Babylon A.D. (2008)
Dir. Mathieu Kassovitz
Did I enjoy Babylon AD? Yes. Would I recommend it to anybody else? No.
Read the IMDB Trivia Page for Babylon A.D., and you’ll find out why this movie seems like it could have been so much more. Kassovitz has gone on record as saying that the studio (20th Century Fox) refused to allow him to shoot anything as it was scripted, or as he imagined. Add to that the fact that his 166 minute film was then cut down to 96 minutes, and it’s easy to see why this move leaves you with a feeling that there was just so much more happening that we didn’t see.
I enjoyed it, but mainly because it reminded me of so many other things. The Cage Fight scene is pure Johnny Mnemonic (Gibson’s short story, not the film), the cityscape is so Blade Runner you’re just waiting to hear a voice preaching the benefits of a life in the off-world colonies, and visually the whole film looks like it just jumped off of the pages of Heavy Metal (or, since the director is French, Metal Hurlant) magazine.
I’d never claim that Vin Diesel is one of Hollywood’s greats, but I’ve always enjoyed his hard-arse characters. Toorop never seems to rise above “just another Vin Diesel character”, and in the scenes where he’s supposed to be particularly hard, it’s too easy to remember that he’s the mercenary with a heart of gold. Michelle Yeoh is woefully underused as Sister Rebeka, which again leads me back to imaging how much was cut out. Surely you wouldn’t cast Michelle Yeoh and then restrict her to one serious fight scene? Melanie Thierry may have been hamstrung by a poorly written character in Aurora (Is she the mother of the Messiah? A genetically engineered superbeing? And what was with the random scene where, out of nowhere, she hits on Toorop, and why is this never mentioned again?), but in the end, I just didn’t care enough about the character – she’s just the macguffin, and not much more.
If you’re a card-carrying Cyberpunk/Vin Diesel/Michelle Yeoh fanboy with an hour and a half to kill, Babylon A.D. may fit the bill, but otherwise you may be left wondering how to get your evening back.