Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Babylon A.D.

To know that a film is a Vin Diesel film is to know the following: explosions, fast cars, gunfire, mayhem, tattoos, monosyllables, thick monotone accents. There are scenes in Babylon A.D. (2008) that could be exchanged with scenes in Fast and Furious or The Chronicles of Riddick without anyone's noticing. There's a fundamentally generic and formulaic quality to these films. Diesel's brutal physicality gives him a certain exoticism that also suggests a vulnerability, a nobility, that sooner or later these films get around to discovering. In Babylon A.D. he's some kind of mercenary named Toorop who is hired to escort a young woman named Aurora (Mélanie Thierry) from a hidden convent somewhere in eastern Asia to New York City. It's unclear exactly when this film is set—somewhere in the not too distant future is good enough—but the world has declined into dystopian disorder and mayhem. It's a slightly more advanced world that that of the Mad Max films, a world strongly reminiscent of Los Angeles in Blade Runner, a film far superior to this one. For reasons never made quite clear (probably because no one who had anything to do with Babylon A.D. bothered to figure it out), the young woman in Diesel's charge (she is, of course, winsome and beautiful and possessed of certain powers) is being sent to New York so that she can either save the world or by giving birth to twin daughters who are the product of an immaculate conception help found a new religion. One thing leads to another—explosions, attacks, car chases, kung fu battles (courtesy of Sister Rebekah, played by Michelle Yeoh), an inevitable and unconsummated near love scene, incredible amounts of scientific and religious nonsense, painfully awkward plot twists, and so on. To travel from the hidden convent to New York City, we climb into a ragged sedan. A helicopter toting a giant magnet attaches to the car and hauls it aloft. I still have not figured out the logic of this particular means of transportation.

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