This seems like another in the seemingly endless string of movies lately that’s based on some dark, futuristic graphic novel. There was Sin City and 300, and coming up we have Watchmen and Max Payne. (Also a remake of The Day the Earth Stood Still, which isn’t based on a graphic novel, obviously, but is chock-full of special effects, unlike the original.
This seems like another in the seemingly endless string of movies lately that’s based on some dark, futuristic graphic novel. There was Sin City and 300, and coming up we have Watchmen and Max Payne. (Also a remake of The Day the Earth Stood Still, which isn’t based on a graphic novel, obviously, but is chock-full of special effects, unlike the original. It stars Keanu Reeves as the alien visitor, which isn’t as awful a casting choice as one might think because the character isn’t supposed to have any emotions.)
Where was I? Oh, yeah, Babylon A.D. It’s actually based on a regular novel called Babylon Babies, which I haven’t read (surprise — I mean, I read a lot of books but never the right ones, apparently), so I don’t know how things ended. I didn’t leave early or anything, but after going along pretty well for 90 minutes, the film just… ended, and then credits rolled, and I wasn’t quite sure what had happened. I noticed that the version released in France was 101 minutes, and my first reaction was to be annoyed that only France got the real ending; but someone who saw that posted that the ending was awful. So either those extra 11 minutes weren’t at the end, or they were but the wrap-up was still somehow terrible/ridiculous.
And before I forget the plot completely, let’s get to that: Vin Deisel (not a favorite of mine, but I hear he plays Dungeons & Dragons, so that makes up for a little) plays mercenary Toorop, who was apparently kicked out of the US and now lives in Russia, where everything looks like a recently demilitarized zone. He’s forcibly recruited by Gorsky (Gérard Depardieu, even though he’s French and not Russian), who is sort of the cuddly villain of the piece — the lesser of two evils, though he has the scariest nose I’ve seen in a long time. He wants Toorop (I don’t know whether that’s a first or last name… maybe it’s an acronym?) to smuggle a package into the US, where all the cities look like many, many giant billboards in this brave new world of the future.
The package is named Aurora (Mélanie Thierry), and she’s a young blonde woman with lips that I think might actually be very nearly as big as Angelina Jolie’s. She’s been raised in an orphanage in a convent that is an absolutely gorgeous building in a beautiful spot, under the care of Sister Rebecca (Michelle Yeoh — I wanted to see her smack Vin Diesel around a little just because it would have looked so cool, but no such luck). But now Aurora is exhibiting strange symptoms of illness or psychological problems or maybe demonic possession, and she needs a commercialized US physician to help her out.
It’s somewhere during their trip to New York that the movie gets less good. By the time they actually reach the Big Apple, I’m pretty confused as to what’s really going on, but I have faith that all will be revealed, or at least enough so that I’m not walking out of the theatre dazed and confused. But I was dazed and confused, and it’s a shame because it started out really well, very dark and interestingly post-apocalyptic, and then it just turned into yet another action flick.
So two and a quarter idols for this one, the quarter being for Michelle Yeoh because she did get to smack around a lot of random bad guys. Like she tells Vin, “Just because we’re peaceful doesn’t mean we’re weak.” She’s so cool. She couldn’t save this movie, true, but I have a feeling that was more because of the editors than anything else. They must not have known what was going on, either, and just wanted the audience to suffer along with them.
Originally published 8/2008. I don’t even remember anymore what was so perplexing about the ending, but that doesn’t mean I’m anxious to see it again, even with Michelle Yeoh.