Saturday, January 16, 2010

“Babylon A.D.” – We can all learn a lesson from Vin Diesel.

One of these days, I’ll learn my lesson. What lesson, you ask? Actually, there are two lessons. One, Vin Diesel will never be in a decent movie again, as long as he is in the starring role. Two, if I’m trying to convince myself that a movie will be good, it probably won’t be. You’d think I would have learned that lesson after “Jumper,” but apparently not. I just keep talking myself into movies like “Babylon A.D.”

To be fair, I don’t have anything against Vin Diesel. “Pitch Black” remains one of my favorite sci-fi flicks and is the movie that put Diesel on the map. He followed that up with the surprisingly watchable “The Fast and the Furious,” but everything went downhill after that. I’m not sure there’s anyone alive who would brag about having “XXX” and “The Pacifier” on their resume. That being said, I just don’t think he can carry a movie. He wasn’t the lead in “Pitch Black” or “The Fast and the Furious” and that is the way it should be from now on. Unfortunately, one of the previews I saw during “Babylon A.D.” was for “Fast and Furious,” the fourth installment of that franchise (I’m not making this up), so we know there’s at least one more shitfest in his (and our) future.

“Babylon A.D.” starts off very simply, and then becomes incredibly confusing and manic. The film is set in the near future, somewhere in Russia. Some sort of apocalyptic event has occurred (we’re never told what) and only the United States seems to have survived unscathed (naturally). Diesel plays Toorop, a mercenary who is hired by a nasty Russian guy, Gorsky, to transport a girl, Aurora (Melanie Thierry), to New York. In other words, the simple part. The film is complicated by the apocalyptic setting, the woman accompanying Aurora, Sister Rebecca (Michelle Yeoh), the fact that we know there is something very strange about Aurora, and the mysterious group of people who are awaiting Aurora’s arrival.

I know that stuff doesn’t sound complicated, but you haven’t heard the truly confusing part that makes you say…bwaa? Aurora has special powers (we don’t know why), some of which are seeing the future and the ability to deflect fire. Unfortunately for her, (and here comes the big spoiler) childbirth is her kryptonite. It never ceases to amaze me how stupid writers can be. The twins she gives birth to are supposed to be some sort of messiahs to a group of crazy religious business people in New York, led by Aurora’s mother. Their goal is to bring the entire world under their spiritual control with these twins. Oh, I forgot to mention, Aurora is pregnant via immaculate conception. Stop laughing; I am not making this up. Her father (the French guy from the Matrix) is some sort of technical wizard who is trying to keep Aurora from the zealots. To give you a picture, he is a talking version of Stephen Hawking crossed with the Borg from Star Trek.

By now, you should be scratching your head (or banging it against a wall). I am. The worst part of the whole film is we never get an explanation for any of this crap. It’s just one action sequence after another, with a little bit of awkward romance thrown in between Toorop and Aurora. Considering the assumed age difference, the scene I am referring to is extremely uncomfortable (and a little creepy). Anyway, I’d like to explain this whole thing with some sort of coherence, but the film didn’t do that for me. Sorry.

As I pondered what to write about this film and its extremely well thought out plot, I came across an interesting tidbit about the director, Mathieu Kassovitz. He adapted the screenplay from a book called Babylon Babies (at least we know where the title came from now), but isn’t credited as one of the writers. However, he is credited as a producer and the director. The tidbit is that he was purported to be upset with 20th Century Fox, its partners, and the other producers. He described the film as pure violence and stupidity and likened it to a bad episode of 24. I agree with this sentiment (Gorsky is blown up by a nuclear missile from the Zealots…still not making this up), but I don’t understand why he didn’t just quit. If he had that much of a problem with it, as the director and producer, he should have been able to change things. Or, he could have just given Fox the finger and left his paycheck at the door. The only thing I can think of is that he purposely tanked the movie, so he could trash it and lay the blame on Fox. Unfortunately, I don’t have that much faith in him. He should have known what was coming as soon as Diesel walked through the door. I guess he hasn’t learned that lesson either.

Rating: It’s hard to think of any reason other than pity not to ask for a full refund. So ask for nine dollars back.

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