The Review at a Glance: (max score: 5 )
Audio/Video total rating:
( Max score: 100 )
Studio and Year: 20th Century Fox - 2008
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Feature running time: 101 Minutes
Disc Format: BD-50
Encoding: AVC (MPEG-4)
Video Aspect: 2.40:1
Audio Format(s): English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, French Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, Mandarin, Cantonese, Korean
Starring: Vin Diesel, Michele Yeoh, Melanie Thierry, Charlotte Rampling, Mark Strong, Lambert Wilson, Gerard Depardieu
Directed by: Mathieu Kassovitz
Music by: Atli Ovarsson
Written by: Eric Bessnard & Mathieu Kassovitz
Region Code: A
Blu-ray Disc release Date: January 6, 2009
"In this future, religion has a whole new meaning"
In the darkly futuristic world of Babylon A.D., the rules are simple: kill or be killed. Hard-hitting action superstar Vin Diesel (The Fast and the Furious, The Chronicles of Riddick), stars as Toorop, a ruthless mercenary hired to smuggle a mysterious young woman from the post-apocalyptic confines of Eastern Europe to the glittering megalopolis of New York City. Hunted at every turn, Toorop spirits his charge across a nightmarish wasteland only to uncover a shocking secret that will bring the entire world to its knees. Eye-popping action and mind-blowing science fiction clash head-on in this hard-edged thriller, where the only rule is survival.
Personally speaking I find Vin Diesel's films to be entertaining but they do have to be taken on a case by case basis. He isn't much of an actor but he can certainly pull off action based movies with no problem. I had heard of Babylon A.D. when its trailer was included on a Fox Blu-ray title I had in for review. From the trailer it looked typical but interesting enough. The film is based on the novel Babylon babies by Maurice G. Dantec and is a future based science fiction story about a former smuggler/mercenary named Toorop (Diesel) that is hired to transport a young woman known only as Aurora (Thierry) from post-apocalyptic Russia to New York City. Aurora was raised in a convent located somewhere in Eastern Europe and she is accompanied by a nun named Sister Rebeka (Yeoh). Aurora hasn't been exposed to the outside world yet she can speak 19 different languages and has knowledge of things that she could never have learned growing up in a convent. She also seems to possess mysterious abilities that make her valuable to powerful entities that will stop at nothing to obtain her. This puts Toorop in a precarious position as he tries to deliver her to her destination 6,000 miles away.
The script for this film just had too many holes in the story to make it palatable. Aurora is an interesting character but she is never truly developed enough to make her plausible. Her abilities are not explained or fully realized which was disappointing because they seemed to have excellent potential. The attempts to explain her background later in the film felt like an incomplete thought. Sister Rebeka's background gets touched upon lightly but doesn't explain how she seems to be a high level black belt capable of taking on multiple adversaries and is also trained in the use of modern weaponry. There are two other central figures in the story, the high priestess and Gorsky (Rampling and Depardieu) who appear to be the ones behind the reason for Aurora being smuggled into NYC. The problem is that they aren't onscreen for longer than 5 minutes total nor is their connection clarified. Other characters are introduced but they come and go quickly. Toorop starts off as a payday grabbing, ruthless mercenary who seeks only to get the job done but later ends up sitting in a tent, smiling, drinking and having a personal moment with Aurora and Sister Rebeka that seemed totally out of character. The action based sequences were nothing new but were entertaining and the special effects were decent. For me this is a forgettable film that seems as though its elements were taken from a combination of other sci-fi based action films. The conglomeration just doesn't work as the story and its characters feel underdeveloped and watered down.
This film is unrated but contains sequences of action based violence, language, and some minor sensuality.
AUDIO/VIDEO - By The Numbers:
REFERENCE = 92-100 / EXCELLENT = 83-91 / GOOD = 74-82 / AVERAGE = 65-73 / BELOW AVERAGE = under 65
**My audio/video ratings are based upon a comparative made against other high definition media/blu-ray disc.**
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)
- Low frequency extension:
- Surround Sound presentation:
- Dialogue Reproduction:
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)
- Black level/Shadow detail:
- Color reproduction:
Babylon A.D. comes to Blu-ray Disc from Fox featuring 1080p AVC encoded video that has an average bitrate of 30 mbps and lossless DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio sound that has an average bitrate of 4 mbps.
