Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Babylon A.D.

Lowdown: Around a Blade Runner/Mad Max world in an hour and a half.
When it comes to quality actors Vin Diesel’s name is not the first that comes in mind. That said, his Chronicles of Riddick was not a bad science fiction film at all, so when Babylon A.D. became rentable I wanted to watch this latest of Mr Fast’s (or is it Mr Furious’?) science fiction adventures.
Babylon A.D. takes place in a slightly futuristic world that is a mix of the Blade Runner world and the Mad Max world. Blade Runner, because it’s a corrupt place that is mostly busy dying, and Mad Max because it’s a dog eat dog world where human life does not amount to much. In this world, we are introduced to a Diesel living in Russia; a Diesel that chooses to continue the silly name tradition and calls himself Toorop this time around, a worthy title for a very professional mercenary with more battle scars than hair.
Toorop/Diesel is hired by a Gérard Depardieu equipped with an even bigger than life movie prop nose (never thought that would be possible) to escort a young girl from a monastery in Asia all the way to New York. That good looking young girl comes accompanied by a chaperon, Michelle Yeoh. As the three go down the treacherous path to the USA, Diesel gets plenty of opportunities to exhibit his super soldiering skills and Yeoh demonstrates some martial arts skills. They also learn there is something special about the girl, something that makes her attract all sorts of not so welcoming people – including, in particular, the leader of a religious cult, Charlotte Rampling (who seems to have a knack for similarly styled science fiction films, as per Immortal).
Overall, Babylon A.D. is a pile of somewhat promising ideas that are badly executed or not explored well enough. The result is that there is nothing in there to make you think, only things in there to make you slightly excited for a short while (makes it sound like I’m describing porn, doesn’t it?). While never boring, things always feel contrived or copied from some superior source.
Action scenes are not more than okay. Again, they are not particularly original, and like most contemporary action films it suffers from the shaky camera syndrome that prevents viewers from knowing what is really going on plus some severe over-reliance on digital effects.
Notable scene: Our heroes stumble upon a pair of tigers. The girl asks Diesel about their nature, and Diesel explains they are not real but rather clones. For a start, I don’t understand what is unreal about clones; I’m sure the clones themselves would have a lot to say about being considered unreal. And second, being this is the last we hear of cloning or the tigers, this is a good example for an idea that is brought to our attention but doesn’t get further developed. The scene sort of demonstrates the superficial way in which Babylon A.D. tries to introduce us to its “world of ours gone wrong” universe.
Technical assessment: Featuring the latest in sound and vision codecs, this Blu-ray should have kicked ass. Yet the picture shows some graininess that is probably the fault of the original source and the sound, while aggressive, fails to captivate and immerse.
Overall: Although pleasant to watch, Babylon A.D. is entirely forgettable with nothing worth saying. 2.5 out of 5 stars.

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