Babylon A.D.: Special Edition [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray A - America - Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment
Review written by and copyright: Noor Razzak (9th March 2009).
The Film

I love playing the ‘Whatever Happened To” game, you know where you add the name of a celebrity at the end of the sentence that was once either big or destined for stardom, then all of a sudden they drop by the wayside into the cesspool of forgotten Hollywood. Vin Diesel started out with a bang, garnering a questionable action-star rise that saw the release of two high profile films “The Fast and the Furious” (2001) and “xXx” (2002), both of which require little brain power to get into, after his impressive starring role in “Pitch Black” (2000), which signaled the rise of another Arnold-like action star… all of which never really materialized as Arnold chose to pass his torch to The Rock (who himself also let the tough guy thng go for cheesy Disney films) in a brief cameo in “The Rundown” (2003) and Vin was unable to capture the tough guy market after “xXx” underperformed based on expectations and his sequel to “Pitch Black” the bloated “Chronicles of Riddick” (2004) also failed to ignite at the box office. Diesel further squandered his goodwill as an action star with the family comedy “The Pacifier” (2005) only to finally return to what made him big in the upcoming “Fast & Furious” (2009), the fourth in the series of illegal car racing films… a desperate shot at regaining his crown as action king now that “Babylon A.D.” can also be categorized in the “fail” category.

Based on the French novel “Babylon Babies” by Maurice Georges Dantec, director Mathieu Kassovitz developed the script into a dark sci-fi tale that owes a lot to films like “Blade Runner” (1982) and “Children of Men” (2006) and was quickly snapped by StudioCanal and Fox. And then reports of problems started to surface into the production, production delays with weather caused work stoppages, the production budget grew and the film’s schedule suffered as the crew moved from location to location. The problems didn’t stop there, according to the director; the studio interfered with his vision, claimed 70 minutes of the film was cut out to the trimmed 93 minute theatrical edit and criticized both the film and the studio upon its release last summer.

"Babylon A.D." tells the story of a mercenary for hire named Toorop (Vin Diesel) who is hired to transport a girl, Aurora (Mélanie Thierry) to New York, accompanying her is Sister Rebeka (Michelle Yeoh) who never leaves her side. Tooroq must keep these toe safe as they journey through Europe and soon discovers that Aurora is special and that other parties are after her.

Visually it looks good, so the filmmaker’s got the technical aspects down. From the film’s gritty photography, which adds layers to the noir-future, it’s production design and special effects look convincing enough. As far as the positives go unfortunately that’s about it. I guess we’ll never know what Kassovitz had originally intended considering his now estranged relationship with Fox… and the distinct lack of an audio commentary on this release, but what’s clear about this version is that it’s a mess. The story seems fractured, and the plot feels like its missing key elements (I suppose the 70 odd minutes that were cut from the film could help fix this?), there are character contradictions and overall the film lacks any character development and doesn’t really provide the viewer with an opportunity to connect to either the story or its characters. Furthermore the ending (although in the “unrated” version is cut shorter) lacks any closure or even impact. These problems are all magnified by the particularly unimpressive performances by both the film’s leads. Diesel simply coasts by from scene to scene and Michelle Yeoh is wasted in this film.

It’s hard to recommend a film that could have been good, even the supposedly “Raw and Uncut” version presented here does do much to better the film from its dire theatrical version.

Video

Presented in the film's original theatrical ratio of 2.35:1 this transfer is delivered onto Blu-ray in HD 1080p 24/fps and has been mastered using AVC MPEG-4 compression. For such a recent film the image looks incredible, the sharpness and detail stand out, especially in the intricate production design and costume details. Skin textures and color look good, and colors are well balanced, blacks are deep and feature little noise. There's some grain but this adds to the overall texture of the film, and the print is clean of any dirt, specks or compression related problems. The image is pristine and stands a good reference to show off your home theater set-up.

Audio

Two audio tracks are included in English DTS-HD Lossless Master Audio 5.1 mixed at 48kHz/24-bit as well as a standard French Dolby Digital 5.1 surround track. For the purposes of this review I chose to view the film with its DTS-HD audio, the sound was impressive from the start, the complex sound ix utilizes the surround channels well in creating an immersive sound experience. This is a sci-fi action film that features some incredible set pieces that lend itself to aggressive sounds, and they all feel natural and impacting. Dialogue is clear and distortion free and the film's music also uses the sound space to its advantage.
Optional subtitles are included in English for the hearing impaired, Spanish, Cantonese, Korean and Mandarin.

Extras

Fox has packed this film with a series of five featurettes, a deleted scene, sixteen still galleries, a picture-in-picture feature, some commercials, bonus trailers and a digital copy of the film. Below is a closer look at these supplements.

