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November 5th, 2007:
In the near future, a mercenary is charged with delivering a young woman from Russia to Canada and learns that she has been manipulated by a synthetic virus and what lies inside her could doom the human race.What to Expect:
There is one fact that is true of all people: we are always worrying about the future and trying to guess what tomorrow holds. There is always someone trying to exploit the uncertainty of tomorrow by preaching all kinds of doomsday scenarios, ranging from the outrageous, like alien invasions or robots running amuck, to the more realistic like global warming. As a result, these ideas, when made into movies, always attract a large audience and create a nice profit for the studios that produced them no matter how crappy or far fetched the movie really is. As numerous and creative as these science fiction films are, most of them can easily be classified into one of four categories: the first is Post Apocalypse, where most of people are dead and humanity is trying to move on like Mad Max and Planet of the Apes. The second is time travel, where something bad is going to happen but someone comes back from the future to stop it like Terminator and Twelve Monkeys. The third category is the one that warns us how the future is going to be if we continue to behave badly like Soylent Green and Clockwork Orange. The final category, and perhaps the most annoying of these, is the cyberpunk. In this type of sci-fi, technology keeps improving while society deteriorates until technology either begins to rival or rule humanity, examples of this type include Blade Runner and the Matrix. The two examples I just mentioned are the best of the best in this genre, while the majority of these movies often tend to be a lot of flash but not a lot of real substance. They often try to use a lot of action, loud music, and unrealistic technology to distract you from a weak plot and its plot holes. A perfect example is going to be the 2008 movie Babylon A.D. Article continues below
Babylon A.D. is an adaptation of Maurice G. Dantec's cyberpunk novel Babylon Babies. What is so interesting about Dantec is that for most of his life he was not an author but rather a punk rock musician. His writing reflects his punk rock roots in a negative way. His prose has a lot of action and poorly developed characters that tend to distract from the overall message of the book. Babylon Babies definitely suffers from these shortcomings. It tells the story of Toorop; a veteran soldier turned mercenary who is hired to transport a young girl from Russia to Canada. In today's world going from Russia to Canada would be quite simple, but not in Dantec's version of the future. In his post globalization society, nation states no longer exist, instead people are divided along religious and ethnic lines with mixed and constantly changing alliances, kind of like modern day Iraq. Toorop's job becomes extremely difficult when it is learned that the girl he is escorting is carrying a virus which will change the world by allowing humans to control their DNA and create new levels of consciousness. The different factions then attempt to capture the girl and utilize her for their own gains hiring all kinds of mercenaries, cyborgs and criminal elements to intercept the cargo. Dantec spends much of the book describing these attempts in great detail while the goal of the different splinter groups, the purpose of the virus, and the characters involved all remain murky. However, this kind of plot makes for a great action movie, and in 2005 French director Mathieu Kassovitz
was hired to do just that. However, just like with Toorop, this simple job turned into a nightmare.
Kassovitz, with the help of French writer Eric Besnard, translated the French book into an English screenplay. They kept the main plot pretty similar to the book with only major changes being that Toorop is transporting the girl from Russia to China instead of Russia to Canada and there is also a nun, Sister Rebecca, accompanying them on their journey. Armed with his translated adaptation, Kassovitz was ready to begin filming. In early 2006 he hired French actor Vincent Cassel
to star as Toorop, and then the problems began. First Kassovitz had problems raising the necessary budget, so he replaced Cassel with American action star Vin Diesel
. Ironically, Diesel at the time was working with another French director, Xavier Gens
, on Hitman
. Diesel was definitely a better choice than Cassel for the lead because of his physical presence and star power. When making an action movie you must have a big, pumped up action star and Diesel is as good as they come. To complement him, Hong Kong action star Michelle Yeoh
was cast as Sister Rebecca. Yeoh is yet another product of the Hong Kong film industry where she worked on over twenty action movies and, of course, she does her own stunts. Kassovitz, having both of these action stars, was finally able to secure the budget he needed (seventy eight million) and filming was ready to begin. However, almost as soon as shooting started, Kassovitz began to have problems with Diesel. Some insiders claim that Diesel is the problem because he shows up late, sometimes up to two hours late, causing huge delays in filming, and then laughing about the fact that he got paid overtime for delays he caused. However, other insiders blame Kassovitz for the problems on set, claiming he is overly demanding and impossible to work with. Diesel's agent had to travel to Prague, where the majority of the shooting took place, on numerous occasions to try to smooth things out between Diesel and his moody director. It is hard to tell who was really at fault, but I am sure it is some combination of both Diesel and Kassovitz. All we know is that the movie suffered greatly because of the lack of cohesion on set. The delays got so bad that they got kicked out of the sound stage they were using because the next scheduled movie needed to use it and they were forced to switch sets. To make matters worse, the weather did not cooperate either. The script called for a snow scene, yet the area in Eastern Europe where filming was scheduled to take place, did not have any snow. As a result, Kassovitz decided to move the entire shoot to Sweden, causing another two weeks of delay and for the film to go over budget. Luckily, the movie was insured just for such a situation and the insurance company stepped in and provided another 1.5 million dollars to finish up. It seems that the amount of money wasn't enough, thus they ended up having to cut lots of corners in order to make budget. In fact, they had a contest for a "futuristic commercial and/or news footage" that would be featured in the movie. Translation, "we have no money to do it ourselves."
Will this movie arise from the ashes like the Phoenix? Probably not, but it does have some potential. It has a script loaded with action, and two great action stars in Diesel and Yeoh to execute them. To go along with the mind numbing scenes will be a great soundtrack; Hans Zimmer has an entire team of classical composers working with hip hop producer the Rza, who has made a name for himself in Hollywood doing movie scores for Kill Bill and Afro Sumurai. Apparently, it is said that this will be his best to date. There is nothing like a huge shoot out with a little classical music with a hip hop beat in the background. However, all of this action, good music, and athletic actors will not be able to overcome the lack of chemistry on set, the bad plot and budgetary problems.In Conclusion:
This movie had some potential, before Diesel and Kassovitz got their hands on it. Even though the action promises to be exciting, the stars and the director never gelled, which usually causes for the final product to suffer. If you are looking for a lot of action set to a great soundtrack, then Babylon A.D. might be worth seeing. However, if you are looking for good acting, a good plot and overall substance then you might want to skip this one.Similar Titles: Chronicles of Riddick
, Blade Runner