BABYLON A.D.!!! The Studio Hates It, The Director Hates It, And Now Massawyrm Hates It Too!!!
Published at: Aug. 29, 2008, 9:02 a.m. CST by merrick
Hola all. Massawyrm here.
I don’t know what the hell went wrong here, but whatever it was it went wrong BAD. The studio seems to not want anything to do with it. The director sure as hell seems to want nothing to do with it. And for the first two acts of this movie I couldn’t for the life of me figure out why not. And then came the third act twist. And boy howdy was it a twist. It twists a fairly cool, if somewhat lifeless, science fiction film into a laughable piece of garbage that begins to beat the audience about the head with some of the dumbest god damned things you’ve heard in a long time. I’m not talking improbable. I’m not talking impossible. I’m talking downright fucking goofy.
This thing sure starts out cool enough. While the trailers kind of sell it as a dystopian future ala Children of Men, it is actually something just a little different. This is CYBERPUNK. No, not like cyberpunk. Actual, honest to god, Gibsonesque cyberpunk. You don’t see it at first, primarily because the film opens in the poor ghettos of Eastern Europe, but as the world gets wider and wider it begins to appear. Cybernetic implants. Advertising everywhere. Well-funded criminal organizations. And of course future tech just a wee bit ahead of our own. And what makes this a pretty cool version of a cyberpunk world is that we spend a vast majority of our time in crumbling, war-torn Eastern European and Asian countries.
Vin is cool enough. He looks kind of tired and bored here, but then again it comes off as if that’s how his character is supposed to be acting. He’s a mercenary with a past that has somehow gotten himself branded as a terrorist in the United States. He’s got a history with the guy who hired him. He’s got a history with the guy sent to collect him. He’s got a history with several of the people he runs across in this little adventure. Except that it isn’t until the end of the film that you realize they’re never going to give you the slightest inkling of what that history might be. Early reports have this film missing an entire hour – and it sure as hell feels like it – except that the European cut is only 11 minutes longer and director Mathieu Kassovitz (Gothika, La Haine) claims it’s only missing about 15. Which can mean only one thing: this really is a shallow, empty, soulless film with nothing that can save it.
Like I said, I was enjoying the first two acts. The fact that we never really get to know Diesel as anything but a cliché keeps us from ever getting involved in the action sequences – none of which were very inventive or shot particularly well to begin with anyhow. It is the scenes in between, the landscape of this world on the edge of eating itself alive, the crime ridden hovels through which Diesel ducks and hides, hell, the way a comically awful (and unrecognizable) Gerard Depardieu crime lord travels around in fully armored personnel carriers complete with ready and waiting prostitutes. It is a well thought out, fully realized dystopia that just feels dangerous – even if the fights do not.
And then the third act twist hits. And it is more than a little jarring. Then it is immediately followed up by a revelation so profoundly ludicrous, so mind numbingly incomprehensible, that it leaves you quite stunned. Once you realize what this film is really all about, you’re gonna be kinda pissed. And that’s when they drop one of the most unbelievable lines I think I’ve ever run across in the history of bad science fiction – a line that will haunt this film whenever it is mentioned. A line that will haunt me whenever I think about it. “20 years ago they kicked me out of the medical community for trying to put artificial intelligence in babies.”
No. Seriously. What? That doesn’t make any god damned fucking sense. At all. Artificial intelligence? In Babies? Oh. Fuck. You.
From that point on the film simply nosedives down into the ass end of nowhere, never to return to anything resembling a real narrative. There’s another action sequence that feels more like a mid-film action beat than a climax, and then it caps off with a completely inexplicable ending that will leave you scrambling to figure out how this thing went south so fast. And once the credits begin to roll there isn’t a doubt in your mind why everyone is trying to distance themselves and dump this thing, placing the blame squarely on the shoulders of someone else. This thing is a fucking embarrassment. A cool film with one of the most unspeakably awful third acts in recent memory.
This thing is just silly, a grotesque cinematic partial birth abortion unlike anything I’ve experienced. When Kassovitz said "It's pure violence and stupidity," he wasn’t lying. But he didn’t mean that in a cynical, eggheaded, pretentious director sort of way. It is utterly meaningless and only serves to make your brain hurt when it begins trying to be smart. It is kind of like what would happen if your thirteen-year-old brother watched Children of Men and got the money from FOX to make a better version of it. And I don’t mean that in a good way. Not at all. When Paul W.S. Anderson is making better science fiction than the French, you know something is terribly wrong with the world. Terribly wrong indeed.
Until next time friends, smoke ‘em if ya got ‘em.