One of the big flops of the summer, Babylon A.D. is an action-oriented Blade Runner/The Fifth Element rip-off that has the distinguished honor of having its own director publicly bashing the film before its release. Think of a father going to class to insult his child on the first day of school. It's just sad, especially when the kid doesn't deserve it.
Babylon A.D. is about one badass guy named Toorop who, living in a devastated near-future Russia, is hired to transport a mysterious young woman named Aurora (Mélanie Thierry) to America. Along the way, they encounter hitmen, religious cults and other obstacles that could prevent Toorop from completing his mission - and learning the truth. Okay, so it's not an incredible story, but it's good enough as a Vin Diesel action vehicle.
Other critics disagree. On Rotten Tomatoes, only 7% of critics even adequately enjoyed the flick. Of the top critics, get this: not a single one gave it a positive review. That is not about as bad as things can get - it is as bad as things can get. The Hollywood Reporter calls it a "futuristic mess of biblical proportions" and the Chicago Reader says it's a "must-see only for fans of snowmobile chases." Variety may nail it on the head by labeling it as "a noisier, costlier version of Children of Men, yet lacking that film's social-political significance and jaw-dropping direction."
Babylon A.D. may be a dumb version of Children of Men, which, by the way, was my favorite film of 2006. It may aspire to look like Blade Runner and achieve some of the strangeness of The Fifth Element and fail miserably on all accounts. But low expectations have a way of making so-so films good, and when all you expect is mindless action, Babylon A.D. delivers.
That's right. Babylon A.D. isn't as bad as everyone says. It isn't great, but it has enough action and intrigue to appeal to Vin Diesel fans. The set pieces look good and the visuals are decent. The action is fun, though not particularly memorable. Diesel - if you like his action players - sticks true to form for the most part.
What tripped up most, if not all, critics and hurt the movie the most is the screenplay, which is, frankly, muddled beyond repair. The concept has a lot of potential, as hinted at in the previews. The girl that Toorop is selected to protect can sense things and perhaps read minds, and do some other trippy things, is interesting, yet it is never clear exactly what she can do. When things are actually revealed, the movie ends, forcing you to ask the question, "What was the point?" Frankly, the movie seems to be missing its third act, as if the budget ran out and the studio just decided to release it as is. The attempt to make Babylon A.D. more than just an action movie at the end is disappointing.
If you don't expect too much and just want a fast-paced action flick, Babylon A.D. is good enough. Still, one wonders what could have been had there been a more elaborate and developed plot.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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