Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Mathieu Kassovitz|
|Produced by||Ilan Goldman|
|Based on||Babylon Babies|
by Maurice G. Dantec
|Music by||Atli Örvarsson|
|Edited by||Benjamin Weill|
|Distributed by||20th Century Fox|
|Box office||$72.1 million|
Babylon A.D. is a 2008 science fiction action film based on the novel Babylon Babies by Maurice Georges Dantec. The film was directed by Mathieu Kassovitz and stars Vin Diesel, Mélanie Thierry, Michelle Yeoh, Lambert Wilson, Mark Strong, Jérôme Le Banner, Charlotte Rampling, and Gérard Depardieu. It was released on 29 August 2008 in the United States. It is an international co-production between France, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
In 2027, Russian mobster Gorsky (Depardieu) hires the mercenary Toorop (Diesel) to bring a young woman known only as Aurora (Thierry) from Europe to New York City. Gorsky gives Toorop a variety of weapons and a subdermally implanted UN passport. Toorop, the girl, and her guardian Sister Rebeka (Yeoh), travel from the Noelite Convent in Kyrgyzstan to reach New York via Russia.
Unlike in the technologically advanced U.S., war and terrorist activity have transformed Russia's cities into dangerous, overpopulated slums. The stress of humanity's situation causes Aurora to act out in strange ways and display clairvoyance abilities. On one such occasion, Aurora, seemingly for no reason, panics and runs from a crowded train station, just before it explodes in a terrorist attack.
The protagonists must also evade an unknown group of mercenaries claiming to have been sent by Aurora's supposedly dead father. Later, they board a submarine that carries refugees to Canada. To avoid satellite detection, the submarine abandons and shoots some refugees. Aurora, infuriated by the loss of life, operates the 30-year-old submarine without training. Sister Rebeka tells Toorop that Aurora could speak nineteen different languages by the age of two, and always seems to know things she has never learned. Three months before leaving with Toorop, she began acting differently. This occurred after a Noelite doctor administered a pill. The doctor told her to go to New York City and arranged for Toorop to escort them.
After arriving in Alaska with help from Toorop's associate Finn (Strong), the protagonists are attacked by weaponized drones. Toorop manages to destroy all the drones, but also gets wounded. These perils cause Finn to betray the group, so Toorop shoots him dead.
Once in Harlem, a news broadcast about the bombing of the Kyrgyzstan convent causes the group to realize there is more going on than they know. The Noelites have become a major new salvationist religion, which vast numbers of people cling to as the world spirals out of control. However, in private meetings, it is seen that their High Priestess (Charlotte Rampling) only desires power and uses invented miracles to court converts. Gorsky, working for the Noelites, had planted a tracking device in Toorop's passport and bombed the convent when he knew they were in the United States. The doctor who earlier saw Aurora examines her again in a hotel room. When he leaves, Aurora reveals (without being told) that she is pregnant with twins despite being a virgin.
Looking outside the hotel, Toorop sees Gorsky's men and the Noelite group, heavily armed and waiting for them on the street. The High Priestess calls Toorop and asks him to bring Aurora outside. Just before they take her away, Toorop changes his mind and starts a firefight with the two groups to get two women to safety. Gorsky's men can fire guided missiles onto Toorop that track his subdermal passport. Rebeka gets killed defending Aurora, who in turn shoots Toorop, saying, "I need you to live." Toorop's clinical death causes the guided missile to go off target (missing Toorop) and explode near Aurora instead; she inexplicably survives.
Dr. Arthur Darquandier (Lambert Wilson) revives Toorop using advanced medical techniques, but several of Toorop's body parts are replaced with cybernetics to undo the damage of being dead for over two hours. Darquandier explains that when Aurora was a fetus, he implanted a supercomputer into her brain. It is also implied that the Noelite group had him create Aurora to become pregnant at a certain time to use her as a "virgin birth". After she was born, the Noelites hired Gorsky to kill Darquandier, but he failed. Darquandier remained "dead" until he found his daughter in Russia with Toorop.
Darquandier uses a machine to scan Toorop's memory to find out what Aurora said to him before and shortly after shooting him. In Toorop's memory, Aurora tells Toorop to "go home". Toorop and several of Darquandier's men leave the facility. En route to Darquandier's lab, the High Priestess calls Gorsky, and during their videocall Gorsky is killed by a nuclear missile launched at him by the High Priestess. The High Priestess confronts and kills Darquandier, but Toorop has already escaped. Toorop goes to his old house in the forest, finds Aurora, and takes her to a hospital, where, 6 months later, she dies after giving birth. Aurora was "designed to breed", not to live, so her death after childbirth was preprogrammed. Toorop takes care of her two children.
In a scene that is only present in the theatrical cut but was removed from the director's cut, the twins are shown to be of different ethnicities, one looking like Aurora and the other like Toorop.
