religion and the questions of real faith and spirituality were also thought provoking and a little underhandedly funny. This is a really good movie that just couldn't do everything it wanted in the time allowed. Don't get me wrong, if I were rating the editing of this movie, it would be two stars. I have no doubt that it was butchered by idiots who had no faith in an original vision. I wish they would take the footage and re-edit the US version.
***Update: Amazon UK has a slightly longer version that fills in a few holes. Know that you like the movie before you spend the cash. However, they will deliver to US addresses relatively cheap. You may need a region two player or simply change the region on your laptop. Some blu are region free, I beleive the UK version is not.
37 of 47 people found the following review helpful
Babylon A.D. / B001KMB6YG
I'm not really sure what happened here. Vin Diesel does mindless action, and does it well, and here is no exception - whatever flaws "Babylon A.D." has, they are not his fault. Nor are they the fault of Michelle Yeoh who carries herself (as always) superbly, leaving the viewer to wonder why, exactly, Yeoh keeps showing up in particularly flat action movies (The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor leaps to mind) when she really is so much better than that and has proven it time and time again. Either there's still some kind of "White Actresses Only" rule barring Yeoh from the better movies, or she has a really terrible agent. Anyway.
Sometimes you can just tell when a movie is based off of a science fiction story you haven't been exposed to. "Babylon A.D." is definitely one of those movies - sure enough, the opening credits note a sci-fi story that may or may not be obscure, but which I definitely haven't read yet. A lot of the standard sci-fi fare is here: much of the world's animals have died out, and have been replaced by clones; America is a closed-borders super-power where a high standard of living is possible for the wealthy, but the rest of the world flounders in deep poverty and warfare; genetic modification of humans is the way to the future. Etc.
Into all this steps Vin Diesel, a conscientious mercenary given a second chance to re-enter America, if only he will deliver a sheltered teenager (and her adoptive mother, Yeoh) along the way. Vin Diesel is only too happy to comply, although he is understandably spooked by the sleepy-eyed girl he's been given charge of. When the girl starts displaying uncanny abilities, such as a near-psychic understanding of the immediate future, an ability to speak multiple languages fluently, and intimate knowledge of the controls of a derelict submarine, he recognizes that there's something a bit off about the young lady and - suspects - that she might be carrying a terrorist-created virus. If so, he vows to murder the girl before she can be 'activated', although this doesn't make much sense because (mind you, I'm not a biologist) it seems like that wouldn't necessarily neutralize the danger.
Anyway, that doesn't matter, because it turns out the girl is *really* a genetically modified human with 'the brain of a computer' and she's been impregnated with twins (apparently during a brief doctor's visit prior to the start of the movie) who are 'powerful' even in the womb, yet in a completely undefined sense. The girl's "mother" - the leader of a cult who commissioned her birth in the hope that this new messiah/madonna would bring in a few more converts - plans to kidnap the girl and...well, it's not exactly clear what she plans to do with her. Use her as a P.R. device, apparently, but it's not clear why Vin Diesel feels compelled to save her from this fate. For that matter, it's exceedingly creepy to see the young lady come on to Vin Diesel, given that he's getting at that age where he could probably be her father and, besides, his entire role in the movie up to her attempted seduction is a paternal one, not a romantic one. It would seem that Hollywood no longer knows how to portray a Man and a Woman without insisting that they "Find Twue Luv".
Despite serious differences in age and genetics, Vin Diesel realizes that he does love the girl and saves her from a non-specific fate that might be bad, but might not be. And then, because the movie was getting a bit longish, we immediately jump to the epilogue where we find that our Computer-Brain Girl was only designed to bear children and nothing more (why? how?) and she has spent the entire pregnancy in a coma (which we all know is just wonderful for fetal development, good grief), and once she delivers (in the quietest delivery ever), she will die and leave the infants in Vin Diesel's capable hands, where he will protect them from...what? Being used for evil, perhaps, although it's unclear how the children could be useful for anything more than the average human baby. This is left out, however, either because they were hoping for a sequel or - more likely - because they ran out of budget.
