i heard that, after the somewhat less than stellar opening of babylon a.d. last summer, director mathieu kassovitz “disowned” the movie. it wasn’t what he had had in mind; it didn’t come out right; it wasn’t the way he wanted; waaah, waaah; mommy. it seemed ridiculous and not a little immature and just plain rude at the time — if nothing else, it rather seemed to leave his cast hangin’ in the wind.
and, really, it isn’t that bad. it says a lot for the academic turn of mind, though, that about halfway through, i had to find a pencil and a piece of scrap paper to start making notes for myself of all the movies babylon was stealing from. let’s see…a partial list includes:
- blade runner. the long slow pan into “new” new york. all the neon. all it needed was the rain. oh, and the garbage. apparently the future is really clean. at least in the u.s. like — obsessive cleanliness.
- fast and the furious. there was vin diesel. there were gasoline-driven vehicles of various varieties. and the whole thing with the snowmobiles was just the same scene from xxx but not as much fun.
- firefly/serenity. aurora is basically river without the charm. or intelligence. or… “i will kill you with my brain”-ness. i don’t think jayne would have had the slightest qualm being alone with aurora whereas river clearly gave him serious pause for thought.
- chronicles of riddick. turop is a very, very similar character to riddick but… again, without the charm or the trick with a one-liner and the bizarre — whateveritwas that made riddick somehow sympathetic despite his obvious disdain for 99.999999% of humanity living or undead.
- fifth element. visuals — but more the storyline itself. young girl — carrier of something miraculous that will save (or, alternately, damn) the world — doesn’t know much about the world but has to learn — needs protector — evil people out to get her — blah blah blah. we know this routine.
- revenge of the sith. the whole “divine children” bit was what made me think of this. suddenly the young woman is less important than the children she will have. it was unfortunate when lucas did it to padme; it’s really unfortunate here because aurora hasn’t gotten even half of the character time padme did. and it’s not like we have three movies-worth of previous experience with the kids!
- children of men. children who will save the world. and it had the same effect on me of “wow — i almost care. but not quite.” also, the post-apocalypse is really clean. seriously. even the opening sequences which are supposed to take place in serbia and then proceding eastwards through bits of russia are relatively clean for how hell-hole-y they’re supposed to be. everyone’s teeth are really good. everyone’s clothes were in excellent shape. i was kind of willing to let this slide for our three main characters — two of whom come out of a convent and one of whom is believably a rather highly paid mercenary but everyone else? c’mon! even the guy cage-fighting in vladivostok or wherever it was had miraculously good skin, excellent teeth, clean nails, and no visible scar tissue.
- the dark tower. yeah, i know, it’s not a movie — please god, no-one get any bright ideas and try to make it into one, okay? anyway — i just started reading through the series again about a month ago for two reasons. the first is that i never finished the last volume and it’s now been so long since i read song of susannah that i’d forgotten salient details of the first five books. the second is that i need something to read that isn’t thesis-related and can be guaranteed entertaining. and, since i just finished the waste lands and started wizard and glass a couple of weeks ago, i guess i have demonic children on the brain. and the train in the film reminded me of blaine. not for any really good reason other than passing visual similiarity. blaine is way freakier; this was just a train.
the first half was better than the second — the world (such as it was) was still new, we were still learning our way around, there were still some possibilities. as soon as the story began to lock into place and try to work itself out, the plot holes became more and more painfully apparent and the entire thing started to lose momentum. also, the more aurora needed to be hauled around by her two fellow travellers, turop and rebecca, the less i could be bothered to care about her. i’m not a fan of protagonists who need to be walked through everything with a hand on their shoulder; unless there’s some reason for this which is previously established and promises interesting developments, why do i care? why would anyone else care? why are we bothering to shepherd this person around in the first place?
vin diesel’s opening and closing v/os and his first scene with michelle yeoh are probably the best parts of the movie. but, then again, i have a serious soft spot for him — love his voice. and turop is kind of interesting — i wish he’d had a little more…something, i’m not sure what. backbone, maybe; or decisiveness.
all in all, this movie didn’t seem to need me a lot. the characters didn’t invite buy-in except on the most surface level; the action was barely there; the more the plot developed, the worse it got — i mean, does anyone know what charlotte rampling was doing here? she showed up in three or four scenes; was kind of…undirectionally hostile; and vanished again. it was kind of fun and that’s about the best i can find to say for it.
oh, and as a sidenote, the quotation in the tagline for this post is not from the movie. it’s from an episode of carnivale called “black blizzard” which precedes an episode called “babylon” (guest-starring john hannah peculiarly enough).