- Vin Diesel as Hugo Toorop, a mercenary and a former Marine (full name is "Hugo Cornelius Toorop" in Babylon Babies novel). He is a professional smuggler from upstate New York, who has been deported to Eastern Europe where he does mercenary jobs as a smuggler. He's an expert in advanced weaponry, hand-to-hand combat, tactics and culinary.
- Michelle Yeoh as Sister Rebeka, a nun from an ascetic branch of the Noelites. She's originally from San Francisco. When she was 17-year-old, she joined the Noelites in order to escape an abusive relationship. She ended up in their Mongolian convent where she became Aurora's guardian.
- Mélanie Thierry as Aurora, a young woman who's been given shelter by the Noelite nuns. Since when she was a child, she showed supernatural knowledge in all kind of fields and at 2-year-old she was already able to speak 19 languages. She can also sense danger.
- Gérard Depardieu as Gorsky, a wealthy Russian mobster who hires Toorop to transport Aurora to the United States on behalf of the Noelite Church. He owns a private army and lives inside a heavily armored truck fitted like a limo, constantly surrounded by a convoy of his soldiers.
- Charlotte Rampling as the CEO of the Noelite church. She does not really care about the religion, and only seeks power and wealth. She is planning to use science to produce miracles, thus extending the popularity and reach of her church.
- Mark Strong as Finn, a Russian smuggler who's an old associate of Toorop's. He is ready to help transport Aurora across borders, yet Toorop doesn't entirely trust him.
- Lambert Wilson as Dr. Arthur Darquandier, Aurora's handicapped father who was presumed to be dead.
- David Belle as Hacker Kid, the leader of Darquandier's henchmen who are following Toorop and Aurora to America.
- Jérôme Le Banner as Killa, an underground fighter.
Mathieu Kassovitz worked on an English-language film adaptation of Maurice Georges Dantec's French novel Babylon Babies for five years; in June 2005, this project got financed from StudioCanal and Twentieth Century Fox. The adapted screenplay was written by Kassovitz and screenwriter Éric Besnard. Production was initially slated to begin in February 2006 in Canada and Eastern Europe.
French actor Vincent Cassel was initially sought to be cast in the lead role. In February 2006, actor Vin Diesel entered negotiations to star in the film, titled Babylon A.D., dropping out of the lead role of Hitman in the process.
The shooting schedule was slated to begin in June 2006. By February 2007, filming was slated to wrap in April to release Babylon A.D. in time for the coming Thanksgiving. In February, filming took place at Barrandov Studios. In March 2007, the filming crew, having shot in the Czech Republic, took a two-week hiatus to deal with uncooperative weather, such as the lack of snow, and problems with set construction. Crew members scouted Iceland for locations with snow to shoot six to eight days of footage, which was supposed to be done in February. Filming was also done with the leads Diesel, Michelle Yeoh, and Mélanie Thierry in Ostrava in March. The French visual effects company BUF Compagnie was contracted to develop the film's effects under the supervision of Stephane Ceretti.
In April 2007, Babylon A.D. was reported to be over-budget and three weeks behind schedule. A lack of snow meant a skiing sequence to be shot in Eastern Europe had to be moved to Sweden. Later in the month, actor Lambert Wilson was cast into the film. Filming was completed in May 2007.
The music of Babylon A.D. was written by Icelandic composer Atli Örvarsson. The music supervisor of the movie was Jérôme Hadey. The musical alliance Achozen, represented by Shavo Odadjian and RZA performed the score for the film. Music producer Hans Zimmer described the intended style: "Musically, our objective was to merge the sounds and energies of hip hop with classical music, seamlessly melting them into an unusual soundscape."
Babylon A.D. was originally stated to be released in the United States on 29 February 2008, but its release was postponed to 29 August 2008. As of 31 January 2009, the film had grossed $72,105,690 worldwide. In the US the film was placed #2 behind Tropic Thunder with $9,484,267 in 3,390 cinemas with a $2,798 average.
The film was panned by critics. On Metacritic it has a score of 26% based on 15 reviews, indicating "Generally unfavorable reviews". On Rotten Tomatoes the film has a 6% approval rating based on 104 reviews (96 negative, 6 positive) with the consensus calling it "a poorly constructed, derivative sci-fi stinker with a weak script and poor action sequences." Audiences surveyed by CinemaScore gave the film a grade D+ on scale of A to F.
Mathieu Kassovitz said that 20th Century Fox interfered throughout production, and he never had a chance to shoot a scene the way it was scripted, or the way he wanted it to be. A French language documentary of the troubled creation of the film entitled Fucking Kassovitz was released in 2011.
Babylon A.D. was released on Blu-ray and DVD in Europe (Region 2) on 29 December 2008, and in the United States (Region 1) on 6 January 2009. At the same time, the French 101 minute version was released on Blu-ray in the US as Babylon A.D. – Raw and Uncut.
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