"Babylon A.D" suffers simultaneously from too much exposition and not enough of it. Huge swaths of dialogue are devoted to heart-to-heart conversations between Vin Diesel and Yeoh while they hash out that the girl is really super special and important - really! - without the viewer ever understanding *why* the girl is useful nor *why* her children are important or powerful or even where they came from. The result is that there is far too little mindless action (because we have to talk about Special! Computer! Girl!) for this to be a proper action flick, and yet far too little pertinent exposition for this to be a proper science fiction film. Since much of the movie feels sloppy and poorly edited, I expect that the whole thing was filmed with a proper amount of action and exposition and then someone with poor editing kung fu took out the relevant dialogue and left in the moody, introspective stuff.
It is possible that familiarity with the source material is just a necessity for proper viewing of this movie, however, I tend to feel that a movie should be able to stand on its own without needing "pre-reading" on the part of the viewer. In that sense, "Babylon A.D." fails, and I don't particularly recommend it as anything more than a mindless adult-protects-precocious-child-through-scifi-explosions movie, and if you want to watch something like that, at least Ultraviolet has vampires. I'm just saying.
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on July 27, 2012
Format: DVDVerified Purchase
I agree with the positive reviews of this film.
The best "uncut" version of this film is the two disc special edition ("EXTENDED CUT"). The editing is much better on the "extended cut" (more recent version). Babylon A.D. (Two-Disc Special Edition) The theater release for American audiences (the single disc version) was poorly cut . It eliminates much of the character development of the actors. It also omits much of the dialogue necessary to understand the film. However, the two disc special version is: (a) widescreen HD; (b) mixed much better so that you can hear the actors talking over the soundtrack (without subtitles); and (c) contains dialogue which explains the plot of the movie. The two-disc special version also includes a digital copy so that you can install it on your PC or Mac and view it on an iPod, iPhone, etc.
This film is based on the book Babylon Babies. The story in the book is about Melanie Thierry's character being a surrogate mother for two babies who represent the next step in human evolution. It is very difficult to understand the ending to Babylon AD without knowing that the babies she carries are special ("homo sapiens sapiens") genetically engineered children. Thierry's character, herself, is gifted, but, in the dark future, people think she is carrying a virus instead of recognizing her gifts and powers as a positive development for humanity.
In the opening narration Vin Diesel explains the film:
"Life is simple. Kill or be killed. . . . Don't get involved. . . . Always finish the job. [Mercenaries' Code] . . . . But I learned that you can't always walk away. Too bad it was the day I died."
The film is based in the not too distant (dark) future. Vin Diesel (Toorop) is a mercenary. He is on the terrorist list in the U.S. The film begins with him walking to his apartment in Russia where he lives as an expat former Marine.
At some point he meets up with Gerard Depardieu (an international thug) who hires him to escort a young woman (played by Melanie Thierry) to New York. Thierry plays an innocent intuitive who has special powers to sense danger, heal, and know how to do things without ever being taught. She is an empath who has been completely sheltered in a convent all of her life. Michelle Yeoh (in a very sexy and convincing role) plays one of the older nuns in the convent who goes with Diesel and Thierry to New York.
The plot that unfolds is witty, action-packed and full of great one-liners. For example, when Diesel meets Yeoh for the first time, she tells him that she has three rules: (1) She must go wherever Thierry goes; (2) he is to protect Thierry from the corruption of the outside world and (3) no foul language." Diesel responds with a wry laugh and says: "Sh__. Well it's a tough world out there, Sister. (changing his laugh to a look of dead seriousness) You listen to my one and only rule: Don't f____ with me or I'll leave you in the middle of nowhere with nothing but your a___ to sell to get back here to your perfect world." Only Vin Diesel could get away with that line.
In another scene, a little later, Diesel, Thierry and Yeoh are walking through a marketplace in Siberia. It is dirty, noisy and chaotic. Diesel tells Yeoh and Thierry to watch out because it's a dangerous place - "No Mercy for the weak." Yeoh says: " Just because we are peaceful does not mean we are weak." Diesel says: "It does here."
I had to use the subtitles on the single disc version (because of the poorly mixed soundtrack) to get some of the subtle humor in the film, but, there is sophisticated humor in almost every scene. Charlotte Rampling plays an all too convincing role as the corrupt head of large, popular, mass-media religion. At one point she is chastising her staff for letting Diesel get away with Melanie Thierry. She tells them that they have ruined twenty years of her work. Since Melanie Thierry is pregnant, and still a virgin, she was a miracle and had them on the verge of being a "bona fide religion." This is great sarcasm and social satire and worthy of a five star rating.
