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Friday, September 26, 2008

Babylon A. D.

** Babylon A.D. Science fiction, action/adventure.

Directed by: Mathieu Kassovitz.
Starring: Vin Diesel, Michelle Yeoh, Melanie Thierry

This is the most recent movie we saw. Walked over to the theater on post with Carl and Camden. I had high hopes for this movie--I love Vin Diesel (yeah, big news, right?), science fiction, and action movies. Unfortunately, it didn't live up to its promise.

In a not-too-distant future (boy, it would be fun to see a MST3K take on this!), mercenary Toorop (Vin Diesel) gets an irresistible offer: escort a young woman to America, and in return, he'll get a new passport (implant) allowing him to return home after being banished years before.

The young woman, Aurora (Melanie Thierry), has been raised in an isolated convent, and will be accompanied by her companion/bodyguard Sister Rebeka (Michelle Yeoh).

Of course, it's not just a simple trip--otherwise, why would they need a mercenary? Seems Aurora is supposed to be the messiah for a new religion, and various factions want to either control or eliminate her.

It wasn't nearly as clear as I'm making it sound, however. Most of the time, we're left to guess who's after her and why.

And Aurora has some surprises of her own, like instantly knowing how to pilot a nuclear submarine. Turns out she's a computer/human hybrid, but we don't find that out for sure until near the end of the movie. I'm telling you now--it's not so much a spoiler of a plot point as it is just something that was left unexplained.

If Aurora's identity, or the identities of the groups that are after her were solvable mysteries, that would be one thing. Instead, they were merely unexplained, making the plot deliberately and needlessly obscure. Some of the whys were legitimate suspense plot threads, and that's fine. My impression is that it's one of those cases of the director and writers being too close to the story, and assuming that things they know because they read/wrote the script will be obvious to the rest of us.

Then there was the ending, which was abrupt and laughable. The theater was pretty full, and everyone just sort of sat there for a minute, not quite believing it was just.... done. The three of us even had different impressions of what exactly had happened between the penultimate scene and the final, romance-novel-epilogue scene.

I actually love movies that make you think, that don't spoon-feed everything to you. But there's a big difference between that and just being confusing. One Amazon review suggests that a big chunk of the movie had been cut. If so, that would explain a lot, and a "director's cut" DVD would be worth waiting for rather than going to the theater. I'm not rushing out to buy the DVD, though.

I've saved the worst for last. I could put up with the messy, obscure plot if there'd been a decent action/adventure journey. Oh, there's plenty of action, but it's that horribly annoying kind: blurred action scenes, quick camera cuts, odd angles. Maybe it's the height of cinematic art, but I absolutely hate it. All you can tell is that some sort of action is going on. You can't tell who's doing what to whom, which not only makes it impossible to follow the action, but also eliminates the suspense--for all I know, the heroes are completely kicking butt and not in any danger whatsoever. And to put Michelle Yeoh, known for her martial arts moves (which, according to the IMDB, are actually dance moves), in an action movie and then make it so you can't see those moves? What were they thinking?

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