Hollywood hasn’t been kind to Vin Diesel. His last movies haven’t done too well at the box-office, so it wasn’t much of a surprise for him to want to return to the science fiction genre that spawned his career a decade or so ago (remember Pitch Black?). Good for him, as I’m sure on paper Babylon A.D. looked like a promising mixture of Blade Runner and Children of Men. Unfortunately, it’s delivered in a crude, unfinished way that is sure to add another notch onto Diesel’s “why did I star in this movie” belt.
The biggest failures of the film are the lack of character development and back story. Vin Diesel is mercenary named Toorop, living in what I suspect is a war-torn Russia. Why have the Asian and Eastern European countries gone to hell? If the movie going to give visions of an apocalyptic future, there had better be at least a 20-second blurb on how it got there. Off tangent, Toorop is hired to escort a young girl named Aurora (Mélanie Thierry) and her caretaker Sister Rebeka (Michelle Yeoh) to New York City in six days. Again, why is Canada and the United States in perfect shape, if the rest of the world isn’t? Should I assume we blasted them back into the Dark Ages? And although director Mathieu Kassovitz at least tries to explain Aurora’s “gift” and why people are willing to kill for it, it’s done haphazardly and late in the game — so late in fact that by that time the payload is delivered I realized I really didn’t care anymore.
Then there is the action. For an action/adventure movie Babylon A.D. is a bit on the weak side too. There are the consummate explosions, car chases and fights, but they’re lackluster and very un-actiony. Everyone appears to be just going through the paces — even Michelle Yeoh, who is usually good for some impressive martial arts, barely breaks a sweat. To give you an idea as to how poorly everything is setup, there is a scenes when Toorop is thrust into a plexiglass cage with some mindless gladiator. I was looking forward to a gritty, bloody mixed martial arts fight but only got a menacing statement from Toorop of, “You wanna fight?”, one or two punches and a quick choke — how anti-expectational! The only standout scene that comes to mind is a snowmobile chase in which an impressive backflip is worked into the mix. Hell, even the final showdown with a power corrupted high priestess played by Charlotte Rampling is nonexistent. Are we to believe she just lets Toorop walk off into the sunset? Are we to believe he lets her go off of to live her villainous life unmolested too? Gimme a break.
It was said that the executives at Twentieth Century Fox meddled throughout the making of Babylon A.D. due to cost overruns and creative differences. I can’t for the life of me figure out what could have cost so much more than expected. As for creative differences, did they request all the rewrites and/or reshots that caused this film to play out so poorly? While that may be a possibility, I find that difficult to fathom too since the cyberpunk book that the film is based on, Babylon Babies by Maurice G. Dantec, isn’t exactly literary gold. The only thing I can definitively blame them for is the fact they wasted space on some 3400 screens across the nation. This was undoubtedly meant to be a straight-to-DVD feature.