See if this sounds familiar: War-torn, post-apocalyptic, bleak future finds mercenary loner who is forced into a seemingly impossible trans-global mission where he is accosted by bad guys every step of the way. Thought so. In this version, Diesel plays Toorop , the brooding ex-pat who must transport Aurora (Thierry), a young woman with a potentially lethal secret, from Russia to New York by whatever means necessary, including a snowmobile! Someone forgot to tell French co-writer/director Kassovitz that Diesel cannot carry a movie, even with a decent French cast and a few visually interesting sets. Kassovitz disowned it in the end, calling it "stupid." Who are we to disagree?
So, does Babylon A.D. get an "A" or a "D" on its scorecard? Maybe it will depend on which version of the movie you get to see in the years to come. This film got my attention as another one of those movies that shatters auteur theory into jagged little pieces.
The French director, Mathieu Kassovitz even hates his own movie now that it has been taken away from him by the studio and bailed out by the production's insurance company after it went over budget and well beyond the film schedule. Maybe Babylon A.D. will get revisited on DVD in its former "glory."
Its current "glory" is like an annoying, predictable firework. The movie is a cross between "The Fifth Element" and "Children of Men" without any of the playful fun of the former, and none of the intensity of the latter. Barely any of the movie takes place in New York, as the advertisements would have me believe, which may have something to do with the production going over budget (You can tell this is the New York of the future, though, because there are lots of neon advertisements splattered across the sides of buildings). The action sequences are chaotic, which may have something to do with the production going over budget, or something to do with the close-up, shaky hand-held footage. The embarrassingly tacked-on sequence of a snowmobile chase looks terrible, like it is being streamed on low-bandwidth internet connection, which may have something to do with how cold it was when they were filming. The story is nothing original, but it is possible to engage an audience even with a predictable story depending on how you tell it, and how this story was told may have something to do with the production going over budget, something to do with the studio cutting its costs, and something to do with how long it can take to make some stories work.