Review by Leonard Norwitz
Theatrical: Babylon A.D. SAS & StudioCanal
Blu-ray: 20th Century Fox Pictures Home Entertainment
Runtime: 101 min
Size: 50 GB
Case: Standard Blu-ray case
Release date: January 6, 2009
Aspect ratio: 2.35:1
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
• BonusView: Scene Evolution
• BonusView: Babylon A.D. Commercials
• Still Gallery
• Enhanced for D-Box Motion Control Systems
• Disc 2: Digital Copy
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
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
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:
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
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.
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.
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
January 11th, 2009