Directed by: Mathieu Kassovitz
Starring: Vin Diesel, Michelle Yeoh, Melanie Thierry
Rated: PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, language, and some sexuality.
Parental Notes: This is a fairly standard PG-13 film, likely inappropriate for young children but fine for preteens and older.
Some movies are good: well-written, full of complex and developing characters, plotted in a way that makes sense. Some movies are bad: gloriously over-the-top, entertaining things packed with action and delightfully nonsensical. Both are enjoyable, depending on your taste. Then there are the movies that fall somewhere in the middle — poorly written but not delightfully so; confusing, disengaging things that leave you staring at the credits muttering “what? But wait, wasn’t… huh?”
“Babylon A.D.” is one of those. It has some elements of a good movie and some elements of a bad movie, but ultimately it is a confusing, jumbled mess that fails to entertain.
The film starts out well. After a voiceover musing on the nature of life in a dystopic future, we meet the owner of the voice: Toorop (Vin Diesel). After a little day-in-the-life action, Toorop is captured and made an offer he can’t refuse by Gorsky (a well-disguised Gerard Depardieu). His task: escort a young woman to America. The young woman, Aurora (Melanie Thierry), turns out to have an overprotective mother figure, Sister Rebecca (Michelle Yeoh), and to have some serious issues. She may also have the ability to see the future.
Diesel and Yeoh are convincing in their action-oriented roles, and both can handle the more serious dialog without sounding like utter fools. Thierry doesn’t have much to do beyond look frightened and upset, but she’s fine with that. There are even some good action sequences scattered through the first half or so of the film, as Toorop protects Aurora from various dangers on their way toward America.
Unfortunately, then the movie starts trying to have something beyond the straightforward action plot. We meet the High Priestess of the Noelites (Charlotte Rampling), who is apparently Aurora’s mother and is plotting to use the girl to put her religion on the map. We meet doctor Darquandier (Lambert Wilson), who also has some strange revelations about Aurora. There are multiple showdown sequences, which are rather incoherently shot. By the time the end of the film comes around, more questions have been raised than answered.
Sure, the special effects are nice, but so many confusing things are going on during those pretty effects sequences that it’s hard to appreciate them. I like a good, complex world where some things are left unexplained as much as the next filmgoer, but when lots of things that look like they’re being set up to be important are left hanging it starts to get tiresome. Apparently the film distribution company, 20th Century Fox, took the movie from the director’s control and made significant changes, which would help explain the confusing nature of the film.
Unfortunately, the reasons behind the state of the film do nothing to save “Babylon A.D.” from being what it is: a confusing, jumbled mess which utterly fails even to be bad in an entertaining way.