Babylon A.D.

Babylon A.D. is set in the not too distant future, and features a man-chase spanning two continents and a wide host of characters - mercenaries, terrorists, religious fanatics, rogue scientists, mobsters and smugglers. Shall I stop here?

Review by SAndman
January 3, 2009

Babylon A.D. Movie

Director: Mathieu Kassovitz

novel: Maurice G. Dantec
screenplay: Eric Besnard

Vin Diesel as Toorop
Michelle Yeoh as Sister Rebeka
Mélanie Thierry as Aurora
Gérard Depardieu as Gorsky
Charlotte Rampling as High Priestess
Lambert Wilson as Darquandier

Released: 2008

Toorop: Look lady, I'm just a delivery boy and to me you're just a package. I'm not your friend, I'm not your brother, I'm not your boyfriend.

Toorop, a mercenary with a code ("You need two things to live in this business, your balls and your word."), ekes out a living in the slums of what looks like a civil-war-engulfed Russia, or one of the former Soviet republics, until he gets a very special assignment from a local kingpin Gorsky - he is to smuggle two refugees from the wastes of Euroasia across the border to America, where is listed as a terrorist, though we never learn what crimes he is accused of.

One of the refugees is a mysterious teenage girl named Aurora, who turns out to possess tremendous psychic powers, and the other is Sister Rebeka, the kung fu sporting chaperon. The trio form a dysfunctional relationship as they learn how to come to terms with each other and fend off the attacks of the pursuers hot on their heels.

Babylon A.D. paints a dismal vision of a fragmented world rife with problems such as new religious creeds, international terrorism and global warming. Christianity has been replaced by the so-called Noelites, a sinister end-times sect which wields enormous influence.

High Priestess of Noelites would very much like to lay hands on the girl, who had apparently been conceived in a high-stakes experiment with a sole purpose of becoming an unsurpassed bioweapon. So there you have the perfunctory stab at Religious Right bashing.

In the world of Babylon A.D. technology has reached new levels across the board, surveillance, bioenhancement, artificial intelligence, cloning. Interestingly enough, the breakthrough technology seems to mesh in with the millennial religious outlook.

However, this and other motifs remain vague and cursory at best. And that's the nub of it. The movie has one basic problem. It lacks a unifying vision. While I was watching it, I kept asking myself, what's it really about? Bad religion? Bad technology? Both?

The movie obviously aspires at something more than just an action-packed fast-paced flick. There are enough intriguing ideas in it to fill a dozen SF movies. Yet Babylon A.D. simply doesn't deliver. It has just too many loose ends.

The characters remain hopelessly two-dimensional. Dialogues are sketchy with brief glimpses of humor. Which is a pity, especially in view of a fine international cast the movie brought together. With Mathieu Kassovitz, who is really a clever director, at helm, you would expect so much more.

There is, however, another explanation - the movie studio may just have butchered the movie so badly that it lost much of its artistic merit. If a director goes so far as to basically renounce his movie, which is what Kassovitz pretty much did, there is definitely something to be said for that. So perhaps we should all wait for the director's cut to be released on DVD before we pass the final judgment on Babylon A.D.

For now, Babylon A.D. remains a disappointingly mediocre movie.

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