If your audience is expecting a post-apocalyptic sci-fi action movie in which your beefcake hero runs around and shoots a bunch of bad guys, while protecting a mysterious young girl then really, it should be quite hard to screw it up. Make it exciting, give it some funky dialog and some charismatic characters, give them something to deal with together to form some bonds, and reveal the back story as you go illuminated through the lights of tracer rounds and frag grenades.
I admit it’s not easy or we’d all be doing it, but there are some advantages to bringing a sci-fi action movie to the screen in terms of plot development and character depth. Get it anyway half decent and the crowds will be happy.
Which makes it all the harder to excuse Babylon A.D. and to understand what the hell they thought they were doing. Oh it starts out on a firm footing, Diesel still has enough on-screen presence and acerbic charm to pick up the role (essentially Riddick without the mirrored eyes) and he can cook! We get a little back story, we get some evidence he’s bad ass, and we get to meet the other two of the trio as he collects them (in quite an amusing manner) from their little convent. There’s something weird about the girl, and there are some people trying to capture her. Perfect, now we just need a good solid set of action combat / chase sequences and a small twist near the end and we’re golden.
Maybe the girl’s female protector turns out to be a bad guy, maybe Diesel’s character turns out to be a double agent, maybe the whole world turns into tofu, just something little and twisty after all the action to make us look back and go ‘oh yes, I see now’. That’s what a twist should be, not something out of the blue but something which makes you re-evaluate what you saw and assumed. Just to remind you to pay more attention next time. It shouldn’t be obvious before-hand, but it should be totally obvious with hindsight. That’s the point right? To suck us in and then whack us when we’re not looking?
Why then, why in the name of all the Norse gods, does Bablyon A.D. take a 345 degree turn 15 minutes before the end and tell a completely different story about which we had no warning. No hidden messages. Yes, the girl was weird, maybe psychic, maybe telepathic, perhaps just odd. But if you have to tell us what happened before the movie started, with 8 minutes of monologue from a character we’ve only just met, so that you can then justify the last 11 minutes of the movie, you’re doing it wrong.
Come on! Basically, Bablyon A.D. is two movies, everything you see up to the 15 minutes before the end, and then everything after that. We listen to some exposition which explains why the girl is weird, who the bad guy is, what is really going on, and then we get a limp-wristed end sequence. Really, I’ve not been left hanging by a movie as badly as this before and I’ve watched some crud. It’s a true shame because it feels like Bablyon A.D. reached for something and failed and instead of that being recognised and aspirations toned down, they just hacked it together any way they could to deliver the story they’d tried and failed to shoot. I’d rate the first three quarters as a passable and watchable action sci-fi movie and the last 15 minutes or so as pure shite.