Babylon A.D. Reviews
With the film depicting a hip-hop soundtrack against a grey and dilapidated landscape in the intro, Babylon A.D. starts out with an odd tone. It's like the film wants to be a legitimate dystopian science fiction piece and an MTV friendly movie at the same time, and this theme comes and goes throughout the course of the film. Yet ultimately, the concept that it adheres to most heavily is an alternative commercial route where the premise is constructed out of derivative plot elements from every other science fiction movie ever made. It feels like there should be a story at the base of Babylon A.D., but looking closely at it I just found that all the plot points were generic story elements borrowed from countless other films. Director Mathieu Kassovitz attempts to disguise all this under the production values of the film, but even though Babylon A.D. cost a whopping $70 million to make there are minimal stylistic assets to truly boast about. The only consistently impressive visual aspect of Babylon A.D. is the scenery because there is creative versatility in the story locations and they all work towards establishing a convincing post-apocalyptic universe. However, for a film that cost so much this is certainly not the best kind of overblown. Though there are strong production values in Babylon A.D. with beautiful scenery and strong production design, Babylon A.D. does not carry a story which knows what to do with them in the slightest. Babylon A.D. experiences meandering success on the basis of its sense of imagery, but this largely serves as an inconsistent distraction from a story which clearly takes itself more seriously than it takes plot points from other films.
The writing in Bablyon A.D. is truly powerless. Considering that the intro scene depicts Vin Diesel talking English while the rest of the characters around him speak French and this goes on with flawless understanding of each other, it is clear that the script is not a strong basis for what comes next in Babylon A.D.. That proved to be a correct presumption because the story in Babylon A.D. genuinely seems to be a series of familiar generic plot points loosely waved together into a singular script for the sake of pretending that it has a narrative to work with. The fact is that it doesn't, and Babylon A.D. exists as nothing more than a Vin Diesel star vehicle. But like chicken on a poultry farm, he is force fed some of the most generic dialogue available to man. The rest of the cast gets it, but to a lesser extent. Either way, there is nothing in the way of characters in Babylon A.D. since the script adheres to the generic nature of the story so heavily.
Yet surprisingly enough, I found myself impressed by some of the stylish elements of Babylon A.D.. The action in Babylon A.D. is surprisingly versatile. It combines touches of close combat fight scenes with high energy chase scenes and even a touch of Parkour at times with the presence of David Belle, among other things. The quantity is certainly underwhelming which is all the more disappointing considering the quality of the action, but whenever it is on screen the experience is certainly entertaining. In all honesty I did not expect the action to be of such good quality, but as there is a strong balance of practical stunts and CGI in the film which is all captured with strong cinematography and timely editing against the backdrop of powerful scenery, the action in Babylon A.D. is genuinely entertaining to watch. The sound editing is also strong and the musical score is thoroughly atmospheric. Though the film is overblown, the budget is well spent during the action scenes which means that viewers with narrative standards as low as the one delivered in Babylon A.D. should be able to find entertainment. This is where the sense of style in Babylon A.D. hits its high point, and this displays that Mathieu Kassovitz maintains an effective eye for imagery. It's just that he needs a mind for narrative coherence if he's gonna be helming a $70 million Vin Diesel vehicle.
And matching the shallow nature of the screenplay, Babylon A.D. fails to draw on much in the way of success from the cast.
Vin Diesel is a decent lead. I say that as a fan of his whose opinion is wilfully tainted by personal bias because it is obvious that he is no Orson Welles, but he is a good fit for the lead role in Babylon A.D.. Vin Diesel's monotonous line delivery reinforces the generic nature of the script all too clearly, but it is also part of his gimmick so he is able to justify it. And on top of that, it matches the shallow nature of his character as nothing more than a hard shell of a man. Vin Diesel's status as an action hero gives him a gimmick that justifies his casting in Babylon A.D., so he is welcome on board.
The rest of the cast in Babylon A.D. have little to do and make an impact of the same standard. The presence of legendary French actor Gerard Depardieu is also welcome, though condemning him to the role of a generic Russian mobster proves to be one that even he cannot save. Melanie Thierry is stuck with a character always lost in her own mind which seems to be a ploy to distract from her limitations as an actress, but it does not always work. The melodramatic repetition of Charlotte Rampling is also ineffective, though she certainly does make a decent effort.
So Babylon A.D. benefits from Vin Diesel's genial presence and some decent action scenes, but these diminutive elements play second fiddle to a thoroughly derivative story with a generic script that keeps the budget from being spent on anything of value.