L  e  n  s  V  i  e  w  s

A view on Blu-ray and DVD video by Leonard Norwitz


Introduction: I first noticed that some movies were actually "films" back around 1960 when I saw Seven Samurai (in the then popular truncated version), La Strada and The Third Man for the first time. American classics were a later and happy discovery.

My earliest teacher in Aesthetics was Alexander Sesonske, who encouraged the comparison of unlike objects. He opened my mind to the study of art in a broader sense, rather than of technique or the gratification of instantaneous events. My take on video, or audio for that matter – about which I feel more competent – is not particularly technical. Rather it is aesthetic, perceptual, psychological and strongly influenced by temporal considerations in much the same way as music. I hope you will find my musings entertaining and informative, fun, interactive and very much a work in progress.

The LensView Home Theatre:




Babylon A.D. (Digital Copy Special Edition) [Blu-ray]

(aka "Babylon A.D. - Raw & Uncut")


(Mathieu Kassovitz, 2008)







Review by Leonard Norwitz



Theatrical: Babylon A.D. SAS & StudioCanal

Blu-ray: 20th Century Fox Pictures Home Entertainment



Region: A

Runtime: 101 min

Chapters: 20

Size: 50 GB

Case: Standard Blu-ray case

Release date: January 6, 2009



Aspect ratio: 2.35:1

Resolution: 1080p

Video codec: AVC @ 31 Mbps



English 5.1 DTS Master Lossless, French DD 5.1 Surround



English SDH, Spanish, Cantonese, Mandarin and Korean



• Featurette: Babylon Babies (11:05)

• Featurette: Arctic Escape (11:41)

• Featurette: Fit for the Screen (7:04)

• Featurette: Flight of the Hummers (8:00)

• Prequel to Babylon A.D.: Genesis of Aurora Digital Graphic Novel (5:08)

• BonusView: Scene Evolution

• BonusView: Babylon A.D. Commercials

• Still Gallery

• Enhanced for D-Box Motion Control Systems

• Disc 2: Digital Copy



The Film: 4
I have enjoyed life as a film buff of sorts up to now without ever having seen a Vin Diesel movie. When Babylon A.D. arrived for review I saw this as an opportunity to correct my otherwise misspent years.

The story, at first glance, is familiar and simple enough. We're a couple decades into the future and things are no better for humankind. Mercenaries and terrorists abound, especially in Kazakhstan where our adventure begins. Diesel plays an out of work American ex-pat who sleeps holding his gun. I guess he doesn't have nightmares, else he would be likely to blow his head off. A crime lord named Gorsky (Gerard Depardieu with an ill fitting prosthetic nose – you'd think he could afford better) hires Toorop to pick up and deliver a young woman from some remote monastery in Siberia or thereabouts to New York City. "No questions asked." Sure.

The woman is Aurora (Melanie Thierry), named for the Northern Lights, who comes complete with some extraordinary knowledge for one who has spent all but her first three years cloistered under the protection of the Noelites and guided by her mentor, Sister Rebeka (Michelle Yeoh). We come to find out that – no surprise – Aurora has been genetically altered . . . but to what end, or whose, that's the question! The movie alternates between some fairly dense sci-fi metaphysics and a number of action sequences (there's one in a Thunderdome cage between Diesel and a determined testosterone case that's worth the effort).

I found the think-pieces in the film more trouble than they were worth, but I don't think this aspect of the movie will dissuade anyone hell bent on watching it. Thierry is cool to watch. She has a great deal to do and is the principal reason to see this movie as she alternates between fearful panic, prescient awareness of events of the immediate future and an ability to alter the space/time continuum.

As for Diesel, I don't know if this movie is representative of either the kind of film he makes – I would assume so – or the level of his acting, but I imagine I'm not giving anything away by saying that his way with line readings is in a class by itself.

One final note: I can't say as I know what the "raw & uncut" means since this movie struck my as fairly processed and tame.



Image: 7/8
The first number indicates a relative level of excellence compared to other Blu-ray video discs on a ten-point scale. The second number places this image along the full range of DVD and Blu-ray discs.

Most of the time this is a fairly disagreeable image, but very likely in keeping with the intent of the director, since the subject matter is equally so. This is not to say the movie is a poor one or that the Blu-ray image is somehow disreputable. Not at all. It is grainy and dark, rather than noisy; contrasty and desaturated, like its subject. There was so much processing of the original material it's hard to tell where the one leaves off and the transfer to video begins. At times the image was detailed and convincingly resolved, but that it rarely its point.














Audio & Music: 7/7
For a movie that owes much of its existence to action scenes in four very different spaces, I was generally underwhelmed. Events were clear, aggressive and dynamic, yet lacked a solid connection to events on screen, substance, weight, or any of those things that make us run for cover, as any number of the actors do when they're not shooting at each other.




Operations: 7
Lifeless menus with clear navigation cues are the order of the day here. I noticed a time line for the chapter search which otherwise displays only one thumbnail at a time. Clever idea.


Extras: 5
The 5 featurettes are all HD, which comes in handy for the action sequences for three of them. Babylon Babies is perhaps the only one whose title doesn't give away the material where the writer of the original novel talks about his work. Particularly gorgeous to look at is the graphic art for the 5-minute prequel. Nicely conceived, too. Fox's BonusView (enabled with BR profile 1.1) consists of a nearly hour long behind the scenes look at production and a 3-minute collection of clever, fictionalized commercials.



Bottom line: 5
The idea of a tough white fortune hunter rescuing a maiden in distress, only to come face to face with hitherto unexplored moral territory has been done elsewhere, often and much better than this movie in every respect. The movie's attempts at spinning off from Children of Men and Blade Runner, visually or thematically, are not rewarding. Fox's Blu-ray production gives the movie more credit than it deserves.

Leonard Norwitz
January 11th, 2009










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