Babylon A.D. (Raw and Uncut) 
Blu-ray Sci-Fi-Fantasy
Written by Noah Fleming   
Tuesday, 13 January 2009

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"Babylon A.D." came and went from theaters in no time flat.  In fact, until this Blu-ray announcement I almost never heard of the film.  I thought it might have been a direct to video movie.  It grossed a measly $22 million in theaters.  I can't imagine that that total even came close to paying for the massive amount of visual effects in the film.  In short…it bombed.

Much like "Days of Thunder," "Babylon A.D." is a copycat film.  It takes parts from "Chronicles of Riddick," "xXx," and "Cyborg."  Vin Diesel stars as Toorop, a banished, ex-military person from the United States, sometime in the near (or far) future.  He now resides in the far east, around the frozen tundra of Siberia.  He lives day to day with arms dealers, but his macho-ism scares all of them.  Shortly into the film, he is recruited by Gorksy to smuggle someone into the United States.

It turns out that he is to smuggle Aurora (Melanie Thierry), a sheltered girl in a convent in Asia.  Accompanying Aurora, is her guardian Sister Rebeka (Michelle Yeoh).  The girl reveals interesting and mysterious abilities along their journey.  The rest of the film is the same as any action-science fiction film.  The trio duck and dodge danger along the way, eventually reaching their destination, where there is a final battle and some revelations.

Where this film fails miserably, is in its mysterious nature.  There is some much going on in the plot that nothing is going on.  The audience picks up on tidbits here and there, that are never answered.  We are expected to follow them on their journey, but we really have no reason to care about the characters.  The lack of any type of evolvement in the characters makes the audience bored.  All that is left is some action sequences, with guns and explosions.  Nice try, but sorry, we don't buy it.

The film is based on the French novel, "Babylon Babies."  The book was well received, but unfortunately, it was not adapted well for the screen.  The only semi-interesting plotline is the power that Aurora possesses (basically the ability to predict the future).  It is in this respect that the film seems to turn into "Minority Report" meets "A.I."

While the film is far from impressive, the video quality is quite good.  Fox gives us a 1080p MPEG-4 AVC encode.  The source is pristine.  There is not a speck of dirt or blemish.  Minor film grain persists throughout the film, but it hardly noticeable.  There does not appear to be any edge enhancement, motion or compression artifacts.  The details are quite good.  The textures visible in the close-ups of characters' faces are rich and deep.  Colors are drab, which is a stylistic choice, not a transfer issue.  Black levels and shadow delineation are excellent.  Darker scenes retain details.  Fleshtones appear to accurate.  The only issue I really have with the transfer is the contrast level.  At times it is over blown, causing an uneven image and an increased saturation.

The audio is presented in DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio.  Like the video, the audio outshines the film.  The dialogue is always audible and clean, despite the massive amounts of hip-hop music and ambience present in each sequence.  The LFE channel is pounding.  The subwoofer delivers even bass throughout the film.  The surround channels are constantly engaged.  There is plenty of ambience in the rears, especially during the club sequence.  Sound effects present themselves in the surround in more of a collage fashion than discretely.  Finally, a film that offers a surround enveloping experience.  There is really no dynamic range.  Everything is presented at the same level, which is becoming more and more common in today's action films.

The Blu-ray comes with an average bonus materials package.  "Babylon Babies" is a featurette that has the author of the book talking about the story's themes and characters.  "Arctic Escape" examines the film's action sequences.  "Fit for the Screen" takes a look at the choreography.  "Flight of the Hummers" examines the making of a film's car chase sequence.  "Prequel to 'Babylon A.D.:' Genesis of Aurora" is an animated mini-story about the origins of Aurora.  This featurette does help to clarify some of the questions still lingering after watching the film.  The Blu-ray is enhanced with Bonusview, which allows the user to playback material while watching the film.  First, there is "Scene Evolution" which presents about 50-minutes of behind the scenes material.  "'Babylon A.D.' Commercials" runs about three minutes.  Lastly, the disc contains a photo gallery and is enhanced for B-Box Motion Control Systems.  There is also a second disc in the package, which contains a digital copy of the film for your portable device.

"Babylon A.D." is unfortunately a failure as a movie.  Watch some stuff blow up and that is about it.  The video and audio quality is impressive and shouldn't be missed.  However, I would have to recommend that this be a rental.
Studio 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
MPAA Rating Unrated
Starring Vin Diesel, Melanie Thierry, Michelle Yeoh, Gerard Depardieu, Charlotte Rampling, Mark Strong, Lambert Wilson, Joel Kirby
Director Mathieu Kassovitz
Film Release Year 2008
Release Year 2009
Resolution(s) 1080p (main feature) • 1080i (supplements)
Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
Running Time 1 hr. 41 mins.
Sound Formats English DTS-HD Master 5.1 • French Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles Cantonese • Chinese • English SDH • French • Korean • Spanish
Special Features "Babylon Babies"; "Arctic Escape"; "Fit for the Screen"; "Flight of the Hummers"; "Prequel to 'Babylon A.D.:' Genesis of Aurora Digital Graphic Novel"; Bonusview: Scene Exploration; Bonusview: "Babylon A.D." Commercials; Photo Gallery; D-Box Enhanced; Digital Copy
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Reviewer Noah Fleming

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