Babylon A.D. (2008) - Raw and Uncut Special Edition

Genre(s): Action / Adventure / Science Fiction / Thriller
Fox || Unrated - 101 minutes - $34.98 || January 6, 2009
Reviewer: Brian Oliver || Posted On: 2009-01-31


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.:: F I L M ::.
The Film

S P E C I A L
.: F E A T U R E S :.

Special Features

.:: V I D E O ::.
Video

.:: A U D I O ::.
Audio

.:: O V E R A L L ::.
Overall
.::MOVIE INFORMATION::.
Director: Mathieu Kassovitz
Writer(s): Maurice G. Dantec (novel); Mathieu Kassovitz and Eric Besnard (screenplay)
Cast:


Theatrical Release Date: August 29, 2008


.::DVD INFORMATION::.
Supplemental Material:
  • 4 Featurettes
  • Animated Graphic Novel
  • Deleted Scene
  • Babylon AD Commercials
  • Still Galleries
  • Digital Copy


Technical Information:
  • Number of Discs: 2
  • Widescreen (2.35)
  • English (Dolby Digital 5.1), French (Dolby Digital 5.1)
  • Subtitles: English, Spanish

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.::THE FILM::.

One of the most controversial studio hack jobs of the 21st Century (I think Alien 3, by director David Fincher, would take the honors for the 20th century), Babylon A.D. was directed by Mathieu Kassovitz based on the novel “Babylon Babies”. The film apparently received some of the most interference from a major studio. In this case, Twentieth Century Fox was involved with almost every aspect of the production, getting in Kassovitz’s way at every turn. According to sources, the studio cut about 70-minutes from the director’s original version and due to the feud between the two sides, the movie received little/no promotion and crashed and burned on at the box office making a grand total of $22.5m (and $11m on opening weekend).

I don’t quite blame the studio for wanting to cut down the running time, but their interference with the filmmaking process was inexcusable. What followed was a 93-minute studio hack job and this “Raw and Uncut” version an extra 8-minutes were added back in, with no sign of the director’s original vision.

Babylon A.D. stars Vin Diesel as ruthless bounty hunter Toorop. He lives in war-torn/post-apocalyptic Eastern Europe where he is approached to a job, a job that will allow him access to the United States for the first time in years as he is a wanted man in the States. This job has him transport a young woman named Aurora (Melanie Thierry) to the U.S. because there is something very special about her. Along with Sister Rebeka (Michelle Yeoh), Toorop brave the apocalyptic landscape, harsh elements and another group who also want Aurora.

Simply put, Babylon A.D. is a mess. It’s certainly not that bad, in fact I thought parts were actually entertaining, but it was obvious that a huge chunk of the story was missing and thus we get a hacked-up film with a decent foundation but an absolutely lousy story. If the stories of the studio interference are true, it’s not the fault of French director Mathieu Kassovitz (Gothika) but with Fox. I guess it’s possible that years from now the rumored 163-minute director’s cut will finally be released and if/when that day comes, I’d be first in line to buy it, but I won’t be holding my breath.

Moving away from the sideshow antics, I actually found the performances to be... adequate. I think anyone who has seen The Fast and the Furious or xXx that Vin Diesel isn’t a thespian. Like Arnold Schwarzenegger, Diesel is good in those mindless action flicks. Both actors have tried their hand in more serious material and both have tried family comedies with at best lukewarm results. But Diesel’s bread and butter are action movies and while Babylon A.D. was a Sci-Fi Drama; I think he fulfilled the part good enough that if a longer version were ever released, its failure doesn’t fall upon him.

I wasn’t that enamored with Mélanie Thierry but her character was so underdeveloped, maybe through no fault of the writers, that she didn’t really have the chance to shine. Don’t get me wrong, Ms. Thierry has some stage presence, but I’m unsure if she rose to the importance her character played in the plot.



.::SPECIAL FEATURES::.

Not surprising, there is no commentary on this disc and despite a few good featurettes, it’s not a very well packed “Special Edition”.

Babylon Babies (11:04) is basically an interview with novelist Maurice G. Dantec where he explains certain elements of the novel, how it was turned into a movie and not wanting to get involved as he felt it wasn’t right to get in the middle of someone else’s work.

Arctic Escape (11:41) introduces us to the world of Slednecks, a group of people who have “mad skillz” (as the kids, at least at one time, say) riding and doing tricks on snowmobiles. They are used for one of the action sequences in the film.

Fit for the Screen (7:04) takes a look at the fight choreography and stunt work used on the film.

Deleted Scene (2:27) and Hummers in Flight (8:00) – I decided to combine these two as the “Hummers in Flight” featurette is the making-of... well, of the deleted scene. The scene itself actually wasn’t too bad and had an interesting chase sequences inside a tunnel. Given there’s certainly more than that in deleted footage, it’s a good sign for perhaps a director’s cut in the future.

Last there is a Prequel to Babylon A.D.: Genesis of Aurora (5:02) animated graphic novel; some Babylon A.D. Commercials (2:45), commercials featured within the film; Still Galleries and the digital copy.



.::AUDIO & VIDEO::.

The film is presented in anamorphic widescreen with a 2.35 aspect ratio. The early part is pretty dark before getting into the New York City scenes which are lit with bright neon lights. Black levels look great and I noticed little noise or artifacts throughout; this looks like a solid transfer.

I was pleasantly impressed with the Dolby Digital 5.1. It’s not an overpowering track and the dialogue levels seemed to be right on. Outside of the 3 or 4 action scenes, this actually has quite a bit of dialogue so the center channel does get some use while the front and rear speakers are used for either ambient noise, thrilling score or the revving of a snow mobile.



.::OVERALL::.

Babylon A.D. is a case of what happens when a studio messes with a movie rather than allowing the director to release their vision. The film isn’t necessarily awful in its current state and Vin Diesel is pretty good, but it felt like big chunks of the plot were missing and thus it’s an incomplete movie. Hopefully one day Fox will allow for the true Director’s Cut to be released as it could be as much of a difference as it was for Kingdom of Heaven.