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Doesn't deserve the hatred -- and probably no more than a rental.
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.