So we already know that Babylon AD director Mathieu Kassovitz has said that his own movie is horrible, but that didn't stop us from getting up at the crack of ass this morning and going to see a 10:20 AM show so we could bring you the scoop on this near-future actioner with Vin Diesel. There were no press screenings of this film — usually a bad sign. Though many reviewers blame the film's confusion-plus-explosions plot on the shit edit that Fox did of Kassovitz' film about future refugees, I think the problem with this movie is more than that. The problem is the fact that it's about the Virgin Mary. Spoilers ahead!I have nothing against the Virgin Mary per se — some of my best friends are virgins — but she's not exactly the kind of thing you want to see in the middle of a political science fiction movie about genetic engineering, OK? Watching this flick gave me the same bad taste in my mouth that I got watching The Fifth Element, another scifi movie by a French dude with a hot young white girl playing the innocent holy mother type whose power is love and crap like that. In the case of Babylon AD, things aren't even as abstract as they were in Fifth Element. Not only does virgin lady Aurora have the power of love and innocence on her side, but she is literally a virgin mother. She's some kind of genetically-engineered, hand-wavey thing raised by A.I. (but also raised by Michelle Yeoh in a nunnery in Mongolia — what?) to be a super-being who can have even-more-super-babies whose power (I think) involves disintegrating missiles. Sorry, but no amount of editing on the part of Fox caused the plot to be that lame. I believe Kassovitz that a lot of cool stuff was cut out. But nobody forced him at lawyerpoint to make a movie whose whole point was, in the end, that good men are strong and good women have babies without fucking anybody.
Alright, so now you know the dumb part. But there are a lot of surprisingly cool parts too, not the least of which is seeing Diesel's slow-burn smile before he busts some heads. Kassovitz has said that before the edit butchery, the film was going to focus a lot more on the plight of future refugees, and luckily a lot of incredibly interesting world-building related to that idea is still in the film. If you take your eyes off the flamey-burney for a second, you'll notice that hero Toorop (Diesel) is trekking from Russia to Mongolia, then taking his cargo (virgin lady and badass protector Yeoh) through Kazakhstan, then Russia, then across the Bering Straight via illegal sub (in a seriously amazing scene), down through Canada and into New York City. Along the way, we are treated to some very compelling images of what the future might hold, in geopolitical terms.
Toorop is taking his human cargo on a refugee route to America, since they're trying to go stealth. In one amazing scene, the mobster who hired Toorop for the smuggling job tells him to "wait for a car" to pick him up. We're not sure what to expect, but it's certainly not a sedan covered in homebrew armor being lowered slowly out of the sky on a giant magnet attached to a helicopter. Toorop gets in, cranks up some Russian music on the on-board computer, and gets flown over the Russian urban wasteland via helicopter magnet. That scene alone, of the shit car hanging by a chain over a city being eaten by its own corrupt industry, is almost worth the price of admission. It perfectly captures the atmosphere Kassovitz was trying for: A world where technologies have advanced for the few, but where most are living with cobbled-together mech in places ruled by mobsters.
In Kassovitz' future, passports are implanted and borders are patrolled by UAVs. Russian refugees run across the frozen arctic ocean to reach stealth subs that will only surface for two minutes so they aren't caught on satellite. And every open public area is bathed in surveillance, so it's impossible to be completely stealth. America, in Kassovitz' vision, is ruled by religious corporations who jockey for power the way mafia gangs do in Russia. Aurora, our virgin mother, is the outcome of an experiment by one such American religion, whose leader (played by the amazing Charlotte Rampling) has paid a famous scientist to make her so she can claim a "miracle" for her religion. There's a great and demented moment where Rampling addresses her board room full of toadies and screams about how she wants to be the "most powerful religion in the world," and Aurora will help her do it. I like the idea that our Virgin Mary is basically the genetically-engineered creation of a huckster. But unfortunately Kassovitz wants her to be a genuine Virgin Mary too. That's why she has the power of using her poofy lips and bluest eyes to gentle all the hardened men around her — and to tell the future, maybe, and feel other people's pain and stuff like that. She's your basic Catholic allegory lady, totally out of place in a movie about mercenaries, terrorists, refugees, and evil religions.
Of course, Aurora the Virgin lady also has to redeem our mercenary Toorop, whom she literally kills and brings back to life (with the help of a mad scientist/cyborg played by the Merovingian from The Matrix). So lemme see: We've got a Virgin Mary lady, a redemption via resurrection, a false prophet whose plans are foiled, and wait for it . . . we've got a final weird coda where the once-leather-clap Toorop is in like white linen and caring for the virgin-born little girls. WTF Kassovitz? The director claims he wanted his movie to allow his characters to have "metaphysical experiences." That's great. How about if I just pull an Obi Wan on you and say, with a wave of my hand, "These are not the metaphysical experiences you were looking for."