Written by El Puerquito Magnifico
Babylon A.D., based on the novel Babylon Babies by Maurice Georges Dantec, is a futuristic tale of politics, religion, and cybernetic enhancement. Let me rephrase that; Babylon A.D. gave me the impression that it was supposed to be a futuristic tale of politics, religion, and cybernetic enhancement. Really, it’s just a derivative wanna-be Blade Runner with some pretty sweet special effects. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
The story tells the tale of Toorop, an American mercenary living in Russia a few years in the future. He accepts a contract from a mobster to transport a teenage girl named Aurora to New York. It’s a dangerous mission, as Russia has basically become a gigantic war-torn slum. The two are accompanied by a nun who has basically raised Aurora since birth.
This is the first time Aurora has been among the human element, and the stress wears on her. She seems to personally experience the anger, frustration, and pain of each individual she encounters along the way. She exhibits precognitive abilities and knows how to operate a Soviet-era submarine. It is eventually revealed that she could speak 19 languages at the age of two and has always possessed an uncanny knowledge of things she had never been exposed to. Toorop realizes there’s more to this girl than meets the eye and remains wary of her, but eventually they save each others lives and earn each others trust.
And of course, there’s more, but I won’t spoil it for you in case you want to see the movie. Here’s the deal with this film: it’s not bad, but I get the distinct impression that there’s supposed to be a bit more to it than what I saw. I know the director, Mathieu Kassovitz, expressed a great deal of displeasure with 20th Century Fox and the producers of this film, and it isn’t hard to figure out why. I got the idea that had the movie been about a half an hour longer and had certain elements of the plot been a bit more fleshed out, it could’ve been a really good movie. It’s got a lot really intriguing ideas, and it seems like there’s a lot bubbling under the surface that isn’t really allowed to get free. It’s almost as though Babylon A.D. wants to be a more meaningful movie, but it was unfortunately kept on a short leash and ended up being just another action flick.
But as far as action flicks go, it’s pretty cool. Visually, it’s a great movie: there’s a sense of realness to the cities and the costumes. Everything looks very gritty, dirty, and used. The special effects are impressive and the action sequences are quite exciting as well. And I’m shocked to admit that I didn’t even dislike Vin Diesel in this movie! It’s really a shame that the movie seems to have a split personality. If it had simply been a mindless action movie, it might’ve been a lot of fun. If it had been a more highbrow sci-fi adventure, it might’ve broken some interesting new ground. As it is, it’s somewhere in the middle and it doesn’t end up being very effective at all. I don’t know if the director or the studio is to blame, but something got lost along the way, and it’s really too bad.
The DVD features the usual assortment of behind-the-scenes extras as well as a really interesting animated prequel that lays a bit of groundwork for the movie. It’s worth watching.