Cast: Vin Diesel, Michelle Yeoh, Mélanie Thierry
Director: Mathieu Kassovitz
Runtime: 90 min.
Genre: Action, Sci-fi
It has been a tough summer for Twentieth Century Fox. All their films have performed abysmally at the box office, the most tragic of which is The X-Files: I Want to Believe, a film I have immensely loved, and which I believe, has been marketed rather poorly and released quite most inappropriately. There’ve been reports seriously dissecting the iron hand that exists down at Fox, and the way they deal with their filmmakers. So much so that major filmmakers no longer prefer to work with them. And when Mathieu Kassovitz, one of the most explosive talents to come out of France, and having helmed films as radical and provoking as La Haine (1995) and Assassins (1997), blasts his own film and the studio behind it barely couple of weeks before its release, I have no choice but to agree. I have little or no first hand idea how the business works, but after having watched the film, there’s little doubt why Kassovitz is so displeased. Babylon A.D. isn’t a bad film, and there’re several reasons why the film could be appreciated. But then, the product as a whole is terrible, and dare I say amateurish. And confusing. You’ll draw the realization about the confusing part when the film ends, rather when the film tells you it has ended, and you’re in no better place with respect to understanding the plot than when you bought the admission ticket. One might have enough reason to wonder if the studio, in its immense grief, somehow forgot to add the penultimate reel. And one can only wonder.
Yet I had a good time. Yes, I wish they had an ending and didn’t leave it to us to make sense of it all. But walking in, I kinda expected that, considering its history and the death ring that was the director’s statement. And even with that knowledge, which I’m not sure worked for the better or for the worse, I was intrigued by the plot. Yes, there’s one, a derivative one at that and it is fairly apparent for a bare-knuckled genre film. Somewhere in the future there’s a young woman Aurora (Mélanie Thierry) in a remote convent in Tibet, one who holds a great secret, and upon whom the fate of the world rests. Toorop (Diesel), a former mercenary, is given the job of transporting her to New York.
Now this is a time and this is a world where anarchy and poverty reins, where corporations rule the world, and the one obvious good thing about Babylon A.D. is the impressive set designs. And the actors are as good as they can be in a film where the shots more often than not feel confused. Look, I don’t feel like dwelling into a film and reviewing it when the filmmaker doesn’t have even one nice word to say for it. The film might have arguably the most incomprehensible and badly assembled action sequences ever, and there’s a treat for anyone who can design any of the set piece for me completely. It isn’t possible. But I believe there was once at its heart the germ of a good, if not a great film. There were ideas that were worth discussing, and there was a plot that was worth dissecting. The remnants are there to be seen. But as it is now, even a Director’s Cut might not do the trick. I wonder how things could have reached so low where a director disowns a film. After all, he has shot it. And if someone else assembled it, were they so naïve and forgetful that they missed the ending. Or did they? I can only wonder.