The stories of the studio butchering Babylon A.D. are well publicized, and the finished film confirms them. While Europeans were given the full, uncut 160-minute version, the US is stuck with a 90 minute and 100 minute cut, chopping obviously essential parts of the story right out of the movie. While it almost makes sense for the first two acts, the third is an absolute disaster.
What’s left is a Vin Diesel movie, that alone delivering problems by itself. Here he plays the unfortunately named Toorop, a mercenary given the job of transporting a girl to America from Russia. Of course, it’s not a simple task, loaded with plenty of people willing to kill Diesel and the girl, plus mysteries never quite solved in the script.
The few action scenes are edited spastically, filled with nauseating shaky cam footage and edits of the worst kind. Michelle Yeoh is the young girls escort, but despite being a nun (!) knows martial arts. A snowmobile chase is embarrassing, not to mention unexplained.
The latter is the problem here. Very little is clear. During the snowmobile chase, drones attack the characters, but who created the drones, why are they there, and why is the area so protected? There’s a line as the characters attempt to hop aboard a ship about satellites finding them that goes nowhere. What satellites? Who’s watching?
Even through all of that, it’s at least tolerable. The simple escort storyline is mildly fun, filled with explosions and energetic action set to an irritating, pulsing soundtrack. It nearly gets a pass as a dumb Vin Diesel vehicle.
It’s with one cut that the film completely falls apart. The last 15 minutes introduce a cyborg Vin Diesel, some form of religious cult, and DNA experimentation gone wrong. The ending is not only abrupt, it leaves a number of holes that destroy the film. Despite the obvious jumps earlier, this has to be where the editing machines came into the play the most, because it’s nonsensical filmmaking at its worst.
Whether the film succeeds in the 160-minute version isn’t known. US viewers are left in the cold. What’s here is obviously a lost cause, though there’s no guarantee an extra hour of Vin Diesel is ever a positive thing. What’s included on this Blu-ray is all that’s important for this review though and that’s sadly not the real version.
Despite the miserable box office, Fox has delivered a sharp, clear hi-def presentation. This is a strong AVC encode, full of gorgeous contrast and detail. Sharpness never wavers. Color varies from scene to scene based on the location, but still offers plenty of pop. Deep reds and blues cause no problems. There is some noise on overhead shots of New York, likely a result of the special effects. It’s hardly worth complaining about given their short duration. Video
There are two things notable about this DTS-HD Master mix: It’s loud and the bass is deep. The annoying soundtrack lights the subwoofer up with pulsating low-end audio on a regular basis. Explosions deliver that wonderful room shaking effect. Surround activity is apparent, but almost lost in the mix. The street shoot-out late in the film is an example where the rears simply aren’t aggressive enough, not to mention somewhat subdued. An early market visit is the same way, with aggressive stereo use while the surrounds falter. It still sounds great, but it’s hard to hear the positionals when things get heavy. Audio
Since Mathieu Kassovitz wants nothing to do with the film, it’s not much a surprise he doesn’t offer a commentary. The Blu-ray offers some exclusive featurettes over the DVD, including some picture-in-picture features thankfully accessible from the main menu as well. These features are routine behind-the-scenes items relevant to the moment in the film, and better than most of the other extras. Also, a separate option lets you view commercials that are otherwise background material in the movie.
Five other featurettes include the original novel’s author talking about the adaptation, a digital comic prequel, featurette on the stunt work, plus a look at a car chase not in the film at all, but included as a deleted scene. Some still galleries and trailers (plus a promo for the latest Behind Enemy Lines sequel) are the last of the meager extras. Extras