A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Babylon A.D.

April 23, 2011

Babylon A.D.

There has to be a story behind the making of this movie. It’s a cool sci-fi action movie about a badass unstoppable mercenary escorting a sheltered psychic to America in a dystopic future. I get that. It’s well made and has some well known stars. For eighty percent of the movie it pretty much fulfills my expectations for this kind of futuristic sci-fi. But then it reaches the end and… I still don’t know what exactly happens. The impression I got was that the movie abruptly lost funding while they were filming the end of the movie and it was rapidly finished from a different script just to have something to release in theaters. That’s probably not what actually happened – movies aren’t usually filmed in sequence so even if they did suddenly run out of funds they probably would have had at least some of the ending filmed. I can’t imagine that the end as it appears on this DVD was scripted to be that way – it feels so odd and out of place.

Up until it reaches that ending though It’s a pretty good sci fi adventure film. It starts out in Russia, where a retired mercenary is living on the fringes of a burned out and war torn society. You know that Toorop is an unstoppable killing machine with a heart of gold because he is played by Vin Deisel, and that’s the kind of character he plays. He is press-ganged into taking on an impossible mission by a local crime boss. If he will agree to escort a girl across the borders to America he will get a new passport – a chance to go home.

The girl, Aurora, is of course and enigma. She has been raised in isolation in a cliff side monestray bu her guardian Rebeka. She speaks multiple languages and has oddly encyclopedic knowledge of all manner of things. She has empathic psychic powers. The question is why. Where does she come from and why is Toorop being made to bring her to New York?

I like the world building here. I like the visuals. Particularly when they reach New York and it has a very shiny Blade Runner feel to it. (This is one of the few times that over-the-top product placement feels like an organic part of the movie and is appropriate.) The war-torn anarchy of Russia where the movie starts, with a paunchy and heavily accented Gerard Depardieu, slumming it up as mob boss Gorsky in his high tech armoured personell carrier, is fascinating. This movie depicts a world gone mad, but one not too difficult to imagine when you look at the world of today.

I also spent the entire movie waiting for Michelle Yeoh to start kicking ass, because of course a guardian monk character like Rebeka is a ticking time bomb. She’s a promise waiting to be kept. And for the most part this movie lives up to its promise – right up until the final action scene where Rebeka and Toorop try to save Aurora from two well funded rival bands of thugs who want to deliver her to some kind of insane church of technology.

Then the movie goes on for another fifteen or twenty minutes after that final action scene. First it takes a pretty sharp metaphysical turn into left field as some of the questions about Aurora are answered, then it arrives at another point that could have been a kind of an ending. Then it has a sort of tacked on ending after that grafted onto the movie by means of some expository narration.

The result of the sort of awkward and incongruous endings to the movie is that it feels abrupt, incomplete and unsatisfying. It has all the symptoms of a struggle between the creative intent of the director and the bumbling interference of the movie studio. Which, apparently, is exactly what happened here. It reminds me somewhat of the end of Brazil, but less mental. In the end this seems to me like a movie with a lot of great potential that doesn’t seem to know how to deliver on it when it comes time to resolve things in the end. I don’t know. Maybe it needed another action scene. Maybe it needed to tie off some loose ends. (What happens to the cultists following Aurora and Toorop at the end for example? The movie sets them up to be the nemesis to be overcome and then they abruptly give up and vanish? Very odd.) Maybe the executives at Fox should have eased up and just let Mathieu Kassovitz just make the movie he wanted to make. Who knows what that movie could have been.

April 23, 2011 - Posted by | daily reviews | , , ,

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