DISC ONE:

"Babylon Babies" featurette runs for 11 minutes 5 seconds, in this clip we get a look at the original source material as the author Maurice Georges Dantec is interviewed and he comments on the story, as well as the characters, tone and themes of the novel among other things including the process of making this novel into a film and his involvement with the film's director.

"Arctic Escape" is the next featurette which runs for 11 minutes 41 seconds, and is a behind-the-scenes look at the filming of the arctic sequence, the stunt coordinator is interviewed about the relevance of this scene and the challenges faced by the stunt team as well as the use of a snowmobile crew called the slednecks.

"Fit For The Screen" featurette follows and runs for 7 minutes 4 seconds, and takes another look at the stunt team as they perform the various stunts for the film including the night club fights, coordinating the scenes with the director, using doubles and rigs among other things. There's some more behind-the-scenes footage from the production and also features some interviews with the cast about the quality of the action.

Next up is the "Flight Of The Hummers" featurette which runs for 8 minutes, this takes a look at the various vehicles used and the shooting of the car chase sequence in small period of time as the studio decided to include the chase as a last minute thing.

"Prequel To Babylon A.D.: Genesis Of Aurora" featurette runs for 5 minutes 8 seconds and is an animated comic that sets up the story.

"Hummer Sequence" is a deleted scene that runs for 2 minutes 32 seconds, this clip is pretty much completed with full production sound, it seems like a last minute edit and features the complete Hummer chase sequence, which is actually pretty good and leave you wondering why it was dropped from the film, even this so called "Raw and Uncut" version.

An astounding sixteen still galleries are featured that include production photographs taken during the principle photography of the film and include:

- "Housing Projects Exterior" which features 6 images.
- "Marketplace and Train Station" which features 17 images.
- "Motel Interior" which features 4 images.
- "New York Apartment" which features 9 images.
- "New York Square" which features 54 images.
- "Submarine Interior" which features 13 images.
- "Toorop's Apartment" which features 14 images.
- "Train Interior" which features 5 images.
- "Alaska Frontier" which features 14 images.
- "Aurora Hospital" which features 4 images.
- "Convent" which features 5 images.
- "Darquandier's Lab" which features 22 images.
- "Dormitory Interior" which features 3 images.
- "Factory Nightclub" which features 24 images.
- "Farmhouse" which features 8 images.
- "Gorsky's Armored Vehicle Interior" which features 8 images.

Additionally there are bonus trailers for:

- "Max Payne" which runs for 1 minute 29 seconds.
- "Mirrors" which runs for 2 minutes 18 seconds.
- "Stargate: Continuum" which runs for 32 seconds.
- "The X-Files: I Want To Believe" which runs for 1 minute 26 seconds.
- "The Happening" which runs for 2 minutes 15 seconds.

"Inside Look at Behind Enemy Lines: Colombia" featurette is promotional fluff piece that runs for 3 minutes that advertises the film and can easily be skipped.

The disc also features some cool Blu-ray exclusive extras:

The "BonusView" Picture-in-Picture feature is profile 1.1 or greater accessible and features behind-the-scenes segments that play as you watch the film and take you behind the production and show you how the scenes where blocked, rehearsed and shot. It's a fly-on-the-wall experience, for those that do not have a profile 1.1 player or greater you can access the clips individually through the menu, the total runtime is 50 minutes 50 seconds and the segments included are for:

- "Exterior Housing Project"
- "Toorop's Apartment, With Explosion"
- "Gorsky's Armored Convoy"
- "Gaz Limo On Magnet"
- "The Convent"
- "The Marketplace"
- "Transsiberian Train Interior"
- "Night Club: The Hackers"
- "Nigh Club: Fight Scene"
- "Night Club: Cage Fight"
- "The Stampede To Russian Sub"
- "Russian Sub Interior"
- "Snowmobile Chase"
- "Snowmobile Explosion: Toorop Is Hit"
- "Harlem Square Shootout"
- "Darquandier's Laboratory"
- "Darquandier's Laboratory: Memory Machine"

Finally there are 7 "Babylon A.D." commercials, these are fake ads created for the film and include:

- "Vacation Packages" which runs for 17 seconds.
- "Neuro Space Creations" which runs for 36 seconds.
- "Star Seed" which runs for 18 seconds.
- "Sparkle Lips" which runs for 15 seconds.
- "Lab Water" which runs for 26 seconds.
- "Uno" which runs for 16 seconds.
- "Nakio" which runs for 30 seconds.

This disc is also D-Box motion code enabled for those with the equipment.

DISC TWO:

the only extra on this disc is a digital copy of the film.

Overall

The Film: D Video: A+ Audio: A+ Extras: B Overall: C+

 


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