The movie makes more sense if you can read a little Russian. Although this is never brought out in the film, Diesel is playing a clone. In one of the scenes you will see the Russian word for "clone" tattooed in Cyrillic across his knuckles.
The uncut version Babylon A.D. (Uncut) contains about fifteen extra minutes of fascinating action footage that was intended for European and Russian audiences. It is common for stars like Vin Diesel, in Russia and Europe, to have films that are three to three and a half hours in length. The uncut version is worth watching for anyone who is a fan of any of the actors.Babylon A.D. (Uncut)
The original soundtrack is available Babylon A.D. (OST). Unfortunately, it is missing one of the best pieces in the film. The film opens, and ends, with a very well-done (and well-mixed) performance of "Dueuces" by Achozen. This rap piece isn't available for purchase. You can listen to it on YouTube. The score in this film was done by Atli Örvarsson, an Icelandic composer who works with Hans Zimmer (As good as it Gets, Black Hawk Down, Last Samurai . . . .) The score is an impressive, surreal blend of modern rap, African rhythms and classical music. It is one of the best features of this film.
This film is directed by Mathieu Kassovitz. Kassovitz is a relatively obscure French actor/director who produces A+ Five ***** films such as Amélie
I hope you enjoy this review as much as I enjoy this film.
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on November 6, 2010
Format: Amazon Instant VideoVerified Purchase
You can't go into this with high expectations. It's a Vin Diesel, cyberpunk action flick. It's got action, a decent plot, straightforward characters, and a bit of substance, especially at the end. You want art, angst, or profound nihilism, look elsewhere. Loosen up, rent it, sit back and enjoy your popcorn. It's worth the price of admission.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on September 21, 2008
Tag Line: Seeing movies so you don't have to.
"Babylon A.D." is a failure, but it's not the actors' fault. The problem is certainly not Vin Diesel's failure. He gives an outstanding performance as Toorop, an Eastern European mercenary, banned as a terrorist from reentering his homeland of America. And it's not the fault of Melanie Thierry, who gives a touching turn as Aurora, a young woman raised in a convent in Mongolia. Michelle Yeoh plays Sister Rebeka, Aurora's guardian, and she kicks butt in her attempts to prevent the harsh outside world from influencing the young ward.
No, the problem lies in the missing minutes of film (anywhere from 15 to 70) that were allegedly cut by the producers to fit the movie into an hour and a half, leaving the director to disown "Babylon A.D." The cuts aren't readily apparent until near the end of the ninety minutes, when the characters enter America. Then it's obvious that there are vast gaps in continuity, making for a shortened and confusing ending. At least, the editing is the kindest explanation I can come up with.
The basic plot is a pilgrimage. Toorop is hired by a criminal leader to deliver Aurora, along with her bodyguard, from a convent run by the Neolites, a relatively new religious feminist movement. It turns out the Neolites want her for something she carries, but it's not exactly clear how that's going to make them an authentic religious movement. Supposedly, the miracle will legitimate them. Along the way, the trio, and occasional other character, must struggle with the perils of a near-future, somewhat dystopic world.
It's a fairly logical projection of what's happening now. Former Soviet Union troops work with criminals, and a nuclear sub is used to ferry refugees across the Bering Street to America. The national boundaries are patrolled by unmanned robot planes, similar to ones we're already using in war zones. Passports are injected into people, presumably with some sort of biological marker, though it's unclear how that works.
The world implies an interesting backstory that I'd like to hear more about. For instance, the only surviving tigers are cloned, which is a clue to the mystery of Aurora, I think. Generally the viewer here just has to run with the story and pick up the background details as he or she goes along, which is fine. Not everything needs to be explicit. However, some eventual explanation better than what we're given would have been nice.
All the elements of a strong science-fiction movie are here. But once we get to America, things fall apart and the center cannot hold, apologies to Yeats. The criminal who hired Toorop gets into a confrontation with the Neolites. Why, I'm not exactly sure. I'm also not sure how Aurora can plausibly have what she's carrying, but a suspicious doctor might have a role in that.