This video presentation has a filmic quality that doesn't lend itself to razor sharp images and has an apparent grain structure that at times is inconsistent in depth. There are several scenes where grain becomes heavier which gives it an uneven look that is distracting. The color palette isn't a diverse one and sticks mainly to sepia and de-saturated neutral tones that render a cooler appearance. Flesh tones are on the bland side but fit right in with the visual style of the video. Blacks are dynamic, inky and slightly crushed. There are several sequences such as the opening of the film where the deep, velvety blacks stand out and give those shots incredible depth. The film uses lots of low light interior and exterior scenes. Detail in backgrounds and staggered lighting was revealing of subtle delineation that was notable. Resolution was stable with appreciable fine rendering in close ups and less definitive long range visuals that offered two dimensional depth. The DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack offered extended dynamic range, aurally stimulating surround sound and potent low frequency effects. The sound field was broad with definable clarity and high level detail that reproduced dialogue and sound effects with excellent realism. The surround mix was aggressive at times and easily filled the room with deep, punctuated bass, and dazzling sound effects that bombarded the listening position. The fight sequence in NYC and the Alaskan drone chase sounded superb as the sounds of gunfire, rocket propelled grenades and a 30mm Gatling gun erupted with visceral impact. Panning effects were seamlessly integrated with excellent near field spacing and 360 degree envelopment. I was most impressed with the memory flashback sequence in the third act. This short segment utilized the entire system to dynamically charge the room with expansive surround sound that included short bursts of powerful, and engaging bass. I thought it sounded great.
- Bonusview PiP feature - Interactive scene evolution (17 segments)
- (HD) Featurettes:
- Babylon Babies - 11 minute documentary
- Arctic escape - 11 minute dissection of this stunt sequence
- Fit for the screen - 7 minute look at the stunts used in the film
- Flight of the Hummers - 8 minute breakdown of this chase scene
- (HD) Prequel to Babylon A.D.: Genesis of Aurora - 5 minute animated short
- Still galleries
- BD trailers - Stargate: Continuum, X-Files: I want to believe, The Happening
- (HD) Fox's Inside Look - Behind enemy lines: Colombia
- Digital Copy Bonus Disc - A standard definition version of the film that can be downloaded from a compatible PC to a portable playback device
- D-Box motion code compatible
Babylon A.D. is a below average sci-fi action movie that is bested by the majority of the films that it seems to emulate. Vin Diesel is capable of better as this afforded him little in the way of originality. The remainder of the cast was quite good but again had little to work with. Its debut on high definition Blu-ray Disc from Fox is excellent and is highlighted by a near reference quality lossless DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack. The bonus features aren't comprehensive from a global production stand point but do offer a very good breakdown of the stunts and action based segments featured in the film. Those who enjoyed this movie will be happy with this Blu-ray Disc package. For those who may be curious you would be best served by giving this a rent first.
AVS Forum Blu-ray Reviews
Reference Review System:
JVC DLA-RS20 1080p High Definition Front Projector
Carada Precision Brilliant White 96" Screen
Oppo 970HD universal disc DVD Player (480i HDMI)
Toshiba HD-XA2 HD DVD Player (HDMI Audio/Video)
Panasonic DMP-BD55K Blu-ray disc Player (HDMI Audio/Video)
Sony Playstation 3 Blu-ray disc Player (HDMI Audio/Video)
Marantz DV7001 Universal Disc Player
Denon AVR 5308CI THX Ultra 2 Preamp/Video Processor
B&K Reference 200.7 Series 2 seven Channel amplifier
Philips TSU9400 Pro Series Touch Panel Remote Control
Canton "Ergo" Series speakers
Axiom Audio QS8 Quadpolar speakers
SV Sound PB-13 Ultra (Rosenut finish)
APC AV S15BLK Power Conditioner/Surge Protector
Furman SPR-20i Stable Power Regulator
Wireworld, VizionWare, Audioquest, Best Deal Cables - Audio/Video/Speaker Cabling
Cool Components - CP-CP102 cooling package