Science fiction and fantasy                                            

Babylon A.D.

directed by Mathieu Kassovitz

Babylon AD poster  
The voiceover opening this movie suggests an intriguing story of redemption in a tough, post-apocalyptic world. Thoorop (Vin Diesel) is a hard man in a hard environment filled with guns, violence, grime and crime. He's a mercenary who does what he can to survive, and doesn't allow anyone to mess him around.

Events kick off when a group of soldiers charge into his flat, blowing things up and pointing guns around for dramatic effect. It's the first of a series of action scenes designed to impress on us just how absurdly macho Thoorop is. A rich man called Gorski (Gerard Depardieu) wants him to take a girl to America, although getting into that country has become difficult and dangerous. In return Thoorop is promised a US passport, and the chance to start over. He's keen to take the job.

Thoorop travels to a convent in Mongolia where he picks up Aurora (Melanie Thierry) and her chaperone Sister Rebecca (Michelle Yeoh). The prim and protective Sister Rebecca gets off to a bad start with Thoorop when she warns him not to expose Aurora to too many emotions or bad language. But Thoorop is nothing but bad influences.

The three of them have a long way to travel, and on their way they're followed by factions who have their own plans for Aurora. Meanwhile the High Priestess of the Noelites (Charlotte Rampling) keeps turning up on hoardings and TV screens, promising the dawn of a new age in a few days. There are heavy hints that Aurora is somehow pivotal, although she's a timid and sensitive young woman. Aurora doesn't look charismatic enough to lead a new trend in hairstyles, never mind a new age. However it's soon apparent that there's more to her than meets the eye.

A strong environmental theme runs through this movie. Although Earth seems fairly crowded for a post-apocalyptic future there are some impressive visuals of destruction such as nuclear bomb craters, and more subtle touches such as a pair of dead polar bears. This theme makes an interesting backdrop, although it's not the main focus of Babylon A.D..

The main point seems to be martial arts and rock music, mixed in with explosions, chases, a little futuristic fluff, and more shooting. Boom! Bang! Splat! There may be some kind of plot about Aurora's purpose, some kind of religious struggle, and maybe some kind of new technology. Most of that has been edited out of this 87-minute celebration of kick-ass ass-kicking. It's as though the real story has been edited out in favour of some studio executive's daft idea of what makes a movie exciting. There's an uncomfortable shower scene which seems to be there to give Thoorop some romantic interest, but it ends up being both icky and baffling because it comes from nowhere and seems entirely out of character for all concerned.

Unfortunately Babylon A.D. reaches its peak within the first ten minutes. By the end we're left with too many unanswered questions. We aren't given enough detail about what exactly is up with Aurora, why Gorsky acts as he does, what it all means and why we should care. Any hope of a coherent plot is obscured by hackneyed fight scenes and some distinctly unconvincing technobabble about AIs and imprinted memories. The ending is weak, and this is the kind of film that makes you feel you've lost at least 20 IQ points for watching it.

15th June 2010

Film Details

Year: 2008

Categories: Films

  Science fiction

Classification: 12

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2 star rating

Review © Ros Jackson