Then Toorup is saved by an amazing process that gets handwaved off. Finally, there is a quick confrontation that boils down to a disappointing car chase. The tempo of the last part of the movie moves much faster than the rest, making it clear that cuts were made. We are also given practically no closure with Aurora and her fate is left uncertain. I can't really recommend this movie in the theater. I would wait until it came out on DVD. Hopefully, it will have the missing elements filled in.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on August 30, 2008
There are few things more annoying than an intentionally vague science fiction plot. "Babylon A.D."--based on Maurice G. Dantec's novel "Babylon Babies"--takes great pains to keep audiences in the dark, only to bombard them with a series of revelations that not only make little sense, but are also difficult to accept at face value. I tried my hardest to understand what was going on and why, and while I think I now have the gist of it, I'm still left with a lot of unanswered questions. I have a feeling diehard science fiction buffs will get this movie and love it. As I left the theater, it was suggested that liking "Babylon A.D." would depend on whether or not one reads science fiction; if that's true, this movie is nothing but an elitist showcase. Vin Diesel fans may not get the story, but hey, at least they'll get to see him in another action film. It's doubtful, however, that this movie will connect with general audiences, especially if they prefer stories that can actually be followed.
The plot, as far as I can tell, is as follows. Sometime in the future, when technology and big-name corporations have consumed Western society, an American mercenary living in Russia is called on to smuggle a young woman into New York. This man, named Toorop (Diesel), was once a veteran before being exiled from the United States; he now lives by the survivor's code, never trusting anyone and always playing by his own rules. The young woman, named Aurora (Mélanie Thierry), was raised in an isolated Mongolian convent, away from technology and all manner of temptation. Her protector, Sister Rebeka (Michelle Yeoh), makes one thing perfectly clear: the less exposure Aurora has to the outside world, the better.
No one seems to know why until the three start moving through Russia and across the Bering Strait as refugees; not only does Aurora frequently shift from complacent to emotionally distraught, she also seems to possess special abilities, such as being able to sense explosives and knowing how to operate a thirty-year-old submarine and feeling death. According to Rebeka, Aurora could speak nineteen languages by age two. Maybe this has something to do with why opposing forces are after her. One is a religious sect led by the conniving High Priestess (Charlotte Rampling); with the help of a self-serving Russian named Gorsky (Gérard Depardieu), she arranges for Toorop to smuggle Aurora into America, away from a group led by a scientist named Darquandier (Lambert Wilson). When the package is delivered, Aurora will apparently be the key to creating a superior, genetically modified messiah.
I'm making it sound more straightforward than it actually is. So much of this movie relies on secrecy, which would have been okay had the explanations made any sense. The implications are clear: in a now corporate-run society, a cult wants to gain power as the world's dominant religion, and they can reach their goals with the help of a super intelligent, scientifically engineered young woman. But implications can only take you so far. It's not enough to merely suspect what's going on. This is the kind of story that demands a great deal more than vague ideas and passing references. Maybe the film's ninety-minute length is to blame; it's quite possible the answers I sought were left on the cutting room floor. Consider Diesel's broadly drawn character, a man who emotionally kept his distance until Aurora came into his life. How this change came about is anyone's guess, but since Diesel's acting range is just shy of nonexistent, I guess it doesn't really matter.
But Aurora is the most frustrating character, mostly because the way she acts throughout the film isn't consistent with how and why she was created in the first place. There are times when she's cool and collected, while at other times she's militantly opposed to death and destruction, all of which she can sense beforehand. She seemed less like a miracle girl and more like a poster child for Bipolar Disorder. The way she interacts with Torrop is difficult to believe, especially as their feelings for one another deepen. It doesn't feel like a developing love so much as it feels like a plot device for creating more drama. It certainly didn't do much for the ending, which is so badly written that it might generate incredulous laughter.
