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  Publicity Stills of
"Babylon A.D."
(Courtesy of 20th Century Fox)

Director: Mathieu Kassovitz
Cast: Vin Diesel, Michelle Yeoh, Gerard Depardieu, Charlotte Rampling, Melanie Thierry, Lambert Wilson, Mark Strong, Joel Kirby, Souleymane Dicko, David Belle
RunTime: 1 hr 30 mins
Released By: 20th Century Fox
Rating: PG (Some Violence)
Official Website: http://www.babylonadmovie.com/

Opening Day: 11 September 2008


A mercenary is hired to deliver a “package” – an innocent young woman raised in a monastery – from the ravages of a post-apocalyptic landscape of Eastern Europe to a destination in the teeming megalopolis of New York City. But this is hardly a typical job for the hardened gun-for-hire. As he, the young woman, and her fearsome guardian make the 6,000-mile trek, they are threatened by a religious sect that has taken a special interest in the woman – who may hold the secret to mankind’s salvation.

Movie Review:

You know how spats between directors and the studios seem to almost always doom a movie, especially when the latter tries to wrestle creative control and impose their vision of the movie - that which spells $$$ at the box office arising from a lower rating to cater to the masses. However, when these spats are made public, and you start to realize just how dumbed down everything has been from the original vision, it becomes box office poison.

Which is quite pitiful, because of the potential buried in this futuristic science fiction movie, based upon the novel "Babylon Babies" by Maurice G. Dantec. It has religious connotations, artificial intelligence and cybernetic lifeforms all rolled into one biblical like story akin to a Joseph and Mary's virgin birth, on a flight from persecution. It toyed with so many ideas and concepts that would have elevated it to probable greatness should the material be treated with respect, but this final theatrical edit only skimmed a thin veneer and severely lacked depth, only to become a mindless action movie with the number of action sequences being able to be counted using one hand.

Whoever edited this thing should get shot at, and audiences will start to appreciate the genius of John Woo's balletic poetry-in-motion shoot-em-ups a little more. Tightly framed close ups, too fast and too furious quick edits to supposedly hype up the adrenaline and energy, all become serious bugbears in its presentation. Not to mention of course some rather dated and blah sequences for a futuristic movie, like Parkour (again?!) or having 2 (read: cheap) drone planes shoot endless rounds of projectiles only to miss (who programs these things ought to get shot too). Don't hold your breath waiting for subsequent action sequences besting the current one you've seen, because it all goes downhill and get a lot worse.

And the final nail in its coffin, is that the movie's so hurried, it forgot that it needed an ending. No, I'm not talking about some philosophical, metaphorical or artfully shot ending that you need to spend time mulling over. Just a proper ending, rather than a distinct and total lack of a final act, spelling laziness. In fact, you'll be wondering if you've been short-changed by its cop out, that everything gets conveniently forgotten (maybe magically nuked), or perhaps shoved into a never-would-be-made sequel, or targeted for a straight-to-DVD release.

It's been four long years since we last saw Vin Diesel on the big screen kicking some serious butt in the sci-fi flick Chronicles of Riddick, before he ventured into unknown territory with The Pacifier, and Find Me Guilty. And for his return, he picked Babylon A.D. but I'd bet his taut muscles will go flaccid too at the final version of this film, and wondered what went wrong with his Transporter-Johnny Mnemonic role in mercenary Toorop. If you think about it, it's pure Diesel-ism infused into this character, with his macho attitude coupled with a foul mouth delivering machismo one-liners, and it's not that we might have gotten tired of his hunky screen persona, just that the story he's signed up for, unfortunately got transformed into a hulking disaster.

Michelle Yeoh seems to be quite gung-ho to take on just about any genre that Hollywood throws at her, and we know the kind of quality films that she has starred in, from big-name blockbusters like Memoirs of a Geisha, to flogging franchise duds like the latest Mummy installment. In fact, I thought she did rather well in her role as the kung-fu-less scientist in Danny Boyle's Sunshine, and would have done great too in a film of a similar genre. Her Sister Rebeka role here however, seemed to have most of her screen time on the editing room floor, becoming no more than an over-glorified bodyguard to her charge Aurora (Melanie Thierry), as her absence from the theatrical poster would already hint at her character's insignificance.

Throw in the likes of Gerard Depardieu, Charlotte Rampling and Lambert Wilson (the infamous Merovingian of the Matrix movies), and you thought you have it made with a dream cast. Alas, it had forgotten two rules. One, the story. Two, trust the director you hired.

Movie Rating:

(1 star to welcome the return of Vin Diesel to the big screen. Ho-hum.)

Review by Stefan Shih


. Sunshine (2006)

. The Pacifier (2005)

. 13 District (2005)

. V for Vendetta (2005)

. I, Robot (2004)

. Children of Men DVD (2006)


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