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Category:    Home > Reviews > Science Fiction > Action > Babylon A.D. (2008/Fox Blu-ray)

Babylon A.D. (2008/Fox Blu-ray)


Picture: B+     Sound: A-     Extras: C+     Film: C+



Actor and sometimes-director Mathieu Kassovitz has proven he can helm a film, even when he does not star in it.  Gothika (2003) with Halle Berry (in one of her better, more interesting commercial outings) almost had a sequel and it took five years for Kassovitz to make another film.  The result was Babylon A.D. (2008), a big budget Sci-Fi actioner that was ambitious in budget and ambition, plus may have had something to say, but that was hard to tell from this version dubbed “Raw & Uncut” as it was not the former and pretty much no the latter as it turns out.


We get the 101 minute French cut here, which is not as uncut is would seem versus the U.S. version being only 90 minutes (which is why it bombed), but the original uncut version was actually 161 minutes and that is the one we should have received here.  The casing should not claim otherwise.  Did the studio loose confidence in the film or its stars, or could it be that Fox censor this for political reasons?


Well, it stars Vin Diesel, Michelle Yeoh (both of whom are still very bankable and good here), Mélanie Thierry, Gérard Depardieu, Charlotte Rampling, Mark Strong, Lambert Wilson and Jan Unger, so star power and a good cast is not an issue here.  The money is actually up on the screen in some of the better locations, sets, costumers and even digital effects we’ve seen lately.  The story about a cult trying to kidnap a Eastern European girl who may have a special gift and possess the means of bearing some kind of messiah (anti-Christ or otherwise) to lead them.  This does not make much sense, but the screenplay (co-written by Kassovitz) has all kinds of side items that make the film interesting, even when this seems pretentious.


However, it is hard to say that with finality when an entire hour of the film is missing.  The last time Fox had a film that dealt with this kind of thinking in a Science Fiction/Action genre film that they were part of was David Fincher’s Alien 3 (1992, reviewed elsewhere on this site) that I liked even more in its short theatrical cut.  Years later when a mostly reconstructed longer version of the film arrived on DVD, it turned out it was a far smarter, more sprawling epic and more of the equal of the first two films on the series.  Purposely not reading about the controversy before screening it, the film was a bit choppy even if I had seen it cold knowing zero about it.


Some of it is derivative, but its idea of a future New York is not bad.  It does not add to much new to the genres covered, but has fun and even a love of what it is doing and where it is at cinematically, down to interesting ideas like (SPOILER, SKIP IF YOU WANT TO BE SURPISED) missiles that seek codes in futuristic passports.  The action is not bad, but sometimes this does get silly, though not as bad as Riddick and Diesel has not ruined his commercial potential yet.  Sometimes it seems like some are concerned about him becoming an A-lister for whatever reason, but at least he tries more than most and that means something these days in a world of empty formula digifests no one remembers after they see or really ever like.  Even cut up, Babylon A.D. is an interesting failure and the fact that it might be another smart action film like a Total Recall will keep fans in the know talking for a long time to come.


The fact that this is a fine Blu-ray in the playback department will not hurt either.



The 1080p 2.35 X 1 AVC @ 31 MBPS digital High Definition image was shot in real 35mm anamorphic Panavision and it shows with fine definition, color, depth and other nice qualities despite the digital visual manipulations here and there that could have downgraded the fidelity.  That is a pleasant surprise in itself after seeing so much of the opposite and Director of Photography Thierry Arbogast, A.F.C., turns in some of his most interesting work to date.  See Chapter 10’s snow chase sequence in how depth holds, even when some detail is styled down, trying to be different post-apocalypse.


The DTS HD Master Audio (MA) lossless 5.1 mix is one of the best of the year, up there with Dark Knight and Wall-E believe it or not for soundfield, bass (including D-BOX bass enhancement for those with that in their system), articulation and accuracy in direction of the surrounds.  The Rza and Shavo Odadjian turn in a score that smartly attempts to sound like next-stage Hip Hop, so that includes some of the European Electronica/House Music that has escaped U.S. artists for worse more than better.  Despite mixed feeling about it, it works well enough by being different enough, though it seems to serve the Action side more than the Sci-Fi one.


Extras are many including a bonus DVD-ROM for Digital Copy so you can watch the film in a low-def version on your PC or PC portable device via downloading.  Other extras include featurettes like Babylon Babies, Arctic Escape, Fit For The Screen, plus a prequel comic book, BONUSVIEW navigation exclusive to Blu-ray with commercials for the film and evolution of the scenes and a stills gallery.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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