What can I say in defense of this movie? Well, it was good-looking. I was particularly impressed with the futuristic New York City, the best-designed city skyline since "Blade Runner." Every block is an explosion of technology, from choreographed neon lights to electronic images projected onto skyscrapers. Unfortunately, we never get to fully appreciate it--the shots come and go far too quickly. Most of the New York scenes take place on an isolated street, specifically the intersection where the climactic battle is fought. As fleeting as it was, this was still the only decent action this movie had to offer; every other action scene was lightening-fast and shaky, distracting us from seeing all the good fight moves. But the great failure of "Babylon A.D." was telling a needlessly vague story about inappropriately mysterious characters. I'm sure select audiences will embrace this movie as a pinnacle work of science fiction, and they will no doubt see things in it that I failed to see. Let it be known that, for someone who doesn't read science fiction on a regular basis, I did the best I could.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
"If you get caught between the Moon and New York City
The best that you can do ......
The best that you can do is fall in love"
(Christopher Cross "Arthur's Theme")
Short Attention Span Summary (SASS):
Time: Near future
1. Mobster (Gerard Depardieu) hires mercenary (Vin Diesel) to transport girl named Aurora (Melanie Thierry) from Eastern Europe to New York
2. Girl comes with chaperone (Michelle Yeoh), a kung fu fightin' nun of the Noelite order.
3. Traveling proves to be even more stressful and painful in the near future
4. There's something about Aurora
5. Scientist (Lambert Wilson) and High Priestess (Charlotte Rampling) aren't nominated for any parenting awards (and aren't likely to win any kind of awards for this movie)
6. Plot somehow manages to be simplistic and convoluted at the same time
7. Multiple fight scenes, car chases and explosions occur, but are presented with such frenetic activity that you can't really tell what's going on.
8. Movie ends, not with a cliff-hanger, but with a jaw-dropper
This is a futuristic, apocalyptic and violent movie, with a mercenary named Thoorop (Diesel) hired to smuggle a young woman named Aurora into the United States, to New York. We learn that Aurora has a lot of secrets hidden under her skin, and that there are opposing factions who are trying to get their hands on her. Thoorop spends the trip trying to protect Aurora from people who've never heard of not shooting the messenger, and eventually decides to change the rules a little.
Diesel plays his usual role as the strong mostly silent type, growling out his lines as if through a mouthful of broken glass. The other actors seem mostly shell-shocked, wondering how they got themselves into this, and making mental notes to ignore casting calls in the unlikely event of a sequel.
There's enough action to keep your interest, and the twist will at least make you say "Huh??" - but overall I'd have to say that this movie puts the "babble" in "Babylon"
Babble: v. intr.
To utter a meaningless confusion of words or sounds
Rated: 2.5 stars
Amanda Richards, October 11, 2008
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on October 6, 2008
Vin Diesel turns out yet another of his stone-faced performances in this sci-fi futuristic flick about a miracle child, who'll supposedly save the world. I know, it reminded me too of "Children of Men", though the plot there was a little better explained and easier to follow, and made more sense.
Babylon A.D. is a half-hearted attempt at making a sci-fi movie, but sadly the creators forgot the cardinal rules of sci-fi:
- make the plot EITHER a natural extension of the present, OR totally deviated from the present
- explain the concept of what makes up the sci-fi component in the movie to the audience so that you (can) create a following
Neither of these happens. It's not explained how the plot begins, it is not explained who is Aurora or how did she become who she is (until very late into the movie), and worst of all, what is expected to happen after the movie storyline ends, is simply absent!
Another defining aspect of a good sci-fi flick is the action sequences. This is something one would have expected from Vin Diesel too. However, all the action stunts in the movie suffer from an overdose of editing, and too fast camera movements. There is no actual fight sequence. You have to stare unblinkingly to follow what is happening, and after 5 minutes, realize that nothing much happened anyway!
Michelle Yeoh is wasted in her role...
Overall Rating: 1.5 / 5 (if only for the attempt!)
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on February 3, 2009
Format: DVDVerified Purchase
I was very disappointed in this DVD. I liked the movie and had no problem with plot lines as others seem to have had. This DVD is not the version shown in the theaters. The HumV chase was cut out and put on the "special features" part of the disc. This was a pivital point about the end of the Ramplings "church". Also I remember at the end of the movie Vin Diesel was playing with the Mélanie Thierry's small girls at his rebuilt home in the woods, a more hopeful note to the ending than is on the DVD. I wish that they had included both versions and let viewers decide for themselves. Vin Diesel gave a better performance in this movie that he did in Man Apart and I thought he was very good in that.