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Babylon A.D.: A Future No One Wanted to See

Posted by goldwriting on September 7, 2008

No one knows it, but I’m watching The Fast and the Furious behind these lenses on repeat. Damn, I was good back then.

It can be tough to remind an audience of something they used to love long ago. Cut to eight years ago where fresh faced post-millennium crowds were stunned by the sheer machismo of a character known as Riddick and the actor who brought him life, known as Vin Diesel. Talk of the next big action star shot around town through phone lines, electric wiring and every wireless network available. Vin was handed the golden ticket, but unfortunately he chose to cash it in on the wrong show. After another huge boost from the Fast and Furious franchise, which he helped create, Vin walked away and jumped into XXX which turned out to be a huge disaster. Since then Vin has stumbled through the action world, briefly turning in a finely tuned family performance in The Pacifier, but never making it back to his once renowned action star fame. Here, in the dark, dreary world of Babylon A.D., Vin was set for a comeback. Poised on the edge of a Blade Runner-esque feature that looked to relaunch the man-myth in the same fashion as Pitch Black did all those years ago. Would it work? Would Vin muscle his way to the top once again?

Not this time.

Babylon A.D. is hamstrung from the start. Here’s a brief overview of the story: Vin plays a smuggler who’s pretty much left the game, but is dragged back in for one big score which could give him the chance at a new life. The deal is he has to transport a young girl into America in six days. Tons of people are after her for different reasons, which Vin tries to ignore at first, but finds himself tangled in her web. This last job forces him to make a choice between caring about himself or caring about others. On paper it all sounds fairly straight forward and easy to get across, but somewhere in the translation from page to screen this simple story became so convoluted and riddled with plot holes that the director himself went on a vulgarity laced tirade against the studio for ruining it. Matheiu Kassovitz railed against Fox Studios for cutting an extra seventeen minutes from the final cut and also not allowing him to shoot what he felt was an integral scene to the story. We as the audience will never know if those missing minutes would have turned the tide of the film, but when the credits to roll as it is the feeling of huge and important facts missing is inescapable. The most glaring of all is the big hook from the trailer where we see a rocket propelled missle explode within inches of the young girl, as if blocked by a force field, but where the field came from, how she created it or what it means about her powers is explained only in the most inept fashion. This would be the only moment the audience could emotionally connect with Vin Diesel’s character since he couldn’t understand any of it either.

In the acting realm, Vin didn’t do a terrible job. He brought back a little touch of the gruff, no nonsense brute we all came to love back in the day. Yet later in the movie he shows even he has an achillies heel, no matter how tough he may seem. A late in the third act crying scene was absolutely painful to watch and should have been cut from the first moment of rehearsal. Put him behind the wheel of a car or the trigger of a gun, but never, ever put Vin behind a sheen of fake tears. Michelle Yeoh tries to add some acting chops to the flick, but even she gets lost in the convoluted plot twists. Stuck smack dab in the middle of this bleak futuristic mess is Melanie Thierry, who plays Aurora, the mysterious explosion proof girl. Piercing blue eyes aside, she has the innocence and purity the role calls for, but not the experience and talent yet to pull the audience in with her.  Once again though, I hate to give her too much flack since everything really starts with the script and the writing just wasn’t there to support her.

In the end Babylon A.D. came to the screen as a great concept, but terribly executed and we’ll never know if that was due to the unfinished and unpolished script, terrible directing by Kassovitz or another example of a movie studio sticking its fingers where they don’t belong. Whatever the case, it was a missed opportunity for Vin Diesel to recapture his former glory. Luckily for him, he already signed on to return to his star making character in Fast and Furious, the fourth part of the franchise, reuniting all four members of the original cast. If done right, Vin still might get the bump he was looking for.

Recommendation: Watch Blade Runner again, or Equilibrium, or Gattaca, or take a nap.

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